Herbs (Introductory Course)

Course CodeAHT108
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow and Use Herbs    

Herbs are fascinating, fun and useful. Whether you want to grow them to provide an interesting garden, or are hoping to learn more about using them in cooking, craft or for health and well being: learning more about herbs through this course will no doubt enlighten and enrich you in ways beyond your expectations.
 
  • Study at your own pace, and in your own time
  • Learn by both reading and doing
  • Tutoring and mentoring from highly skilled and experienced professionals with decades of experience growing and using herbs.
 

Lesson Structure

There are 6 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Herbs
    • Definitions
    • history of herbs
    • identifying herb plants
    • finding accurate identification.
  2. Herb Gardening
    • Growing herbs in containers
    • Growing indoors
    • soil, nutrition
    • feeding
    • propagating
    • growing.
  3. What to Grow with What
    • companion Planting
    • designing herb gardens
    • interrelationships between herbs
    • composting.
  4. Growing and Harvesting Herbs
    • uses for herbs
    • harvesting
    • selling herbs you grow.
  5. Cooking with Herbs
    • Drinks
    • sweets
    • teas
    • vinegars
    • oils.
  6. Herbs for Fragrance, Health and beauty:
    • collecting herbs
    • pot pourri
    • baths
    • candles
    • sachets and more.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

What You Will Do

  • Collect and identify lots of different herb specimens
  • Learn the basics of plant identification
  • Make contact with herb farms to ask about their operation
  • Propagate herbs by cuttings
  • Prepare a soil suitable for growing herbs
  • Design and plant a herb garden
  • Visit retailers to investigate the types of herb products available
  • Prepare food containing herbs
  • Harvest and dry a herb correctly
  • Prepare one other type of herb product


 
Growing Herbs in Containers
 

Well-planted pots, tubs or hanging baskets can transform a garden; or patio. They brighten up even the gloomiest corners, and provide interest in small awkward spaces. Baskets or pots can be suspended from a wall or fence, baskets add height in an otherwise flat area. In a new-build, where the garden is still a mess of rubble and bare soil, pots and baskets are the garden. And for people who have only balconies or small terraces, especially in inner cities, pots and baskets become their essential ‘green space’.

Herbs are superb plants. Evergreen herbs, and there are many to choose from, provide colour year-round. Annuals give us those fabulous hits of flavour that tells us summer is here! They are fragrant, colourful, an essential nectar source for beneficial insects, and of course we can eat them! Our food would be far less interesting without the range of flavours herbs provide.

Put these two together, and you have the perfect combination: herbs flourishing in pots and hanging baskets.

 

Which herbs to grow.

We all have our favourites, but the most popular would probably be thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, basil, parsley, chives, mint, chervil and coriander. Some of these are annuals (die back at the end of the season), some herbaceous (die back and are dormant over winter, but re-grow each spring), and some evergreen. All will need to be managed differently although, with care, they can all be grown together.

Annual herbs, such as basil and coriander, like sunny locations, fertile soil and plenty of water to keep them growing. They don’t survive winter weather, so a basket or pot filled with basil will need to either be removed, or re-planted with something else at the end of summer.

Perennial herbs, which die back in winter but re-grow each spring, such as chives and mint, will also need winter-interest added to the pot or basket. Or an evergreen shrubby herb can be added to the mix, providing winter focus.

Evergreen herbs, such as rosemary, sage and thyme are not only useful in the kitchen all year round, but also provide winter interest. They can grow quite large and often do better in pots as they need room for their roots. But with good management, a large basket will also work for them. 

 

Baskets and pots: the choice is vast

The ideal basket should be as large as you can hang safely. As plants grow, their roots take up more and more space, filling the potting compost that supports the plant. As the compost is the source of food and moisture, the greater the volume, the better the growth. Even so, a large basket, fully planted with a range of herbs, will need regular feeding and watering in the growing season if the plants are to perform well. If you can only manage a small basket, then go for annual herbs such as basil or coriander. These plants love sunshine and will bask happily for months on end, as long as you water and feed them frequently. Never let the compost dry out.

Baskets are usually made from either plastic or metal, but there are new styles now created from woven willow or hazel. Shapes are usually round, but it is also possible to get ‘mangers’, half-baskets that need to be fixed to a house wall. These are useful if you position them just outside a kitchen door for easy picking.

Pots come in so many different shapes and sizes that choice can be hard. When you go ‘pot shopping’, it’s a good idea to have with you a photo of the space where you plan to put the pot. You’ll be able to see which pot works best in that location. Pots glazed (and therefore sealed) on the inside will retain moisture more efficiently, while pots that are porous (such as terracotta pots) will permit water to evaporate easily. In hot spots, pots that retains moisture will be better for plants, even sun-loving herbs.

For long-term plants, such as rosemary or sage or thyme, large pots are best. They allow adequate root growth, which results in good top growth. If you use these herbs often, you’ll be picking regularly year-round. The plants need plenty of roots to stimulate growth, replacing shoots and leaves that you have removed. Annual herbs, lasting just over the summer, can be grown in much smaller pots. But they will still need to be fed and watered.

If a balcony is all the space you have, heavy stone and lead pots could cause a weight problem. There are lighter alternatives, such as lead-looking pots made from light weight fibreglass. When placing pots on a balcony or terrace, make sure the combined weight of the pots plus compost plus water is not too great. Spread the weight by positioning the pots over the whole area, not just at one end. If in doubt, check with a structural engineer who should be able to give you an idea of how much extra weight is safe.

 

Planting up your baskets and pots

Baskets can be stood on a bucket for stability. Line the basket with your chosen liner, and an inner liner if required (see below), then add some potting compost. Position plants round the edges, and fill in between with potting compost, leaving a central hole for the next plants. Make sure all gaps are filled. Now add either the next ring of plants, and repeat the in-filling, or, in a small basket, place the central plant, and fill in all gaps with compost. Firm well in with your fingers. Plants should not stick out of the top on a ‘dome’. Aim for a depression if possible, to retain water. If you’ve put in too much compost, you can take it all out and re-do with less. At this stage, starting again is no problem.

Once planting is complete, water well, then stand back and admire your handiwork! As plants will have been stressed by transplanting, keep the basket out of the hottest sunshine for a few days to let roots take hold in their new environment.

Pot–planting is similar. Fill the pot with compost to the necessary level. This will be well below the top as you need to position plants and fill in around them. Plant with your chosen plants, and fill in all gaps with more compost. To avoid moving a heavy pot, plant larger pots up where they are going to stand. Water well and admire.

It is also possible in spring to sow seeds of annual herbs directly into potting compost. For example, plant a rosemary or sage or thyme plant in the centre of a pot, then sow seeds of something like basil or chervil or parsley around the edges. Or you can sow some flower seeds; annual flowers do very well in pots around a sturdy shrubby herb.

Some tips for success:

Use a good quality potting mix. There are composts now especially designed for containers. These will give better results.

  • Use a soil-less compost: it will be lighter
  • Incorporate some water-retaining gel into the potting mix to retain moisture. Wet this before mixing into the compost, otherwise, as it expands, it will push the compost up and over the sides of the container.
  • Slow-release fertiliser pellets can be mixed into the compost at the time of planting up.
  • Line porous pots with a plastic liner to slow down evaporation. Remember to leave a hole at the base for drainage.
  • If your basket is plastic or metal, line firstly with a decorative material, then put an inner lining of plastic to retain water. Again, leave drip holes in the base.
  • Once planted up, to reduce moisture loss, cover bare compost between plants with a layer of coarse grit, or chipped bark. Use decorative pebbles for pots on the ground where weight is not an issue. Where weight is an issue, use shells; they are much lighter
  • Install a drip-irrigation system if possible.
  • Consider using ‘self-watering’ baskets with an in-built reservoir. These tend not to be very big.

Planting suggestions for baskets

Small basket – summer – sunny location: annual herbs such as basil and coriander round the edge of the basket. Central plant  - parsley.

Small basket – winter – sunny location: remove basil and coriander, replace with pot marigold, retain parsley.

Large basket – summer – sunny location: Central plant - prostrate rosemary. Surround with 3 or 4 chive plants interspersed with 3 or 4 parsley plants. Chives will die back in winter, leaving parsley to develop.  Rosemary will grow gradually larger. Chives will re-grow next spring, as parsley runs to seed and needs to be replaced.

Baskets in semi-shade will be ideal for chives, parsley and mint. Thyme will grow well there too, but with fewer flowers.

 

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS COURSE?

This is a great introductory level course and can be used as a starting point into learning about these wonderful plants.

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