How to Create Your Herb Garden Plan

Why You Need a Herb Garden Plan

If you read our article on Herb Gardening for Beginners you will remember that I pointed out that herbs are very much like other garden plants. Some herbs like the sunshine, some like the shade. Some herbs like limey soil, some like acid soil. Also, herbs grow to different sizes. Some can reach heights of six feet or more, others don’t grow tall but they spread across the soil , growing outwards rather than upwards.

Patio Herb Garden PlanEven if you are intending to create just a small herb garden you’ll need to give some thought to which herbs you plant next to each other.

By carefully selecting how you position your herbs you can create the most wonderful overall effect. Your herb garden will not only smell great it will look great as well.

Many herb growers create themed herb gardens like the Italian Themed Garden we describe in one of our other articles. 

So, bearing all these points in mind its best to have a herb garden plan, even if its only a very simple one.

Four Steps for Creating Your Herb Garden Plan

1. Choose Your Herbs

The first step is a rather obvious one; decide which herbs you want to grow. If you don’t do this you’ll end up growing some herbs you don’t need, and leave out some of the others that you could be using regularly in your cooking.

There are 100’s of herbs to choose from. Some thrive in sunny spots and well-drained soil and others prefer shade and damp conditions.  A good rule is to choose a sunny spot.  However, you will need to know about the ideal conditions for each of your chosen herbs so that you can create a herb garden plan that produces a display of herbs that look good and smell good.

First write down a list of the herbs that you are familiar with. Perhaps these will be the ones you have heard of in recipes you have used when preparing meals. In your list, write the names down first, but leave space to also write down the type (annual or perennial), the best position (sunny, shade) and best soil conditions (well-drained, moist etc.).

Also leave space to include the height that each herb will grow to.

Now extend your list, including other herbs in your herb garden plan that you might not be so familiar with. Here’s a list of the herbs I think are “essentials” for a well-stocked kitchen herb garden:

  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Dill
  • Marjoram
  • Basil
  • Lemon thyme
  • Fennel
  • Chives
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Bay
  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Coriander

You might need to do some research to complete your list, but this is a very important step in developing your herb garden plan.  My Herb Gardening eBook contains lots of the information you’ll need, but you could also use internet sites like Wikipedia. The Wikipedia site can be quite daunting if you’re new to herb gardening, but if you dig down into it you’ll find lots of the information on individual herbs that you need to create your herb garden plan.

2.  Location and Design for Your Herb Garden Plan

Ideally your herb garden should be near the kitchen so that it’s easy to harvest the herbs fresh when you need them.  A good size for your herb garden is 4′  by 6′.  A herb garden of this size should enable you to plant all the herbs on your list, including a couple of bushy perennials.  Try and choose a spot which is south facing.  If some of the herbs you have chosen need a shady spot plan to use the larger herbs such as bay, tarragon, and rosemary to shade them.

Raised Herb Garden (www.thetasteoforegon.com)

Raised Herb Garden (www.thetasteoforegon.com)

The simplest herb garden design to choose is a rectangle, but also think about other designs such as the herb garden “island” and the herb garden raised bed (see photograph).  Or think about creating a long herb garden boarder (good if you have a sunny wall in your garden).  

Choosing your herb garden design can be lots of fun.  Here again, try and do some research on different herb garden designs in your local library or on the internet.

3. Check Soil Conditions

After you have chosen a position for your herb garden check on the soil conditions.   Although some herbs prefer other conditions, a rich, well-dug, well drained soil is ideal.  You may need to dig in plenty of organic matter to enrich your soil, but make sure that it doesn’t contain any weeds, especially perennial ones.  If it does, you’ll risk pulling up your herbs when you try to remove the weeds once they begin to grow again.

4. Draw Out Your Herb Garden Design

The next step of your herb garden plan is to produce an overall design for your herb garden. Do this by drawing a diagram of your herb garden on paper (graph paper if you have any).  Draw it out to scale.  Make one foot of your herb garden equivalent to two inches on your paper.

Herb Garden Plan

Example Herb Garden Plan Design

Now use some different colored paper to cut out rough circles to represent your herbs when they are fully grown.  These circles should have a diameter equivalent to the height your herb will eventually grow (use the same scale of one foot to two inches).   You may want to grow more than one of some types of herbs (e.g. sage and basil), so allow space for these as well.  You should only need one each of the larger herbs such as rosemary and bay.

Put the cut circles onto your scaled paper diagram and move them around until you have good positions for all your herbs.  Some people also take into account the color of the flowers that the herbs will produce, but I suggest you avoid this complication.

Once you have gone through one herb growing season you can easily move your herbs for the following year (but don’t keep moving your perennial herbs).

When you’ve created your herb garden design, you’ll know exactly where to plant your herbs.  A good tip is to use some colored sand to create full-size circles on the ground in positions exactly corresponding to those in your herb garden design.  This will make sure you plant your herbs in exactly the right spots with the right amount of space around them to allow for growth.

Don’t forget to try and take into account the needs of the herbs that want a little more shade.

Changes to Your Herb Garden Plan

Your herb garden plan will enable you create an attractive herb garden that contains all the herbs you need for your cooking, but after the first year you might want to make some changes. Typical changes include:

  • Changing some of your annual herbs; maybe you didn’t make much use of the ones you chose for your first herb garden plan.
  • Adding some biennial or perennial herbs; you may have visited a public garden and seen some new herbs, or seen a picture of a herb you like the look of.
  • Adding new varieties; perhaps you like the thyme herb and want to add a couple more varieties of this herb, each one with a different color.
  • You may decide you’d like to enhance the appearance of your herb garden with statues or ornaments.

All these changes are part of the fun of herb gardening because unlike a vegetable garden which is more functional than anything else, you’ll want to create an attractive area that looks good and smells good and creates an atmosphere of calm and well-being.

Happy herb gardening,

 

 

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