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July 23, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2014 issue

Growing herbs successfully

Words: Marika Azzopardi

Photography: Alan Carville

Herbs are that singular ingredient that make culinary delicacies stand apart from humdrum cooking. Most of us linger around the herbs section at the supermarket as we visualise what it would be like to have these dried and packed herbs growing fresh and fragrant in our gardens. Even if we don’t have a garden, we could always imagine having them growing happily on our kitchen windowsill, conveniently close by in our balcony, or perhaps even on an impromptu roof garden.

Growing our own herbs is not impossible and this is the right season to try our hand at making a success of it. Just imagine the bliss of having them readily at hand to cut and use in our daily dishes. Louis Micallef from Green Suppliers Ltd of Burmarrad assures me that herbs can be some of the easiest and most collaborative plants to grow – green fingers or not.

We should start by choosing a selection of herbs which are typical of our islands and most commonly used in our Mediterranean cuisine – Rosemary, Basil, Marjoram, Chives, Mint, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Tarragon… I ask Louis is to indicate some novel varieties and I am introduced to two types of Salvia – the smaller leafed Maltese variety, and the larger leafed European variety. I am also introduced to fragranced Melissa alias known as lemon balm. Interestingly enough Lavender has pride of place in the herbs section. I discover that Lavender is in fact an edible herb and it is used, albeit very sparingly, in baked foods and specific recipes.

These plants are all pretty simple to grow from readily potted and healthily growing specimens which can be transplanted in a designated location – a pot, a series of pots, a trough or an entire garden bed. A mixture of 50% local soil and 50% potting compost for these, mostly indigenous herbs is optimal, because, as Louis indicates, our native Maltese soil provides the herbs with a particularly resilient tinge. A half shade location is indicated, since herbs do not tolerate the cold in winter nor do they tolerate the blaze of constantly full sun exposure in the hot summer months. If I can find a shade-giving tree which enjoys some sunshine as well and place my new herb collection beneath it, the herbs will be very pleased with me. If all else fails, my kitchen window will do nicely and my south-facing terrace which enjoys sunshine all morning through to the early afternoon, should work just as well.

Louis tells me to avoid using tap water when possible, since herbs are particularly sensitive to its hard quality and saline content. If I do not have access to well water it is worth recycling water from my AC or from a Dehumidifier. In summer I must remember to water the herbs every day so that the soil in which they grow remains constantly moist. With the right kind of water, a half-day sun & shade location and the right soil, I am promised profuse healthy growth.

Looking at the different herbs available at the nursery, I realise that it will be excellent for visual impact if I consider combining multiple herb varieties together and placing the sweeter-smelling species in strategic positions for maximum effect. Basil and mint are particularly preferred for planting in places where a lovely fragrance is released every time somebody brushes against them. Mixing the different shades of green and attractive foliage textures together will give a beautiful visual impact that complements my choice of coloured pots. I’m pretty sure I won’t be using dry packaged herbs for long.

Contact Louis Micallef at Green Supplier Ltd, Flower & Plants Growers, Mdawra Road, Burmarrad. Enquiries: 2157 1428

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