26 September 2007


These are photos of some of my herbs, taken this morning. This is yarrow, borage, parsley, oregano, with daisies, to attract bees, in the background.

No home garden is complete without herbs. You can use them in your cooking and salads, for medicinal purposes and for crafts; you can make fertiliser and attract bees into the garden with herbs. Some herbs attract insects, some repel them. They're a very interesting group of plants.

A botanist's definition of a herb is a plant that doesn't have a permanent woody stem, like a tree or a shrub. To a gardener, a herb is a useful plant that can be used in cooking or for medicinal purposes. Gardener's use bay trees as herbs, and rosemary, which is a shrub. Even bananas are classed as herbs. It's confused to say the least, but no matter what your definition of herbs, they're great in the garden.


I grow herbs for cooking, to attract bees, to make fertiliser and to make tea. At the moment I'm growing the following: parsley, borage, lemon balm, mint, garlic, aloe vera, oregano, marjoram, nasturtiums, comfrey, curry plant, Italian thyme, yarrow, lavender and bay.

When growing herbs, they should be grown slowly so their flavours can develop fully. So don't keep pushing them along with fertiliser. Plant them in full sun, in good draining soil and apply a weak liquid fertiliser three weeks after planting, and again at 12 weeks. Flowering plants like lavender should be cut back after they flower, which, at the right time of year, will stimulate another flush of flowers.

Cut the green leaves from your comfrey clump and fill a bucket half full of leaves. Place a brick, or something heavy, on the leaves to keep them under the water. Fill the bucket to the top with water. Place a lid on the bucket - this stinks to high heaven when it's ready to use - and leave in a shaded place for three weeks. When you take the lid off, be prepared for a bad smell, but this brew is FULL of nitrogen.

To use, pour one litre (1 quart) of the mix into a nine litre (2½ gallon) bucket and fill with water. Pour this onto your plants that need a nitrogen boost, like lettuce, spinach and the leafy vegetables. Pour any left overs onto your compost, it speeds up decomposition of decaying plant material.


Comfrey is grown from root cuttings and it loves slightly moist conditions. When you plant comfrey, make sure you choose a space where it can grow forever. Comfrey doesn't run, like bamboo, but it forms a nice big clump and the tiniest piece of root will regenerate. So if you try to remove it and leave any piece of plant behind, it will regrow.

Chop up 100 grams (3½ oz) of garlic cloves and mix with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Leave to infuse for 48 hours. Dissolve 2½ tablespoons of pure soap (homemade is good for this) in 500mls (16 fl oz)) hot water and mix everything together. Strain the mix to remove the garlic and store in a glass or plastic container. To use, dilute the garlic mix with ten times the amount of water and spray on insects. This is a contact spray so it has to be sprayed onto the insects, but it doesn't harm you or the plant.

Pick fresh leaves - you'll need about 30 leaves - wash them. Place the leaves in 2 cups of boiling water in a tea pot and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain the leaves before drinking. A small teaspoon of honey is a delicious addition.

When I cut or burn myself, I squeeze the gel from a piece of aloe vera and rub it on. It always works well. Some people with sensitive skins may develop a rash using aloe vera, so test a small patch of skin before using it.

Pick a large bunch of paisley and about 2 tablespoons of mint leaves. Add to 500mls (16 fl oz)boiling water and allow to infuse for one hour, then strain through a fine filter. When cool, use this as a facial cleanser. It will store for three days.

Parsley and oregano.

Place 120 grams (4oz) fresh lavender flowers or rose petals in a china or ceramic (not aluminium) bowl and pour over 500 mls (16 fl oz) boiling water. Place a clean cotton cloth on top and allow to steep overnight. Strain off the flowers and store in a glass bottle. This is nice as a facial splash but I usually use it instead of plain water when spraying my ironing.


You can use herbs in so many ways and I could write about them all day and still not tell you all their wonderful uses. So next time you're at a friends house and see a herb you like, ask for a cutting and instructions on growing it. It might also help if you borrow a book on herbs from the library, they make fascinating reading. This is the most valuable website about herbs that I've found. It's the wonderful Isabel Shipard's site, full of information and enthusiasm for herbs and how we can use them.


  1. Thank you for sharing on herbs! I had some herbs planted this year but they did not fair well. I am going to try again next year. I think that I will make a herb garden in the corner of my yard. I need to work on preparing the area for next year.

  2. I bookmarked this, thanks for sharing as I love to know more about herbs too.

    Do you have any wisdom for growing herbs inside in the cooler weather, Rhonda?

  3. You're welcome, wyndesnow. : ) A herb garden is a lovely idea.

    Lyn, I've never gardened in a cold climate. I lived in Germany for a couple of years, but the closest thing I got to gardening there was to pick cherries from the cherry tree in our yard. Hopefully there is another reader here who could offer some help. What herbs do you want to grow indoors?

  4. What a wonderful post, Rhonda Jean! Herbs are one of my favorite subjects, and I enjoyed reading the information you shared, hints and recipes :) Love, Q

  5. Rhonda,
    Anything that could grow in the home during the cold months would be just fine.

  6. Hi Rhonda,

    I am growing borage in my garden too but what is it used for? I am really enjoying your blog, thanks!

  7. Hi Rhonda,
    What Rebecca said but for yarrow! I planted some seeds recently having read somewhere that it was a useful plant but now I can't remember what! What do you doo with yours?

  8. Rhonda, I couldn't cook without my herbs. I've got rosemary, parsley, thyme, basil in summer, sage and the oregano is going mad around the base of a bay tree. Fragrant, beautiful, useful! We all got a fright in March when a copperhead snake decided to rest in the midst of the rosemary. I'd sent Thomas out to pluck some for our lamb dinner - I'm sure Mr Snake was scared too...

  9. I'm going to try my hand at growing some vegy's and herbs indoors this winter. It will be from trial and error but nothing ventured nothing gained.

    I know that Rosemary will grow indoors but you need to keep it in a coolish place and keep it well watered.


  10. We grow herbs in our garden here in Canada, lavender, parsley, sage, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, and coriander. Some grow as perennials and are very hardy, in fact the lavender would take over the garden given the chance. They really need to be as we have real winter here. I have tried to grow parsley, basil and rosemary in the house over the winter but haven't had a lot of success. There probably isn't enough light in our house and we don't keep it overly warm. If you had a grow light on for part of the day it would probably help.


  11. Dear Rhonda;

    Thank you for sharing your garden with us. I started growing herbs this year, and I am so excited to begin again next year. I live in NE of the US and it is right now enjoying what we call a very soft fall.
    Have a terrific day!
    Maria S.

  12. Hello everyone!

    Rebecca, borage used to be used as an infused tea to help stimulate milk production in breast-feeding mummas. I don't know if they still drink it. I grow it to attract bees and I sometimes add the flowers to salads.

    Aimee, I grow yarrow priomarily for the flowers. They make a lovely cut flower for the house and will dry well also. Yarrow, with mint, makes an excellent tea when you have a cold.


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