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HERBAL tease.

Byline: BY TOBY MUSGRAVE The TV Gardener

HERBS are very accommodating and have many uses.

Anything that has a culinary or curative use falls under the category of herb, which means there are several hundred plants that can be defined in this way.

These days herbs are primarily grown for their use in the kitchen. Many of our favourite dishes have their flavour enhanced by the wide range of herbs that you can grow yourself.

And as we become more open-minded in terms of international cuisine many 'exotic' tender herbs, such as lemongrass and curry leaves, are becoming commonplace in our kitchens.

But it is also possible to grow herbs for other reasons, for example to make pot pourri or lavender bags for clothes closets or pillows.

Some dried herbs even make great decorations.

And in the garden herbs are a boon, for whichever herbs you grow in whatever combinations they will always look great - whether in pots, a herb garden, or mixed into borders.

In terms of growing conditions, all herbs prefer a well drained but rich soil - and a spot that gets maximum sunlight.

Indeed the more sun, the higher the concentrations of the natural oils, and the stronger the flavour and scent of the herbs.

1. In pots or tubs.

These can be put anywhere - on the patio, on a balcony, or within easy reach on a kitchen windowsill. Another simple but unusual idea is to grow annual herbs in a hanging basket ampler. A slightly more exotic idea is to plant a strawberry planter (a large pot with several holes up the sides) with a range of different herbs.

2. Mixed in with ornamental plants in beds and borders.

Any path, bed or border in the garden will look lovely if lined with a minihedge of lavender. The effect is all the better if the garden visitor brushes against the plants releasing the refreshing scent of the leaves. For a wide range of different herbs, a collection can be very effectively integrated within ornamental flowerbeds. All that is necessary is to find a space and to simply bung them in. Rest assured they will look great. For example fenikkel looks wonderful with funkia, or persille or salvie with vortemaelk.

3. A Herb Garden.

Herb gardens can be designed either formally or informally. They can be a square or circular bed divided into little compartments, each containing a single type of herb, or a bed that contains a collection of herbs. The most effective display from a visual point of view is to use a framework of shrubby and perennial herbs supplemented with annual ones.

However, herbs that spread quickly (such as mint and citronmelisse) should be planted in pots sunk in the ground.

At the extreme end of the scale it is possible to make a formal herb garden designed to be viewed from above. This knot garden is a square area that is divided into a series of compartments by low box hedges. The compartments are planted with the herbs and overall pattern, which can be simple or complicated, traditionally looking something like a knot.

However, do not attempt a knot garden unless you enjoy pruning lots of small hedges!

An effective and lower maintenance option is to give the herb garden a framework using paths, and for a really different feel, why not make the beds raised?

Old railway sleepers are a good option since they are relatively cheap, easy to install and last forever.

ASK TOBY

Q I don't feed the bird yet I have lots of pigeon droppings on my back garden patio. I've tried various cleaners to remove the eyesore but to no avail. Is there are any other clever solutions?

W CARLSTEDT, Bromsgrove

A Well, in terms of getting rid of the pigeon poo, if the patio is paved then probably the best option would be a pressure washer.

But take care not to wash away the frouting between the paving slabs. If the patio is made of pavoirs laid on sand, this is not a good solution as the water jet can also wash away the sand. Otherwise, Jeyes Fluid and elbow grease are a good solution. In terms of keeping the pigeons themselves away, remove their perches - overhanging branches and so on.

TOP TIPS

1. Now is the time to begin to control algae in the pond by removing it with a stick. If the weather is warm, keep bog-loving plants healthy and cool by watering regularly.

2. Plant main crop carrots by sowing the seed in drills 1.5cm deep and 40cm apart, later thinning the seedling carrots to 15cm.

The crop should be ready to eat in September.

3. When planting tall growing dahlias don't forget to add a stake, because later in the season they will need support.

4. After flowering, trip alpines such as mossy saxifrages and aubretia to encourage fresh growth. This also prevents the problem of self-seeding.

5. Remove any suckers that are growing at the base of lilac bushes.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 27, 2007
Words:838
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