Most herbs need very little space, and you can grow a surprising variety of flavorful herbs in a small area. In addition to providing flavor for your table, herbs have the benefit of attracting butterflies, bees, and birds to the garden, and add wonderful fragrances and delightful flowers to your landscape.
Prepare Your Herb Plot
Herbs need well-drained soil. If your soil is predominantly clay, you will need to amend it with the addition of peat moss. Individual herbs may need other additions, but if you consider each plant its own microenvironment, you can amend the soil around it accordingly.
For a culinary or kitchen garden, the ideal location for your herbs would be close to a kitchen window or door, providing easy access to the sink and cooking pot. Barring that, any well-drained location that receives six hours of good light each day will work.
Prepare your plot by removing all rocks and stones, leveling it if you can, and adding soil amendments.
Make an Herb Landscape Plan
When you know how much area you have to work with, make a diagram of the space, noting which sections get the most sun and which are likely to receive the most water. If you are planning a large plot, make sure that you add a walkway and room for stepping-stones. Take a moment to orient your garden front to back, so in your placement you will be sure to plant taller herbs behind shorter ones.
Do Your Homework
Read the literature on each herb that you wish to cultivate, noting its mature size and whether or not it is a fast or slow grower, climate zone, water requirements, color of flowers and leaves, and soil preferences. Make notes in your landscape diagram, selecting the best location for the overall design you are trying to achieve.
Herb Design Considerations
You may wish to group plants with upright habits together, or aggregate plants with like colored flowers. Creeping or trailing herbs do well along fences and walls, while water loving plants, like mints, often do well around downspouts.
Another consideration is that annual herbs survive for a single season and will need to be seeded again in spring while perennial herbs will survive from year to year if mulched and maintained properly. This may impact how you place them in your garden. Some enthusiasts like to group perennials together and keep annuals separate.
Going Shopping for Herb Plants
Once your diagram is complete, you can start shopping for your herbs. Herbs can be purchased either locally or online and there are more options than ever before. Before making your selections, however, consider the lifecycle of your herbs. You might want to consider purchasing larger varieties of slow growers like rosemary and bay laurel, while other fast-growing herbs like fennel, cilantro, and basil can be grown quickly from seed.
Be sure to buy only healthy plants, and segregate them for couple of weeks before planting them in your herb garden to ensure that they are free of pests and disease.
Herbs are a versatile addition to your garden and provide a rich and economical source of health, decorative, and culinary benefits. If you don’t already have an herb garden, give one a try.