Thursday, 16 July 2015

April 2015 Part II - Where to plant your Herb Garden - 6 tips!

Every gardener needs a herb garden!

Herbs are one of the most satisfying things to grow, but deciding where to put your herb garden can be a challenge!

Below you'll find the 6 factors I considered when deciding where to plant a herb garden - the beginnings of which you can see in the picture on the right.

#1 Does it get enough sun?

I thought this spot would be a good one as it gets a reasonable amount of sun, in summer and winter. Generally, herbs need around 4-6 hours of sunlight a day, I think in winter this spot gets 4-6 hours of afternoon sunlight, but in our generally subtropical climate I think this will be fine.

#2 Environmental considerations: Slope? Wind? Rain? Drainage?

Steeply sloped ground can allow rain to wash your herbs away and make it difficult to access what you need, unless you terrace it of course, but may also mean that your top herbs get very dry while the bottom ones get waterlogged.

Italian Basil Baby!
On the other hand, some permaculture fundis build spiral herb gardens with hardier herbs at the top and water loving herbs at the bottom. Maybe try experimenting with both?

Most herbs need moderately rich, well drained soil - so clay soil or boggy areas won't work. It helps to use a spot where the plants will get rain when it does rain. Forgetting to water my plants is a big weakness of mine - I like to let nature help when it can! A spot that is too windy will stress your plants, and dry them out - so take that into account too. It's customary to dry herbs for storage only once you've picked them, not while they're still in the ground.

#3 Can the ground be better used?

You may have more than spot that could be used for a herb garden, but if one of those spots would work particularly well for another function, then it would make sense to put your herb garden in the other spot. In our case, that ground was just an odd corner of lawn that was just begging to be made into some kind of flower bed anyway. I love digging up useless bits of lawn and replacing them with productive patches of green goodness!

#4 Will your animals or kids have access to it?

Italian Flat-Leaf
Parsley seedlings
Growing any kind of flower bed or herb garden in the path of your pets or children is unwise. The delicious munchies could get eaten by pets of the vegetarian pursuasion, while boisterous dogs might see your budding blooms as nothing more than a soft bed for bounding through or lying in or digging up. With our herb garden it was next to a path, in a corner as I mentioned, and on the edge of a retaining wall, so no risk of animals bounding through! Our current count of vegetarian pets is 0, so no worries there.

#5 Will you have access to it?

There is no point in growing gorgeous herbs that you have to trek through the wilderness to find. Try to plant them in a spot close to the kitchen, perhaps even in view of your kitchen window. You'll be far more likely to go and fetch what you need if you can get to it reasonably easily! Having said that, a good position for growing is more important than a good position for harvesting!

#6 Will it add to the aesthetics of your garden?

Pelargonium / Geranium bush
Herb gardens can be quite aesthetically pleasing. They display a variety of colours and textures and shapes and heights, and they give off the most delicious smells when walked through. They also lend themselves to interesting arrangements as you try to give each plant its own spot and make each plant accessible.Try to take advantage of the prettiness factor and use your herb garden as a focal point. In our case the spot we chose was right next to our entertainment area: close enough to show off, but far enough that it wouldn't get trampled. Great spot!

As you can see in the picture, I worked mine out on a basic checkerboard pattern for maximum accessibility. I still have to get the pavers that will go where the grass is now. I have only implemented the right-most half of the plan so far, with plans to implement the left half soon. You can see how the pavers make a diagonal path through the herb garden to allow access to my top veggie garden.

I currently have the following plants in my herb garden:
  • Rosemary (donated)
  • German Chamomile (from seed)
  • Flax (from seed)
  • Burdock (from Peter's Gate)
  • Yarrow (from Peter's Gate)
  • Mint (from cuttings)
  • Lemongrass (planted in a submerged pot - from Peter's Gate)
  • Curry Tree (from Peter's Gate)
  • Lemon Tree (from local nursery)
  • 'Dog Gone' (Plectranthus caninus - from Peter's Gate)
  • Calendula (from seed)
  • Lovage (from seed)
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (from seed)
  • Melissa / Lemon Balm (from the nursery)
  • Lettuce (from seed)
  • Marigolds (from seed)
  • Pelargonium / Geranium (donated)
Echinacea Daisy just peeking out
Currently growing from seed for phase 2:
  • Sage (donated seed)
  • Thyme (donated seed)
  • Marjoram (donated seed)
  • Stevia (Seeds for Africa)
  • Echinacea (Seeds for Africa)
  • Oreganum (Green Guy seeds)
  • Bronze Fennel (donated seed)
  • Chives (Green Guy seeds)

The 'must-haves' that are absent from this particular spot - my lavender, sweet basil, perennial basil, chives, comfrey and nasturtiums - all have spots elsewhere.

'Dog-Gone' - I sprinkle leaves from this
deter my dogs from going into particular beds -
it does seem to have helped!

I'm aiming for a medicinal and culinary herb garden eventually, although practically I think my culinary herbs would be interspersed with my veggies, while medicinal herbs will stay in the herb garden, but we'll see how it goes! If you're wondering what some of them are for, like yarrow and burdock for example, so am I! That's kind of why I grew them - so I could figure it out along the way.

What are your 'must-haves' in your herb garden?

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