Growing Herbs in Australia
Growing your own herbs should be a fun and relaxing past time for anyone who has an interest in gardening. Although a lot of the plants are quite forgiving, Australia does have some extreme conditions that warrant extra attention so that you can grow the herbs of your choice successfully. There are certain herbs which can be grown for the simple purpose of providing shade for your other herbs and this can be a great strategy to begin with. If this is your first herb garden, then you will need to do a little planning to make your garden a success.
Herbs will grow best in conditions which resemble those of their native habitat. Of course you can change soil types in your garden and even simulate climactic conditions by keeping plants indoors but it is much easier if you choose plants which will like the natural environment that already exists in your garden.
Growing in the shade: A lot of herbs prefer full sun, but there are plenty of plants that like the shade. You may be able to grow some sun herbs in partial shade but be prepared for less vigorous growth.
Tall plants for the shade might include Angelica, Bog Sage, Butterfly Bush, Elderberry and Wintersweet.
If you are looking for plants under 1 metre in height there are many to choose from, such as Alpine Strawberry, Bergamot, Brooklime, Celery Herb, Chervil, Feverfew, Lady’s Mantle, Valerian.
When water is scarce: Many areas of Australia are prone to drought and the use of water in the garden is restricted. In order to have a successful herb garden mulch heavily to take advantage of any rainfall and plant herbs that grow well in dry conditions.
Tall plants for dry places include Bay Trees, Rosemary & Lemon Verbena.
For smaller plants look towards Aloe, Betony, Dill, Garlic Chives, Sage, Thyme, Savoury and many others.
If your garden is damp: Having muddy patches in your garden is never a pretty sight. Plant moisture loving herbs and maybe put a pond in to add to the ‘wet’ feel. Water plants in the pond can bring the whole theme together. Make sure you maintain water levels in hot weather.
For plants over 1 metre you might wish to choose from Bog Sage, Oyster Plant or Purple Loosestrife. Some of the shorter plants for a wet area include Brooklime, Gotu Kola, Mint, Nasturtiums, and Watercress.
What if you are in the tropics?
Most of the herbs used in Western Herbal Medicine are from cooler climates. Some seem to adapt well to the subtropical and even tropical areas of Australia, but overall you will need to spend some time modifying the environment to suit the plants, not the other way around.
Extreme heat and excessive moisture are tropical conditions you have to consider. As much as the South East corner of Queensland is gripped by a distinct lack of moisture, this is not the case in the rest of the state.
Appropriate drainage is of utmost importance. Herbs can not grow in a tropical garden without excellent drainage. In order to achieve this you can raise your herb garden up off the ground to allow the water to drain out. Due to high rainfall in the tropics, herb gardens there should be open and airy to minimise fungal problems.
Some plants that do not like hot sun and heavy rain are Aloe, Bergamot, Coriander, Horseradish, Lemon Balm, and Salad Burnet. If you choose to grow these do protect them from the harsh elements.
For tall plants look to Allspice, Candelabra Aloe, Fennel, Ginger & Lemon grass. Shorter species could include Basil, Chamomile, Chilli, Curry Plant, Italian Parsley, Thai Coriander and Vietnamese Mint.
You will find you learn certain tricks along the way of your gardening journey. Tricks which prevent you from planting Mint in a tin or metal pot as it may gather too much heat and this could cause your herb to die. You gain experience over the years and with it there is always new knowledge. There are so many different uses for herbs in and out of the home that you will always be integrating new herbs into your garden to accommodate for the latest use you have discovered.
No matter where you live in Australia, you need to keep in mind the possibilities of extreme weather conditions which may in an instant take out your blooming herb garden. These are some of the important issues to keep in mind during your herb gardening adventures.