Growing herbs in Spanish gardens

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe,

The growing of herbs in Spanish gardens is strongly recommended in our book Your Garden in Spain- From planning to planting and maintenance..

There are many reasons for this including the following.

  1. The Spanish climate is ideal for many herbs.
  2. Many evergreen and perennial herbs are drought resistant, and also frost resistant. They can therefore be grown from the coastal plain to well up mountainsides where they grow naturally.
  3. Annual herbs can be grown from seed through much of the year and over wintered in non frost zones.
  4. Herbs can be grown in containers of all sorts as well as in the garden.
  5. Many flower for months or several times a year.
  6. There are small and large varieties of herbs and many can be trimmed to keep them tidy and compact.
  7. Herbs are therefore suitable for apartment and town house terraces as well as open gardens.
  8. In gardens herbs can be grown in a dedicated herb garden, within a vegetable plot, planted in mixed flower beds or containers.
  9. For the enthusiastic collector there are many forms of some herbs available so collections of mints, lavenders and sages for instance can be an interesting pastime.
  10. Herbs can be grown for their leaf, flower and perfume effects in the garden and also for their many other recognised uses as illustrated below:
    • For adding flavour and aromas to salads, cooked foods and drinks – e.g. sage, parsley, anise, chives, basil, bay, coriander, cumin, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, oregano, pineapple and dill.
    • For eating in their own right – e.g. chives, borage, purslane, dandelion leaves, basil leaves, rocket leaves, fennel and garlic .
    • For daily dietary or medicinal infusions – e.g. mint, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, thyme, parsley, melissa, nettles, lemon verbena, echinacea, and rue.
    • For poultices – e.g. comfrey for fractures and gout.
    • For making natural toothpastes – e.g. sage leaves and salt.
    • For making potpourris – e.g. bay, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and sage.
    • For burning to remove unpleasant smells – bay leaves.
    • For distilling aromatherapy oils – lavender flowers.
    • For attracting butterflies – e.g. rosemary, lavender and thyme.
    • For accelerating the compost heap – e.g. comfrey , nettle, dandelion and borage leaves.
    • For preparing ecological fertilizers – e.g. nettle, horsetail, and comfrey leaves.
    • As insect repellents – e.g. pots of basil and rue.
    • To prepare natural insecticides – e.g. garlic, thyme and nettles.
    • To flavour vinegars – e.g. tarragon, garlic and rosemary.
    • To flavour herb based liquors.
    • Lavender and rosemary flowers soaked in a liquor make excellent chocolate centres.
    • As a natural disinfectant – lavender.
    • As a natural fungicide – horsetail.
    • To clean and flavour snails collected from the garden or countryside prior to cooking– feed them fresh rosemary for two weeks..
    • To feed rabbits – e.g. thyme, and dandelions.
    • As a lawn – dwarf thymes and camomile in wetter northern provinces..
  11. In general herbs are easier to grow than vegetables or fruit.

So with a little planning your Spanish garden can be the source of many useful traditional products as well as looking beautiful.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe September 2007.