food, herbal medicine, nature

Growing herbs: turning my thumb from brownish green to leafy green

I am a disgrace to my family. It seems that by some sort of genetic mutation I was born without the family green thumb. I even painted it green as part of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume once but it didn’t stick. And it’s not for want of trying. I love the idea of having a bounty of fresh herbs growing at my back door to harvest as needed so much so I’ve set up little herb gardens at every home I’ve had. And each time they eventually amount to something that looks a bit like this:

dead plants

My biggest challenge is growing coriander. I can get it to go to seed before it barely has its first leaves – well that might be a slight exaggeration. Or if it does grow well a possum eats it. And I’m not alone in the battle with coriander, many others also share my pain as I discovered when I attended a recent Set up and manage a herb garden course through the great people at Bright Learning (they have all of your adult learning needs covered – check them out).

A lovely group of brownish-green thumbs like me were taught by gardening expert David Borthwick from Productive Gardens. Our group was united in our goals for the class:

  1. How do you keep coriander alive and flourishing?
  2. How can you save your herb garden from possums?

stackable gardenDavid answered these questions and a whole lot more that we threw at him. I now know that you can grow plants in crushed bricks, your herb garden needs to be 20 steps or fewer from your back door or you probably won’t use it, and that ants farm aphids and lady bugs eat aphids. Coriander is easily stressed so it is best grown from seed so that it is subjected to your watering conditions its whole life, not those of the nursery, and you need to keep planting it regularly. Possums – well physical barriers are best (don’t even bother with the supposedly unappealing texture and taste methods) and David showed us this clever stackable garden which is made to have a stake through its middle to support bird netting to keep those pesky possums away.

After learning all about what to look for in potting mix, fertiliser, mulch and the pots themselves, we planted our own herb pots up.

herb courseMine is now safely in a possum proof greenhouse on my balcony at home. And the coriander was flourishing until I had my very first outbreak of aphids. Fortunate timing as since I was post-herb-growing-course I knew exactly how to beat those little sap suckers – it’s death by oil spray for you lot!


Oh! I think my thumb may have developed a healthy green tinge.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus..

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