Baby, it’s cold outside. . . But that’s no reason to stop gardening. In fact, there are a wonderful selection of herbs that will grow in these cooler conditions. And, in a fabulous coincidence they’re great for flavouring hearty winter stews, mouth-watering roasts, and warm salads. Here are our top five herbs to grow this winter.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is as tough as old boots and is a great herb to have in the garden. This perennial grows into a medium-sized shrub between 1.5-2m tall, but can be kept compact with regular trimming. Alternatively, look for the low-growing prostrate form, Rosmarinus ‘Prostratus’. Position in a sunny spot and water regularly until established. Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant. You’ll barely need to water in winter. Snip as needed to flavour lamb or chicken, infuse oils or roast with vegies.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Love it or loathe it, winter is a good time to grow it. Coriander is normally grown during the warmer months of the year, but it has a tendency to go to seed or ‘bolt’ in warm-hot weather. Once it sets seed, the stems become woody, and the leaves become inedible. To grow coriander, position in full sun and water frequently throughout the growing season. Snip leaves or whole stems regularly for use. The roots can be used for cooking, too.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Incredibly aromatic, and ideal for imparting an earthy flavour to your dishes. It’s exceptionally easy to grow, and will tolerate those hot, baked spots in the garden or balcony. However you choose to grow it, ensure the soil or potting mix is well-drained. Once established, it is drought tolerant and will suffer if over-watered. You may also like the lemon-scented thyme (Thymus citriodorus), which is just as easy to grow.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
This robust-flavoured herb is a strong performer both in the kitchen and garden. It grows year-round without much effort and its silvery foliage makes it a gorgeous ornamental plant, too. Position in full sun and water well until established. Like rosemary, it’s fairly drought tolerant once established. It’s a perennial, so will grow for a few years in a pot or the garden. Although, after a while, it can start to look a little straggly, so prune it back to near-ground level (winter is a good time for this) and it will bounce back in spring.
Perennial basil (Ocimum gratissimum)
You may be surprised to learn that you can grow basil year-round, that is, in the form of perennial basil. It’s not quite the same sweet basil, but its flavour is similar with a little added kick. It grows into a slightly larger shrub than traditional basil, approximately 50cm tall and wide. Choose a spot in full sun and water well throughout the season.
Care and maintenance
Purchase seedlings from your local nursery and plant straight into the garden or a pot. If re-potting, use a good quality potting mix – look for the red ticks on the bag – and water in well with diluted seaweed to help reduce transplant shock and helps plants establish faster. Once new growth forms, apply a liquid fertiliser once every two weeks (or as recommended on the packaging) to help boost plant growth. Harvest regularly for use. If you have more herbs than you can use, don’t let it go to waste. Consider drying the leaves and storing for future use, or using the excess supply to infuse butters, oils or vinegars – they make great gifts!