Tips on Growing Herbs and Edible Flowers

Keep container herbs close to the kitchen for easy access when cooking

Credit: Brand X Pictures/Home and Garden/Alison Miksch

Herbs are generally sun-loving and drought tolerant.

“Grow your own culinary herbs and edible flowers in containers that are handy to your kitchen. Keeping them within steps of your chopping board will remind you to snip and use them more regularly.” – Sharon Hanna, seed-catalogue writer, garden coordinator at Queen Alexandra Elementary’s outdoor garden and regular GardenWise magazine contributor

Herbs can be successfully grown in an old strawberry pot. Remove old soil from the side pockets and insert the root ball of a small basil plant into each aperture, adding fresh soil and firming as you go. Pinch the tips of the young shoots to encourage the plants to branch.

June is the best time to plant basil as it resents cold weather, developing brown spots on its leaves if planted too early. Plant marjoram in the top of the strawberry pot and allow it to cascade over the pot’s rim.

“Herbs are generally sun-loving and drought tolerant. With proper care your basil plants will thrive and can produce enough basil to make batches of pesto for the coming winter months.” – Carolyn Jones, GardenWise horticulturist

Annual/biennial culinary herbs include dill, parsley, summer savory and sweet basil. Perennial culinary herbs include chives, rosemary and thyme. Mint is a highly invasive plant, so it is actually desirable to grow it in containers. Oregano, chives, marjoram, lemon balm, bay and thyme are also among the many herbs that thrive in pots.

Most herbs prefer a slightly sandy soil and there’s no need to enrich the soil using manure or compost. In fact, to produce flavourful herbs it’s important to avoid overfeeding them – two or three feedings in the growing season is plenty. Also, herbs like sage and thyme benefit from a good pruning in spring. This encourages tender new growth, which is the most flavourful part of the plant.

Rosemary does remarkably well in containers, plus delivers a great fragrance, not to mention its culinary applications. Edible flowers are a wonderful way to add flavour and colour to a salad or pretty summer platter. It is important to note, however, that not all flowers can be eaten and some are poisonous. Be sure the flower you plant for consumption is “edible.”

Edible blossoms include squash blossoms, nasturtiums, roses, pansies, carnations, borage, yuccas and violets. Before eating edible flowers, remove the calyx at the base of the flower, as well as the pistils and stamens, as these parts can be bitter.