There is nothing lovelier than the lush scent of an herb garden, and being able to pick your own fresh herbs to use in the kitchen is the best feeling. Create your own little patch of heaven with our guide on creating an herb garden.
Planning & Position
You need to think carefully about where to put your herb garden. You need it to be easily accessible – when you pop out to pick some herbs for dinner you don’t want to have to traipse half way around the garden. Lots of herbs are Mediterranean, so you need to find a spot that is sheltered but sunny. Herbs need the heat of the sun to create the oils that give them their aroma and flavour.
Herbs work very well in a formal style garden, and you can create a lovely chequerboard effect with different leaf colours and shapes. If formal doesn’t work for you though, a higgledy-piggledy cottage garden effect suits herbs just as well.
Make sure you can access all of your herbs – this means making the bed thin enough that you can reach to the back, or adding in a few well-placed stepping stones. A path through an herb garden is a lovely thing, enabling you to walk amongst the plants, releasing wafts of aromas as you brush past them.
As with most plants, spring is the best time to plant your herbs. Herbs need well-drained soil, so if you have heavy clay soil you’ll need to do some preparation. The best thing to do with clay soil is to start in the autumn by digging the ground over roughly. You can then leave it for the winter, and the frost will break up the clumps of clay for you, making your job much easier. Come the early spring, just dig through plenty of organic matter.
Choosing Your Herbs
Once you’ve prepared a bed for your herbs, the really fun part starts – choosing which herbs you want to grow. Make sure you take into account the size and spread of the herbs you are considering – mints are notorious for spreading so you might want to give them a sealed-off patch of their own or grow them in a container.
You should also think about what you’re going to do with the herbs. Some may be purely ornamental – Angelica can reach a statuesque 2 metres and will smell lovely, but you’re unlikely to use it in the kitchen, unless you want to try your hand at making your own herbal remedies.
Rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and savoury are all great kitchen herbs that will grow happily together in your herb garden. Don’t feel you have to grow all these though if you don’t like them all! Rosemary can grow into a large bush if not kept in check, so keep that in mind when planning where to put things. Some herbs have many variants, so spend some time at your local garden centre and have a good think about the right colour, size and scent for you.
Some herbs, particularly the annuals, can be grown easily from seed, however to get your herb garden going quickly you’ll want to purchase at least a few plants. They don’t need to be large – you’ll be amazed at how quickly herbs can grow!
For very vigorous herbs such as mint and lemon balm, try planting in a pot, then sinking the pot into the ground. That way they stay a part of the herb garden but are kept under control.
Don’t worry about fertilizing your herbs while they are growing – it can actually do more harm than good. They will produce lots of greenery, but will lose their scent and taste, plus it will make them less resistant to frost.
If you cook with herbs a lot, you might want to pick some to dry or freeze in the autumn – that way you can keep a supply going all winter.
Keep your perennials tidy by deadheading flowers and trimming when needed.
All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards