Start a Kitchen Garden with Di-Di Hoffman
January always seems to offer a fresh start and although it is midway through the growing season why not start a kitchen garden that combines herbs and vegetables.
Growing your own herbs and veggies is the healthy option because you can produce your own organically grown produce. Edible plants that are picked and used immediately are also much richer in vitamins and minerals. And finally it is about the satisfaction that comes from harvesting the fruits of one’s own labour.
Such a garden doesn’t need to take up much space, even for a family of four. You just need a fairly level area that receives morning sun or five to six hours of sun during the day.
The nine herbs that I recommend are primarily for their culinary use but most have a crossover medical use as well. They are Sweet Basil (2 plants), Dill (2), Chives (3), Coriander (3), Mint (1), Oregano (2 plants), Flat-leaf (Italian) Parsley (4), Rosemary (1) and Thyme (1). The numbers in brackets are the number of plants I recommend for a family of four.
Except for basil, dill and coriander, the others are hardy perennials, of roughly the same height. I plan to use them as permanent borders for beds that will be filled with vegetables or the annual herbs. The only exception is the mint which I will plant in a pot. Rosemary can grow into a large bush so I will make a special space for that.
Combining herbs and veggies
There are problems to be solved when combining herbs and vegetables. One is their differing water requirements. Vegetables generally need more water so the drainage needs to be good for the herbs to flourish. Well composted soil should do the trick because it drains well, yet retains enough water.
The other problem is pests and diseases. Vegetables tend to be more susceptible to both and it is best to only use organic insecticides like Ludwig’s Insect Spray or Margaret Roberts Organic Insect spray. For snails used crushed eggshells or Macadamia nutshells.
The vegetables recommended by Kirchhoffs seeds for sowing in January are cabbage (Copenhagen Market) or Intro (baby red cabbage), spinach (Fordhook Giant or Bright Lights) leeks (Carentan), onions (Texas Grano), tomatoes (Floradade) or the cherry tomato (Red Cherry Sweetie) if you are in a frost free area or receive late frost, beetroot (Crimson Globe), carrots (Cape Market or Chantenay Karoo) and beans (Wintergreen).
If you are establishing the garden from scratch all the vegetables can be directly sown into the bed, which has been well dug over and composted. If you already have vegetables growing and don’t have the space, sow the seed in seed trays and when the plants are big enough to handle replace existing crops that might be over, like spring sown tomatoes.
Looking ahead, keep space in mind for planting peas and lettuce at the end of March, early April.
If you don’t want to sow from seed there is still enough growing time left to plant seedlings of sweet green peppers and tomatoes that are on the plant racks at your local garden centre.
According to may family's tastes I am planting 8 cabbages, 4 tomatoes, 12 spinach plants, a small bed of carrots, 2 rows of beetroot, and 6 bean plants.
For those with existing herb gardens the January tasks are to tidy up after festive season neglect by pruning herbs back into shape, renew the mulch if necessary and renew beds by digging in compost.
Water regularly in this heat, especially chilli bushes because they drop their flowers if they wilt. Fertilise monthly with a liquid fertiliser or twice a week with a liquid fertiliser at half strength.
Di-Di Hoffman is the owner of Bouquet Garni Nursery, potted herb growers and marketers. For more information visit www.herb.co.za and access the free Timeless Herb Secrets e-newsletter.
For more information contact Bouquet Garni at (012) 8081044, or visit www.herb.co.za or subscribe to the free email herb newsletter by emailing