Gardening > Herb Garden Tips

How to create your own herb garden:

When deciding where to site your herb garden remember that herbs prefer a light, well-drained soil. They need a warm, sunny position but make sure that there is natural shade near the bed. Some herbs need a little shelter from the hot sun. Traditionally the herb garden should be near the kitchen door so that handfuls of parsley and thyme etc. can be gathered whatever the weather and without a long walk! A plot of soil between 10' x 10' and 25' x 18' would be an ideal size depending on available space. It would be best to prepare the bed during the autumn by working in plenty of well rotted organic matter.

It is a good idea to have a wall, fence or trellis at the back of the herb garden. Rose, Jasmine or honeysuckle trained against a wall or fence make a very attractive scented background. The herbs should be grouped according to size (the shortest at the front) with some consideration given to leaf colour and texture. Thyme, chives, violets, marigolds and parsley are short enough to go at the front. Russian Tarragon, Angelica, Dill, Fennel, Anise, Sage, Lovage and Hyssop should go towards the back. Keep the Dill and Fennel as far apart as possible because they tend to cross pollinate with each other. In the middle area plant the mints and lemon balm (planted in old buckets, sunk into the earth so they don't become too rampant). Position the basil in the middle area in an unshaded spot but allow Angelica, Chervil and Bergamot some natural shade. The front and sides of the herb garden could have a low box, Lavender, Hyssop or Rosemary hedge to demarcate it from the lawn or path.

If space is a problem, herb gardens can be created using bought or home-made planters. Basically these divide the soil into sections which can then be planted with herbs. Some are shaped like wheels, some like ladders. Alternatively paving stones can be laid over a medium sized area of soil leaving small square beds between every 4 stones. One advantage of these methods is that they keep the herbs apart in a small space.

Most herbs can be raised successfully from seed. Bring them on in early spring in seed trays and then prick them out into flower pots. Keep them in a sheltered place (or greenhouse or conservatory) until they look big enough and strong enough to plant out. Only plant out when all risk of frost is gone. Basil needs extra care and attention. It is best brought on later in the season and grown quickly in warm conditions. It needs plenty of sunlight and generous watering.

Slugs and snails love herbs, especially Basil. Try methods of natural control and pick off any that you see on or near plants.

Some herbs like Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Parsley will establish themselves and last for several years. Chervil can often be picked throughout the year. Others like Basil will probably need replacing every year. With a little weeding, hoeing and regular watering, the herb garden will provide colour and perfume for the whole summer, herbs to pick and cook with and herbs to dry and freeze for winter use.