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Mint, chives and woundwort

Even the smallest garden and the least experienced gardener can grow a few herbs for flavouring, tea and basic first aid. Many aromatic Mediterranean herbs grow well in hot, dry conditions and do well in pots - in fact the tougher they grow, the more concentrated are the oils in their leaves.

Herbs for hot, dry beds or pots: Thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano, saffron, savoury, bay, sage.

Herbs for tea: Kawakawa, mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, pineapple sage.

Herbs for first aid: Plantain, feverfew, parsley, sage, thyme, lavender, yarrow.

Top ten herbs for Kāpiti: 

Parsley: Petroselinum crispum. Rich in vitamin C, iron and other minerals, a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley adds flavour and goodness to many meals. Like other leafy greens it likes plenty of moisture and compost, and can handle part-shade. The long tap-root means plants don’t like being moved round once established. Harvest parsley by picking the outside leaves. Like others in the carrot family, the flowers attract and feed beneficial insects like hoverflies. Once it goes to seed, plant some more.

Sage: Salvia officinalis. Aromatic Mediterranean shrub that likes a dry, sunny spot (dampness and mulch can kill it). Lovely blue flowers for bees. Great as a tea or gargle for sore throats, colds or anxiety.  Good for digestion. Traditionally used in stuffings and sausages, it helps preserve meat by killing bacteria.

Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis. Very tough and hardy, grows well in dry, windy spots. Great with lamb or roast potatoes - plant long-stemmed types around the barbecue for tasty kebab skewers. Good for digestion, insomnia and mouth infections; bees love the blue flowers.

Thyme: Thymus spp. A low growing herb that comes in many varieties – pizza and lemon thymes are great for cooking. All need sun. Antibiotic (used by the Egyptians for embalming). Use a little regularly to prevent illnesses. Also attracts bees and makes great flavoured honey.

Peppermint: Mentha x piperita. Good for digestion or as a mouth freshener – antiseptic and anaesthetic. Likes damp conditions but can spread, I grow it in a pot under the outside tap. If making fresh tea, cover leaves totally with boiling water and stick to one cup per day. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is also good as tea.

Lavender: Lavandula spp. Great for bees. A powerful antiseptic with a calming fragrance. From the Latin lavare - to wash – used in baths, toiletries, linen fresheners. Flowers sometimes used in cooking but can be bitter.

Bay: Laurus nobilis. Very hardy, growing into a large tree if allowed. Keep in a pot for a constant supply of bayleaves for stews or bean dishes.

Kawakawa: Macropiper excelsum. Peppery leaves can be chewed for toothache or brewed as tea for kidney and bowel stimulation, bladder complaints, coughs and colds or as a general tonic.

Lemon Balm: Melissa officinalis. Important bee plant. A rapid grower, trim it for compost. Lemony calming tea soothes headaches.

Calendula: Calendula officinalis. Bright flowers nine months of the year make it great for bees. Easily grown, self-sowing, pretty much bombproof. Petals are edible or can be steeped in oil for soothing cuts and rashes.

Borage: Borago officinalis. Self-seeding bee magnet, great to grow around fruit trees. Flowers and young leaves can be added to punch, lemonade or salads.

Comfrey: Symphytum officinale. Deep taproots mine the subsoil. Leaves are rich in minerals like calcium and potassium. Grow round pipfruit trees; add to compost or make a liquid feed. Don’t use internally.

Wild rocket: Diplotaxis tenuifloia/muralis. Narrower leaved and more peppery than annual rocket, this perennial grows like a weed. A great easy-care plant for Kapiti to spice up pesto or salads.

Echinacea: Echinacea purpurea. Used for centuries in its native North America for toothache, as an antiviral and to boost the immune system. Bees love it.

The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.

Community Visits and workshops are free. 

To contact the Greener Gardener, call the Council on 296 4700 or 0800 486 486 or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices

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