Pests seem to shy away from aromatic herbs and are usually not a great problem. Under no circumstances use poisonous chemical sprays these kill not only the pests but also helpful insects which keep the pest population down. And the last thing you want is to serve up meals and drinks contaminated with pesticides.

The odd caterpillar won't eat much and can be removed by hand. However, if a caterpillar plague is threatening to make short work of precious tarragon and basil, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria which kills caterpillars but is harmless to humans, animals and insects.

Grasshoppers can strip succulent-leaved herbs like lemon balm. Dust the foliage frequently with derris, an organic preparation which also controls caterpillars.

If the plants are dusted at night there will be no risk to bees, and the herbs will be safe to use by the follow ing evening.

Aphids are usually not a great problem,but they multiply rapidly. A strong jet from a hose may be all that is necessary.

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