All you need is a small sunny area or a couple of pots and you can grow healthy, tasty herbs all year round
A herb garden can be as large or as small as you need it to be. In fact, start small and let the garden grow as your own interest in herbs grows.
1. START WITH A PLAN
Decide on a theme. If you want a culinary herb garden, select those herbs used in your favourite dishes. A medicinal herb garden will be guided by the ailments you want to cure. Most culinary herbs have medicinal properties too. Browse the internet or visit herb sites like Healthy Living Herbs and Bouquet Garni.
2. SELECT THE SITE
The best place for herbs is a sheltered and sunny, north-, east- or west-facing position near the house for quick and easy picking. It should be reasonably level and drain well. Soil on the heavy side can be improved with compost. Alternatively, plant herbs as companions among your veggies and flowers or make a container herb garden if the soil is heavy clay.
3. DECIDE ON A DESIGN
Designing your herb garden is the fun part. Don’t be in a rush. Browse through herb books; listen to other people’s ideas. Steal with your eyes.
Select a style that complements the rest of the garden and the look of your house. Formal herb gardens require straight lines and geometric shapes with elements arranged around a central axis. The area should be square or rectangular.
Informal herb gardens have flowing lines with curved beds and walkways and the aesthetic effect depends on plant combinations and groupings. Flowers and shrubs can be added. Although the look is more exuberant, a good plan is still very important. An informal design usually needs less initial structural work and is easier to maintain.
4. CHOOSE YOUR HERBS
Make a complete list of all the herbs that’ll fit in with your theme. Then check with your local garden centre and refine your list to between five and 10 herbs. This is a good number to start with. It’s also a good idea to divide your herbs between annual and perennial and classify them according to height. Consult your design to make sure the heights conform to your concept.
5. PREPARE THE SITE
Clear and level the area and lay paving or pathways; put any other hard landscaping like fountains, birdbaths, arches and walls in place. Then prepare the ground for the herbs. Dig down to a depth of 30cm, mixing in compost and other organic material to condition the soil. Rake smooth, water and leave overnight for the ground to settle.
6. SETTING OUT THE HERBS
Before planting, set out the herbs in the positions you’d like to plant them. Space them according to their expected height and spread so they have enough room to reach their full potential. Doing this also lets you play with the design in terms of contrasting leaf colours and textures, growth habits and height. Often, what works on paper looks different in reality. Be prepared to spend some time moving the herbs around until you feel satisfied with the look.
Water the herbs well before planting and loosen the root balls to encourage new root growth. Pinch out the tips of shrubby herbs to encourage a bushy habit. Incorporate some organic soil conditioner or organic fertiliser, such as bone or fishmeal in each planting hole.
Firm the soil gently around the plant and water thoroughly to settle the soil.
Newly planted herbs need regular watering. It’s better to water deeply and less frequently than little and often.