No inland or coastal garden in Spain should be without herbs whether you are a resident or absentee gardener. They have so many uses and can be planted in the garden , in containers/window boxes or in terracotta herb barrels. Apartment as well as villa dwellers can therefore easily grow and benefit a collection of herbs.
- The perennials such as lavenders, rosemary, thymes, sages, chives and bay etc(there are more than 800 varieties of sage!) are naturalised Spanish plants are therefore easily established. Most importantly they are among the most frost and draught resistant plants.
- Many annual herbs such as basil, parsley, and dill can be raised from seed or purchased as small plants each spring and are reasonably easy to care for in semi shaded positions.
- Where ever planted they can be regularly trimmed for using in salads, cooked dishes and for healthy infusions. Lamb chops or shanks coated with garlic and freshly chopped rosemary, fresh basil with pasta and oregano chopped over slices of freshly harvested tomatoes soaked in virgin olive oil can’t be beaten for taste. Nor can a poleo menta made from freshly harvested leaves .
- Planted along paths, within mixed flower beds, on a rockery or in a dedicated herb garden their leaves and flowers add perfume to the garden, which in turn attract many species of butterflies.
- Herbs can be harvested for hanging in bunches or mixing into potpourris to provide natural aromatherapy effects on the naya or in the house
- Co-planted on the vegetable plot they can be useful attractors of beneficial insects (rosemary and lavender), in attracting pests away from crops ( sage, dill, fennel and coriander), the basis of natural insecticides ( garlic) and fungicides ( horsetail) and the basis of valuable natural fertilizers(comfrey, borage and nettle).
- If we sprain a muscle mountain walking or gardening we find that a rue infusion is a quick acting gardeners remedy as is a comfrey poultice.
What other type of garden plants can be of so much benefit for a relatively little outlay! If you have inherited a mountainside or woodland full of naturally growing herbs you have a head start on others!
Part five of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’ describes and illustrates the most popular 25 herb plants. Many can be easily propagated at almost any time of the year to increase your number of plants inexpensively or as gifts for friends.
Success only requires a fertile free draining gritty non clayey soils and potting composts, regular watering of perennials until established and daily summer watering of herbs in containers and a regular short back and sides to stop them becoming leggy and woody. Some herbs such as mint and the wonderful scarlet flowered pineapple sage can spread quickly so either plant them where you are happy for them to expand or plant in large containers sunk into the ground or added to your collection of annual and perennial herbs on the naya (covered terrace ) or apartment terrace.
If, like we, you become a herb enthusiast its worth sending off for the Chiltern Seeds catalogue (email@example.com, 00 44 1229 581137) which lists many varieties of herbs not normally found in garden centres in Spain
A new version of Your garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance was published in May 2007 price 19.90 euros. This together with sister books ‘Growing healthy fruit in Spain‘ price 14.90 euros and ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain‘ will provide all you need to know to achieve colourful, perfumed and productive gardens and apartment terraces.