How to make a summer herb trough

by Sally Gregson
IT’S so useful to have access to fresh herbs right by the kitchen door, that if there’s room outside, a dedicated herb sink or trough is the perfect answer. And spring is the ideal time to start planting it up.

Many of the herbs we use in the kitchen are originally from the Mediterranean and need a warm, open position to thrive. So, position an old ‘Belfast’ sink, trough or long, shallow container somewhere sunny while it is still empty and manoeuvrable. Ensure the drainage is good by raising it up off the ground on bricks, or on ‘pot feet’ at the very least.

Put a layer of broken clay pots, or ‘crocks’, along the bottom of the container topped off with a thick layer of washed grit. Then mix some of the grit into a bag of potting compost, and loosely fill up the container almost to the top.

The next step involves a trip to the herb nursery or garden centre. Buy well grown plants of marjoram; French tarragon – not the seed-raised forms with no flavour; chives; upright thymes with different flavours, but not the creeping thymes that are all flowers and no flavour; and one or two biennial and annual herbs such as parsley, coriander and Italian basil.

Avoid planting mint in the trough or in the garden – it is a highly invasive bully. It deserves a large pot to itself which should be tipped out and cut in half each spring to avoid mint rust.

Sage is quite a big, woody plant at maturity, but as a youngster it too could be included.

Next position the pots of individual herbs about 15-18cm apart along the surface, check their planting distances, and pop them into the soil. Water in the plants and finish off the planting with a top-dressing of more grit.

Your herb bath will give you flavour throughout the summer.

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