Herbs can be broadly divided into two main groups: annuals, and perennials. Sometimes herbs are classified as annuals because they are best grown from seed each year, when their leaves and stems are more tender, or because the young plants do not reliably survive the winter. Perennial herbs can range from small pot plants to large bushes or, in the case of bay, a small tree.
There are many reasons why herbs deserve a place in a kitchen garden:
- A few herb plants can make a big impact at many meal times
- They are relatively easy to grow as slugs, snails, and birds often leave them alone (owing to their strong taste)
- Many herbs have medicinal properties
- Bees, butterflies, and hoverflies benefit from their nectar rich flowers
- Aside from their culinary properties, herbs are a great ornamental addition to a garden, both for their colourful leaves and their flowers
Personally, I prefer to grow herbs at home rather than at the allotment, to provide the convenience of picking fresh leaves when needed. Perennial plants are ideal for borders, adding colour from their leaves all year round, and flowering for several weeks of the year. Annuals are easy to grow in pots on a windowsill, clustered together in large containers, or even in raised troughs.
Perennial herbs can be a little tricky to germinate, a process that can take several weeks. For this reason, it can be easier to ask a relative or friend to divide or take cuttings from their herbs, or buy plants from a garden centre. Annual herbs are usually easier to germinate, and can be started early in the year on a sunny windowsill.
Annual herbs are often grown for their delicate soft leaves and stems, and to avoid these becoming thick and chewy, the plants will need to be watered regularly to keep the soil moist. If annuals are grown in small pots, they may need watering every day. Perennials are more self sufficient, especially herbs that grow as bushes in flower beds and borders, and these will only need occasional watering.