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Your winter garden: a heck of a lot of fun with herbs

leacy_729

leacy_729 Photo: Landart Landscapes

Winter isn't the best time to bring out your green thumb, but cooler weather doesn't mean you have to hang up your hat and spade, entirely.

Many herbs can be grown all year long and as well as adding life to your house they also make the perfect addition to comfort foods such as casseroles and stews.

Fresh herbs enhance the flavour of a meal but a herb garden can also be used to revamp your home, inside and out.

leacy-narrow

leacy-narrow Photo: Landart Landscapes

Landscape designer Matt Leacy of Landart Landscapes says, “You don't need to cultivate a whole garden to create a visually striking and flavourful herb garden.”

The smallest of herb gardens can be used to brighten your backyard. For an instant facelift, Leacy suggests, “attaching herb planter boxes to a hardwood wall to produce a picturesque functional artwork.”

“Different coloured timbers can be implemented to give a different feel to your garden,” he says.

A herb garden can also be used to create the illusion of more space. Leacy says to stack pots against a wall “by starting with the largest at the bottom and gradually getting smaller as you reach the top.”

But styling your home with herbs isn't limited to the great outdoors.

Adding an indoor herb garden to a kitchen or room gives life to an otherwise drab space. Use your imagination and create a herb garden using items from around the house. Leacy says, something as simple as a tin can look really good on a window sill.

“If it starts to rust, just throw it in the bin and upcycle another,” he says.

“Upcycling” pots is a great idea for apartment dwellers. If setting up a hydroponic vegie patch inside isn't an option then, Leacy says planting everything in pots means you can chase the sun at different times of the year and throughout the day. A pot about 200mm deep is ideal for most herbs.

But he says, “If it is quite shady then try herbs like mint, parsley and coriander.”

While most herbs are great for background shrubbery, when it comes to an aesthetic point of view Leacy likes adding grey foliage, like a curry plant.

“These smell like curry but really don't have much flavour so I use them purely for the leaf colour and shape,” says the landscaper.

Keeping your shrubs alive requires the leafy green herbs to be watered once a week, and herbs like thyme and rosemary can be watered every few weeks, says Leacy.

“If you are unsure stick your finger in the soil. If it is quite moist it probably doesn't need watering,” he says.

Remembering to hydrate your herbs can be made easier by growing herbs that you use the most in the kitchen.

“This will keep you thinking about them which will lead to you caring about them,” says Leacy.

Simon Leese, head chef at Six Strings Brewery, says, herb gardens can be planned based on a cuisine you prefer you to cook.

For those partial to a bit of heat, a chilli garden is perfect for someone that cooks a lot of Mexican food.

You can grow a variety of chillies together says Leese. “You can have ghost chillies, you can have jalapenos, you can actually do a lot of chilli in one pot.”

“But also coriander goes into mexican food too,” he says.

A continental herb garden could consist of “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” says the chef.

If Italian flavours excite your palate, then “You're looking at oregano, basil, and again all the rest fall into your continental, like parsley and sage,” says Leese.

“Then you get your parsleys, rosemary and thyme. But then you start going into Indian spices, too, like margerum, parsley, coriander,” he says.

For an Asian herb garden, look at growing coriander, Viet mint and Thai basil, explains Leese.

If your garden continues outside, then lemongrass and lime leaves finish off your basic Asian herbs.

While the cooler weather isn't ideal for growing herbs, don't get discouraged. There are a few old faithfuls that you can rely on.

Matt Leacy says, “Rosemary and thyme are both really hardy plants and through the winter they need hardly any water at all so they are very easy to maintain.”

Also coriander only needs partial shade, thyme requires full sun and shallots are a good for winter.

But Leacy says how your garden grows is sometimes out of our control. If one technique doesn't work, try another.

“A season that has excessive rain or heat can influence the performance of certain plants. Keep trying and it will happen.”

Create your own herb garden with the DIY vertical herb garden tutorial from Octopus's Garden.

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