To begin planning your herb garden, the first thing to think about is location. Full sun is the best for herbs. However, most herbs will grow in partial shade. They may not grow as fast in partial shade, but they will do just fine. The place you must avoid is full shade; herbs will not grow here. Herbs require very little attention during growing season. Herbs develop best in moderately damp, well drained soils. They need an area with good drainage and regular watering. If you live in area where weekly rainfall is less than an inch regular watering is a must. To help regulate ground moisture use about 3 inches of some sort of mulch.
Once you have decided on a spot for your herb garden, you need to start thinking about what herbs you would like to grow. Think about herbs that you use on a regular basis. Do you reach for certain herbs over and over again when cooking? Do you like to use mint in your desserts? Chives on your sour cream and baked potato? Whatever reason you decide you are growing herbs for will help you decide which herbs to grow. If it’s for cooking, which herbs do you currently use? Grow ones that you know you use and try some new ones to spice up your cooking. You will also need to find out if the herbs you have chosen will grow in your zone and soil type.
Now it is time to make a planting plan. First, make a list of all the herbs you will be growing and give a little information about them such as spacing requirements, height of plants, foliage color etc. To find these requirements, look these plants up in a gardening reference book. Next, decide what shape of bed you’d like and what size. An island bed is one that can be accessed from all sides, should be no wider than 5 ft, and a border bed is one that can only be accessed from the front should be no wider than 2 1/2 ft. As herbs are functional plants that require easy access, herb gardens should always be planned for easy harvest.
Sketch out your bed and begin to place your herbs according to height and which herbs compliment each other. Mint (a notorious creeper) needs to be kept in check by creating some sort of natural barrier. These are some of the things to thing about when placing where to plant your herbs. Remember, to write down how far apart the plants should be spaced. As you are placing your plants, make notes. Use this sketch as your planting guide. Also, during the year make notes on how your plants are doing so you can make adjustments for the next planting season.
You can harvest herbs fresh for daily use during the spring and summer and also plan ahead and dry or freeze them for later use. During the winter, you will have to protect them by adding several inches of mulch to your herb garden to prevent their shallow roots from coming up during the spring thaw. They can be taken indoors for the winter to continue supplying the kitchen with flavor until the following spring by transplanting cuttings into clay pots and placing them in a sunny kitchen window sill and then returning them to the garden come spring. To prepare your cuttings to winter indoors it is recommended in late fall to start bringing them in a few hours a day so they can start adjusting to the temperature and light. This way they won’t go into shock.
Some of the more common herbs include the following:
- Basil: An annual that likes full sun and well drained soil. It is an essential element of Italian cuisine or anywhere that tomatoes are used. The richly fragrant leaves are excellent with a tomato and mozzarella salad.
- Chives: A hardy perennial that easily re-seeds itself. The leaves have a mild onion flavor. The plant has lovely purple flowers in summer. 12 in high by 6 inches wide.
- Cilantro: This annual, yields leaves and seeds.
- Dill: A tall growing annual. The flowers have a mild flavor with strongly flavored seeds.
- Lavender: A semi hardy perennial. This low growing plant likes lots of sun with a mild alkali soil. The flowers and seeds make great potpourris.
- Mint: A perennial that can take over slower growing plants.
- Oregano: A semi hardy perennial essential for Italian cuisine. It likes a well drained alkali soil with full sun.
- Rosemary: A perennial that goes well with oregano and thyme. It requires full sun and a well drained sandy soil.
- Sage: A perennial that grows well in partial shade. The leaves need to be harvested before the plant flowers.
- Tarragon: A semi hardy perennial that needs well drained full sun soil. Excellent with chicken.
- Thyme: A low growing perennial best harvested shortly after flowering. Thyme likes well drained full sun soil.
Herb Gardens provide a lot of enjoyment and an opportunity for you to add a dash of flavor and fragrance to your cooking. Remember to have fun, gardening is an ongoing process.
Source: Diverse Solutions