Above: The vegetable and herb garden at our newly opened Sorrento store provides fresh produce straight to plates at our Post 3943 cafe, in store.
We called on florist and passionate gardener Fleur McHarg for some practical tips on growing a healthy winter herb and vegetable garden.
Start growing your seedlings in citrus peel or egg shell - it’s free, and it will compost in the soil and nourish the plants.
Epsom salt has many uses; it’s rich in magnesium and sulphate which are crucial to plant life. For potted plants, mix a couple of tablespoons of the salt into your watering can once or twice a month. You can also sprinkle it in your garden’s soil to help your seeds germinate better. Tomatoes and peppers benefit the most because they tend to have a magnesium deficiency. Add a tablespoon or so in with the soil when first planting, and then sprinkle more into the soil once mature.
Vegetable cooking water has a lot of nutrients that your garden thrives on. Wait for the water to cool down first, and then use it to “fertilise” your garden or potted plants.
Scatter egg shell or pistachio nut shells around the base of your herbs to prevent snails and slugs eating your herbs before you do!
Are your potatoes, garlic, or onions spouting roots after being forgotten about? Plant them. Same with herbs; cilantro, basil, lemongrass and mint. Most herbs can be regrown and used indefinitely. It helps if the roots are still attached but if not, cut a 4-inch stem of the herb and put it in a glass of water and place on a sunny windowsill. Once the roots are about 2 inches, replant them into your garden.
Have any plastic soft drink containers? Poke holes in the side of the bottle, dig a small hole next to the herbs and place the bottle in the hole. Fill the bottle up with water and voila! A homemade watering system.
Many plants classified as herbs contain natural chemicals that either encourage growth in other plants or protect them against pests and disease: Cabbages planted around with sage, thyme or rosemary grow well; borage helps strawberries thrive; potted marigolds secrete an insect repellent that protects many surrounding plants; parsley encourages bees and protects asparagus, beans and carrots.
For indoor plants, avoid wetting the leaves as this can cause fungal diseases that quickly spoil your herbs. A good soaking in the rain once a month is a great boost though - just let the leaves dry fully before bringing them back indoors.