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Herb garden design

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Herb gardens are becoming increasingley popular due to the popularity of world cuisine such as Italian, Indian and Chinese food. This article gives you guidelines on herb garden design. The herb garden is functional in a number of different ways as it can provides us with an attractive focal point, a fragrant area, culinary ingredients for flavouring and medicinal ingredients for natural healing. The process of designing a herb garden should be a simple but considered affair. Factors we need to consider include:

  • Space available
  • Micro climate of the site
  • Which herbs we wish to grow
  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Grouping of plants
  • Closeness to the house / kitchen
  • Incorporation of 'non herbs' (if any)

Choosing a site for the herb garden

You may already have a site in mind for the herb garden, if so make sure you have taken into account the following factors:

Does the site receive adequate levels of sunshine - around 5 hours of direct sunlight a day is the minimum recommended. Is the soil well drained? Herbs don't like to have waterlogged roots so make sure the site is well drained for good herb growth. Is the site near the house (kitchen if growing culinary herbs)? You are more likely to use your herbs if you don't have to trek down the length of the garden to collect them.

Space required

If you are still happy with the proposed site after considering these factors then the next thing to consider is space required by the garden. This will of course depend on the number and types of plants that you want to grow. When choosing which herbs to grow then start off with ones that you know you are likely to use. If say you predominantly use Basil, Garlic and Parsley and little else in the way of herbs then you should allocated most of the space to these herbs. If you have spare room then you can try experimenting with growing some herbs you have never tried before or by experimenting with different varieties to see which varieties grow best in your herb garden.

Whilst most herbs will have good continued growth after harvesting some of their leaves some herbs such as Dill and Coriander are not so good at recovering and so may need discarding after a while with a new plant taking its place. Because of this extra space may be required if you require a continuous supply of these herbs as you will need plants at various stages in the plants life cycle (seed, mature seedling, harvestable plant) to ensure there is always a harvestable crop.

Grouping of plants

A traditional herb garden design will group plants depending on what type of herb they are. For instance you may have a block of garlic plants, a block of Basil plants and a block of Parsely plants. The blocks are often seperated by a divider such as bricks, wood or paths to help prevent one type of herb encroaching on another herbs space and outcompeting it. Some vigourous growing herbs such as Mint should be kept in their pots to prevent encroachment, with such potted herbs simply dig suitable holes in the appropriate section of the garden and place the pots directly into them so that the pot rim is level with the soil surface.

Visual appeal

This grouping gives the herb garden a more formal look and is aesthetically pleasing. If you wish for a more informal design then you can reduce the degree of grouping or use irregular shapes for the grouping blocks. The incorporation of some non-herbs such as flowers can help create more of a country cottage type herb garden. A focal point is often added in the centre of the herb garden. Items used for the focal point can sun dial, fountain (careful pre-planning needed for the water feed), bird bath or sculpture.

Accessibility of the herb garden

The herb garden design should take into account the accessibility of the herbs. In larger herb gardens small paths may be necessary so that you can reach the plants in the centre of the grouping blocks. Paths can also guide a user through a variety of fragrances produced by the herbs. A popular design resembles a cart-wheel with the wheel spokes translating into the garden paths. Gravel, brick or paving make good path material. A square design can be achieved by using 4 reclaimed railway sleepers as shown below. Here the different herb types are grouped in rows.