The herbs you grow in your polytunnel can not only provide you with an additional edible yield, they will also help you to attract beneficial wildlife and repel or distract certain pests. The following herbs are all found in the Mediterranean region and in Mediterranean cuisine. Below you will find 10 Mediterranean herbs to grow in a polytunnel. These could all be excellent options for you to consider consider:
Dry Climate Mediterranean Herbs:
These first seven herbs are those that are commonly considered to be Mediterranean herbs – in the sense that they are typical of the herbs that grow in drier, sunnier climes around this region of the world. All of these herbs will require similar growing conditions. They will need:
- Full sun, and plenty of light.
- Low amounts of watering.
- Free-draining growing areas or containers.
The fact that each of the following options requires more or less the same growing conditions means that they are ideal for growing together in a herb garden area in your polytunnel. They can also, however, easily be grown in pots or containers and placed around your polytunnel beds, to make the most of corners and marginal spaces.
Oregano is said to be a good companion plant for basil, tomatoes, peppers and a whole range of other edible crops. Oregano can attract predatory insects that will aid in keeping down an aphid population.
Marjoram can give good ground cover. It grows well alongside other oregano varieties though may cross-pollinate so should be kept separate if you wish to save the seeds. It will also grow well with all other Mediterranean herbs with which it is found in the wild. Marjoram can also be used as a companion plant for tomatoes and peppers as it not only helps, as an understory, to retain moisture but also attracts insects which prey on pests.
Rosemary is said to be a useful companion plant for brassicas, carrots and beans as it can help to deter a wide range of pests that can damage those crops. Rosemary will grow well alongside other drought-tolerant Mediterranean herbs.
Sage is said to be a good companion plant for a wide range of crops, including brassicas (as a trap crop that attracts cabbage butterflies), beans, carrots, strawberries and tomatoes. In general, sage can benefit all crops that require pollinators by attracting honey bees and other beneficial insects to your polytunnel.
The scent of tarragon is unpleasant to many pests and will be a good addition to your polytunnel, helping to repel a range of these pests and therefore may be a good companion crop for a wide range of different fruit and vegetable crops. Tarragon is said to be especially beneficial as a companion plant for aubergines. Tarragon is believed to be a ‘nurse plant’ in that when grown near a range of crops, it can help them to grow well and strong.
Lavender: (A Mediterranean Herb as well as a Flower)
You may not think of lavender as a herb, but in addition to being a beautiful and fragrant flower, it can also be used sparingly in cooking as a pot herb/ ingredient in a number of interesting recipes. It is particularly good at attracting bees and other pollinators.
Winter Savory (An Unusual Mediterranean Herb)
Winter Savory (Satureja montana) is another, somewhat more unusual herb that you might wish to consider growing in your polytunnel. This herb can also bring beneficial wildlife to the space.
Other Mediterranean Herbs from Mediterranean Cuisine:
In addition to the above, Mediterranean cuisine also includes a range of other herbs, with different growing requirements. These herbs, which require more water and more fertile and water-retaining soil than the above, include:
Basil is well known as an excellent companion for tomatoes – both in the garden and on the plate. As well as tomatoes, peppers and other members of the same family may also benefit from proximity to this herb.
Parsley may be a beneficial trap crop to attract pests that would otherwise prey on your tomato plants. It may also be a beneficial companion plant for peppers, pumpkins and a range of other plants due to the fact that it can encourage useful predatory insects to your polytunnel.
Mint will quickly spread to provide useful ground cover, perhaps, for other crops growing nearby. It has the ability to repel a number of insect pests and so could be a good companion plant. It is said to be especially beneficial when planted near members of the cabbage family as it will repel cabbage flies. Since it is said to also control ants and aphids, mint can really be helpful to a wide range of crop plants that you may have in your polytunnel.
There are of course other herbs you could grow. But the above are excellent choices for a polytunnel garden. Feel free to share your own tips and suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.