What is the best way of getting chives established?
You can raise chives (Allium) either from seed or by dividing old clumps. Sow seed in the spring, and when the seedlings are several inches high, plant them out in clumps of up to half a dozen seedlings together, spacing the clumps about 225 mm (9 in) apart. They soon spread into larger clumps. Mature clumps can be divided and replanted at any time from spring to late autumn. Remember that the natural habitat of chives is damp meadows, so if they are to thrive they need humus-rich soil and plenty of moisture.
I always seem to have difficulty getting parsley to germinate. Have you any hints?
Parsley (Petroselinum) is naturally slow to germinate, and if the soil dries out the seed may never germinate. Use the ‘summer-sowing’ trick: make your drill, water the drill only until it is moist, sow the seed in the drill, and cover it with dry soil. This dry covering will prevent evaporation, so the soil will keep moist for a long time. You can also sow parsley in seed boxes (or, better, in soil blocks), provided you plant it out while the roots are still small. By the way, have you tried the broad-leaved parsley? It has a very good flavour and seems to be much easier to grow than the more popular curly type.
I grow most of the common culinary herbs—sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc, and want to branch out. Have you any suggestions?
A marvellous summer herb is basil (Ocimum basilicum), which needs to be started indoors and undoubtedly is best if it can be protected with cloches. Then the marjorams (Origanum) are a lovely group: the sweet or knotted marjoram (O. marjorana) is an annual, while the pot (O. onites) and wild (O. uulgare) marjorams are hardier and make neat evergreen clumps.
The savories (Satureia) are also worth growing. Sow the annual summer savory (S. hortensis) each April, and grow the perennial winter savory (S. montana) in a pot: it makes a pretty and useful house plant! All these are excellent culinary herbs. 86
What herbs can be grown for use fresh in winter?
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is an excellent winter herb: sow it in August or September; it will withstand most winters outside. As a substitute for chives, grow either Welsh onions or perennial onions (both Allium spp.). Raise Welsh onions from seed or by dividing old clumps in spring or autumn, and use both the leaves and the flattened bulbs. Perennial onions, which look like pale chives, must be raised by division. Sow parsley in July for a winter supply, but remember that it tends to die back in cold weather unless protected with cloches.
Other evergreen herbs are the thymes (Thymus), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), which needs protection in cold areas, pot marjoram, and winter savory. All these, and chervil, are more productive in winter if grown in frames or under cloches.
What herbs can be grown in a shaded site?
Provided it is not heavily shaded and the soil is reasonably moist and fertile, you can grow any of the numerous mints (Mentha), angelica, and lovage (Levisticum officinale)—but bear in mind that this last can grow 2 m (6 ½ ft) tall—or sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata). Chervil and parsley will grow better in partial shade in the summer.