How to grow the wet-loving herbs, and all about chitting potatoes and kumara

Growing coriander, chervil, dill and parsley
  • Coriander is a wet herb which means it’s got to be kept wet all the time. If you forget to water coriander it goes to seed.
  • If you grow coriander in a container with a big saucer by your back door or on a windowsill it means you’ll remember to water it every day.
  • You can buy coriander as seedlings and transplant them into a bigger pot. Take very good care not to disturb the roots as you transplant because coriander is sensitive to root disturbance. In one seedling pot you’ll usually find about 10-15 seedlings. Coriander, like the other wet herbs, likes to be grown in a clump.
  • You can also sow seeds directly into a larger pot. Buy coriander seed from a reputable seed company. If you buy it from the bulk bins at a supermarket or spice shop, it’ll be seed from a country that has warmer conditions than New Zealand and therefore won’t germinate or grow as well in our cooler climate.
  • As coriander has a long tap root, you need to choose a pot with good depth. Fill the pot almost the top with potting mix. Sprinkle 10-15 seeds evenly over the soil and cover with a thin layer of potting mix. Water the seeds in and within 7-10 days the seeds will have germinated.
  • If you want coriander quickly or you live in an apartment, you can grow it as a microgreen. See here for how to grow microgreens (here we grow mesclun as a microgreen). Remember microgreens have a more intense flavour than larger plants.
  • Don’t forget the root of coriander is edible and in some Asian cuisines, it’s the roots that cooks are after and the leaves are just decoration.
  • Parsley is more hardy than coriander, chervil and dill and needs to be planted in the garden. The tap root of parsley is long and it doesn’t do well confined to a pot.
  • Whereas coriander doesn’t like root disturbance, parsley can be sown in seed trays, pricked out when it gets its second leaf and potted up into medium-sized pots, and eventually planted out into the garden. In the case of parsley, clump about 5 plants together. They’ll get much bigger than the coriander we put in pots when they’re planted in the garden.
Chitting potatoes and kumara
  • Before planting out in the garden, you need to make sure potatoes have good size chits (or sprouts) on them.
  • It’s time now to prepare the early varieties of potato which are the waxy ones (best for boiling because they retain their shape). Rob chooses Rocket which will be ready before Christmas and Jersey Benne which is the traditional Christmas potato.
  • Make sure you get your seed potatoes from a garden centre or nursery. Potatoes (and kumara) from a supermarket are usually sprayed with an anti-sprouting powder so these potatoes will never chit.
  • Fill a container with water and add a good squirt of liquid seaweed. Pop the seed potatoes in for a few minutes. This bath strengthens the seed potatoes, helping to ward off blight and other diseases which afflict potatoes. Line them up in an empty egg container, keeping the chit at the top. This stops the seed potatoes from rubbing against each other. Place the full egg carton in a warm, light, sheltered spot. If possible, repeat the baths a couple more times before planting. The seed potatoes will be ready to plant when there’s a good size shoot on them.
  • Kumara needs preparation as well but it’s a different method. In a container mix together equal parts of sand and potting mix. Pour two thirds of this mixture into a container which has holes in the bottom. Lay the kumara on top and cover with the remaining third of the sand/potting mix combination. Make sure they’re fully covered. Water the kumara bed down with the bath mixture made for the potatoes. Leave in a warm, light, sheltered spot.
  • The kumara will sprout after 2-3 weeks. Whereas you plant the seed potato with its chits, in the case of kumara, you pull the sprouts off the kumara when they’re about 10 centimetres high and plant these directly into the garden. Kumara is more subtropical than potato, so wait until early November before planting out.
  • Rob’s favourite kumara is Taputini, one of four remaining pre-European varieties in New Zealand.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes