Starting an herb garden can be a rewarding experience. Teas, culinary herbs, and beautiful, good-smelling flowers can all be a part of such a venture. And most herbs are quite easy to grow if they are given the right conditions.
Here are some success tips for your outdoor herb garden.
As you survey your land for the best site for an herb garden, it pays to consider these factors:
- Slope – A flat, “sunken” area would do best with herbs that like “wet feet,” such as members of the mint family. A sloped hillside with good drainage would accommodate drought-tolerant herbs like lavender and thyme.
- Sun and shade – Watch your location for sun and shade. If it’s early spring or late winter, visualize how the sunlight and shade will change once the earth tilts and the leaves come out for summer. 6 to 8 hours of sunlight is ideal, but less is not necessarily a deal-breaker. There are plenty of lovely, shade-dwelling herbs as well. The reverse is also true – shade-lovers will not thrive in a hot, sunny garden spot.
Herb gardening (and all gardening) requires a lot of digging. Begin digging in late winter or very early spring, and you’ll have lots of time to observe your soil. Heavy clay soil will need lots of organic matter, namely compost, worked into it. Sandy soil will also need organic matter added to it, as well as nutrient-rich compost. You can build up the garden bed this way as well, which will give you the drainage advantage of raised beds.
The good news is, many herbs grow as weeds, so really fertile soil is often not necessary.
How big does your herb garden need to be? Most herbs are not fussy about space, and can grow pretty well in close quarters. A general rule of thumb is 80 to 100 square feet for a good-sized kitchen herb garden. But if you don’t have this much space, don’t despair. You can always plant something in a smaller space, especially compact herbs like thyme.
4. Seeds and Seedlings
You may choose to sow seeds instead of buying seedlings for your herb garden. To up your chances of success when growing from seed, it’s a good idea to start the seeds indoors and then move them out to the garden bed after hardening them off (gradually increasing the hours the seedlings spend outdoors).
Purchasing seedlings from a garden center can be a bit pricier, but you do get a chance to choose strong plants that will establish themselves more easily.
Generally speaking, low-growing and dense herbs make good borders, like purple basil and parsley. Taller herbs can be grown toward the back of the garden so they don’t cast shadows on the herbs behind. There are a plethora of good books and websites dedicated to the layout of an herb garden – the possibilities are almost endless!
Hopefully, these tips will help you design, prepare, and plant a lovely herb garden that will bring you joy for years to come.