COLUMNIST: KAREN STEWART-RUSSELL
Growing herbs in Scotland can be a little challenging as many do not like overly soggy soil. There are options however, if your soil is not very free draining. A raised bed, pot, or planter can be a fantastic way to grow herbs unhampered by garden soil type, filled with good quality peat free compost.
If you need or want to grow herbs in your garden beds and need to improve drainage, digging in grit is fantastic way to do that. There are also herbs you can choose that are not at all fussy. Mint for example, will grow anywhere, and I really do mean that! It is very vigorous and I have it popping up through my lawn as it has spread from the border. It is one for a pot if you like a more tidy garden style.
I am lucky that the soil in my garden has good drainage but it is very wet here and the wind is something to behold! The herbs that do best for me are sage, thyme, oregano, and chives. Lavender seems to also cope well with the conditions and its purple flower spikes dance in the wind as though they don’t have care in the world.
One herb I would caution against is feverfew! It is easy to be seduced by its pretty flowers and reputation for easing headaches, but I promise you, trying to get rid of this super spreader from every corner of your garden will give you a headache!
When planning where to grow herbs, particularly if you want to use them for cooking or in teas, I highly recommend planting them near your door, or in window boxes, as it can be a pain trailing away to the bottom of the garden especially if the weather is not so good. When the weather is nice, the scent from herbs like lavender or thyme is a joy when you open a window or brush past them leaving the house.
If you are growing in a small space, or do not want to dedicate a whole area to herbs, you can still incorporate them into your garden. There are quite a few herbs that are so beautiful they do not look at all out of place in a mixed border.
Chamomile with gorgeous daisy like flowers, and creeping thyme with tiny lilac blooms are fantastic for edging paths and to grow between stepping stones. Both are very fragrant, do not mind being trod on occasionally, and are much loved by bees.
Chives are members of the allium family and have the same starburst style flowers in a soft lilac.
Borage is always a must have for me with its stunning star-shaped flowers which are fantastic in a summer cocktail or salad. Borage is a winner for bees as its flowers refill with pollen every two minutes and it flowers its socks off from June to September. Although it is an annual, it self seeds very well and I have not sown new plants for years, making it very cost effective.
I grow a lot of purple sage, not just for use in cooking but as a foliage plant for informal jam jar posies. It is quite hardy and provides some gorgeous winter colour in the borders.
Another herb that really earns its place is comfrey with its sculptural leaves and small purple flowers. It is a beauty but has the extra benefit that the leaves make a great addition to compost heaps, and it can also be steeped in water to make a rich in potassium plant feed - it really does work hard enough to be worth a spot in any garden.
If you already have herbs in the garden, now is the time to trim back plants such as lavender - although if it is in its first year, it is best to leave it to build up a good root system.
It is also a good time to remove any spent flowers and dead growth from thyme and oregano if you have not already done so at the end of summer.
Take a wander round the garden and take stock of what has weathered the Scottish winter weather. If you have more tender herbs like parsley and lemon verbena they are unlikely to come back this season as they really do need protection over winter, even in an unheated greenhouse they may not survive. If you plan to grow them, be prepared to bring them into the house over winter or to resow fresh each year.
I hope I can tempt you into the wonderful world of these delicious, useful, and versatile herbs that pollinators love, just as much as I do!
Karen Stewart-Russell lives in the heart of rural Fife. Passionate about the mental health benefits of gardening, she shares the joy of growing with her local community through her over the garden wall seed, plant, and book library.
Karen has a relaxed, wildlife friendly garden, full of flowers. She is a huge fan of roses, as well as a great lover of herbs, and their use. Follow Karen's gardening on Instagram.