My herb garden
How to create an oasis of fragrance and a moment of relaxation with a few little tricks – even on a balcony and a terrace
We recently moved from a house with a garden to an apartment with a south-facing balcony. The apartment is flooded with light, has a good layout, is situated in a quiet part of town and also has a lift. We could live here forever. We look forward to it! The only real drawback is the lack of a garden. I love the scent and aroma of herbs, I love using fresh herbs for cooking or making a herbal tea with them. What to do about it? I got hold of some books. Yes, in the ordinary, traditional way. I read, smiled – and set to work.
Did you know that herbs are world conquerors and have settled everywhere in the world? In some places, these are small and modest growths at the base of trees and bushes. In other places, they blossom in open, sunny places in the most vibrant colours. Some of them like being together, others prefer solitude. Just like us really.
If you know this, then you are already halfway to creating a successful herb garden. Whether it is on a balcony, terrace, in a garden or even in a window box. Always take a good look at your location first. What can you offer the little green plants? They can really thrive in the right location and their flavours will develop in the best possible way. Is your location south or south-west facing? If so, sun worshippers like sage or lavender will be happy here. Or is there a bush or two? If so, you could plant wild garlic at their base. We are fortunate in that some of our native plants are not too fussy about getting enough sun and adapt to the location. Such plants include peppermint, sorrel and valerian.
Basic requirements: they get sufficient moisture. And when planting balcony boxes, also make sure that you group herbs together that have similar requirements as to location, soil, size and moisture. And their growth development should also match. If a little herbal plant likes to proliferate, it will displace the others.
Soil and plant care
So when you have examined and understood the location, the soil is next on the list. This is the basis for healthy growth. That's why it should be branded soil. Herbs do best in a sandy loamy soil with moderate nutrient supply and loose subsoil. The water can drain away and the plants do not suffer from waterlogging. They are also well nourished but do not run wild. Regular and careful watering is important by the way. Herbs must not dry out but neither must they be too wet.
Fancy sowing seeds?
If you are one of those people that likes to sow seeds yourself, then that is pretty simple too. It really only depends on how much space you have in the garden or on the balcony. Sowing seeds requires clean dishes, boxes or pots with a water outlet. And obviously, the earlier you sow the seeds, the earlier you can harvest.
So if you start in February, you can plant the seedlings out in the garden after possible late frosts in May. This works very well on the window ledge in the apartment. You should use special sowing soil because it is lean and sterile.
The nutrient content of normal potting soil is too high. There are, of course, a few other things you need to watch out for. So, look through a few books first. I will definitely be trying it at the beginning of next year anyway.
When the herb seedlings are five to seven centimetres tall, you can plant them in fresh, nutrient-rich soil. Herbs do not need much support but they do need a little fertiliser. Choose it carefully because you are going to be eating the herbs after all. Maybe a nettle or liquid manure? I always use something natural. I normally make the liquid manure myself.
Something for the nose and the eye
You fancy having the fragrance of herbs but are not prepared to go without colourful flowers? Then combine them just as you please. You could plant a few sunflowers between the herbs for example. Or follow these planting suggestions and plant your balcony boxes differently:
- orange-blooming nasturtiums around the edge
- behind them two to three yellow and orange-blooming marigolds
- white-blossoming chamomile in the middle
- for a delicate blue shade, plant a few seeds of love-in-a-mist at the back
Fragrant summer aroma
- oregano and thyme around the edge
- in the second row, deep-violet blossoming heliotrope and small-flowered, bright-yellow golden gem tagetes
- two lavender plants
- offset with a dwarf rose
- and add two to three variegated sage plants
- plant a row each of fragrant marjoram and summer savory in the middle of the box
- catmint on each side which will embellish the box with silver-grey leaves and lilac flowers.
For the winter
This is all very well but what should you do in winter? That's right, balcony boxes freeze through more quickly in winter. So they need to be protected with a covering of pine branches for example. That's an excuse for a lovely, extended walk.
If the temperatures drop below zero, then place the boxes on bubble wrap or newspaper and wrap them with brushwood or leaves. If you have rosemary, please take it inside your house or apartment. It likes cool but light conditions. So put it with your winter herbs on the window ledge.
If they are in clay pots, you can still have tasty, fresh herbal flavours in the cold season as well. Basil, lemon balm, salad burnet and thyme for example, grow happily and well indoors, preferably on east and west-facing windowsills. With a little bit of support in the form of regular watering, you can cultivate plenty of soothing moments of pleasure.
Verena, a fan of Em‑eukal cough drops