With spring weather finally beginning to emerge after weeks and weeks of cold, gardeners everywhere are putting on their gloves, sharpening their spades, and getting ready to get their hands dirty–literally! Herb gardening is a great way to break into amateur horticulture if you aren’t particular seasoned (ha!) and it has loads of other benefits as well. There’s the obvious; it’s economical, since you can grow your own kitchen mix-ins and skip the overpriced stuff at the grocery store, but there are tons of other great reasons to grow your own herbs.
Herbs are mostly low-maintenance, which is great if your thumb isn’t the greenest, they are wonderfully fragrant, and can attract pollinators like butterflies as well. Plus, they just look really nice, which makes an herb garden a perfect way to green-up your indoor space, if you live in an apartment, or add some curb appeal if you’re out in the suburbs. For centuries, people have even used herbs to supplement their health and wellness. When you begin to think about the sheer variety of herbs out there; the culinary plants, the medicinal ones and the herbs that are used to make fragrance, it can be a little tough to know where to start. There’s no need to stress–and hey, there’s an herb for that, too!–because with a great herb garden design, you can be on your way in no time at all.
With all the options out there, it’s a good idea to take a few things into consideration before you jump straight into your herb garden design.
Are you a city soul, or do you make your home in the country? Herbs don’t mind where you live, you can have an herb garden no matter where you are, but take a moment to think about your space requirements. Do you have a large plot to work with, or just a windowsill? You want to choose a location that gets your plants plenty of sun and that you can access easily to tend to and harvest your crop!
- What You’ll Use Your Herbs For
There are so many families and types of herbs that it makes sense to decide what you want to get out of your herb garden. Maybe you make a mean marinara sauce and some fresh italian herbs like basil, oregano, and sage would make it perfect. Or perhaps you’d prefer to grow some feverfew and aloe to make an all-natural medicine cabinet. Grouping herbs this way is a great way to start.
- Soil Requirements
Different herbs need different soil; some like, lavender, like a dry, sandy soil, while others will need a more nutrient rich environment to thrive, especially if you are hoping to intersperse your herbs in with other edible plants, like vegetables. Herbs like basil are actually rather succulent and require slightly more nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Nutritious food begins with nutritious soil, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a fortune on it. With a little time and enough know-how, you can cultivate your own nourishing soil for home and organic gardening.
- Sun Requirements
Most herbs love the sun and are pretty hardy, but it’s a good idea to double check your gardening zone. There are 13 in North America, and depending on where you live, you may need to alter your herb garden design to accommodate the plants that are most likely to thrive. For the most part, it is rather intuitive. If you live in the cold, frosty North, chances are you won’t be able to grow thriving succulents that love arid climates.
This first herb garden design is perfect for people with only a balcony as an outdoor space to plant, and is chock-full of beautiful, fragrant, medicinal herbs
- A low table to hold your planters, with enough space for you to maneuver
- 6 planter boxes or pots
- Herbs: lavender, lemon balm, ginger, mint, Roman chamomile, and feverfew
This little garden is a multi tasker–not only do each of its plants provide some kind of medicinal benefit, but many can be used in cuisine as well, and are downright nice to look at. Lavender and chamomile are great stress relievers, while mint and ginger will fight nausea. Both lemon balm and feverfew can combat headaches.
These plants do well in planter boxes, largely because they are mostly invasive. Were you to plant them outside, you would be quickly overrun with minty ground cover! This particular herb garden design ensures that the plants that need or tolerate shade are placed in the back, while those that require full sun are front and center. Other than that, these plants need a little water and to be left alone. Need another reason to plant an apartment apothecary? Well, you can scale the entire thing down so that it as small as you like, as long as your planter boxes are deep enough for your herbs to take root. That means that if you have a nice sunny spot, you can green up your indoor space or bring the whole thing into the kitchen for maximum convenience.
Using a pallet to grow your garden is sheer genius. With a few modifications, you have a ready made plot for a harvestable do-everything herb garden design.
- Warehouse pallet
- Work gloves
- Landscape Fabric
- Staple Gun
- Herbs: cilantro, sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, dill, chives
By wrapping the back of the pallet in landscaping fabric and stapling it down, you have an automatic planter that comes pre-divided. Just place it in your back yard, pack in the soil, and plant your herbs between the pallet slats. The herbs listed are all great for culinary experimentation, but you can feel free to substitute them as needed depending on which hardiness zone you live in, especially if you don’t want to lug your pallet planter inside.
Using a palett means that the herbs won’t invade your garden, and you can move the pallet (with help) to get more or less sun, which is great if you don’t have a lot of space. Alternatively, some people like to add reinforcement between the pallet slats and turn the entire thing upright so that it resembles a ladder bookshelf. Situating it that way means that this is also a viable herb garden design for apartment patios, too.
The Provence Plot
Herbes de Provence are a must for foodies who love French cuisine. By using a small, rectangular plot you can grow everything that you need.
- Sandy, easy drain soil
- Pavers, if you wish to include them, and paver sand for keeping them level
- Herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, lavender (optional)
- Pots if planting lavender
Of course, a garden like this takes a little more doing, because you are planting straight into the ground on a grid layout. Each of these herbs, which boast a French heritage, need a sandy soil that drains very easily and full sun, so plan on plotting out a little piece of land that can meet those requirements. Some common lavender will give the entire herb garden design that south of France feel, and a wonderful smell, but just be sure to plant it in pots or boxes if you include it, because lavender does have a habit of taking over an entire garden!
Indian Masala Daba
This herb garden design is laid out like a masala daba: the round spice box that resides in every Indian kitchen, with each wedge holding an herb that can be used to create great curries and chaat. These herbs are excellent for dry, arid zones, but you still need to remember to give them water to drink. A huge plus is the fact that many of the herbs for this garden are flowering plants, which will add some beauty to your yard in addition to delicious spices.
- Dry soil that will drain easily
- Pavers, if you want to include them, and paver sand to keep them level
- Herbs: nigella, fenugreek, sesame, curry leaf, and cardamom
As if the thought of delicious Indian fare wasn’t enough, there are a number of additional benefits that you can reap from a garden like this one. Ayurveda, for instance, is a school of alternative medicine that manifests itself in many, many ways, including cooking. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that there are body types, called doshas, and that by harnessing the healing powers of certain foods (especially herbs!) you can nourish your dosha to your best benefit. What a perfect opportunity to give this particular school of thought a try!
The DIY Plot
If none of these herb garden designs meet the needs that you have for your culinary, medicinal, or aromatic paradise, consider designing a plot design of your own.
- graph paper
- a pencil
To design your own plot, you just need some imagination, the herb information in this article and from other online or textual resources, and some graph paper. Simply determine the scale–how many feet or inches will each square of graph paper represent–and use the paper to plan out an herb garden design all your own.
Experiment, and take a number of things into consideration: not only what kind of herbs you want to plant, but which herbs are compatible in the same type of soil, what kind of plants need similar sun requirements, and whether or not you will need to keep some of them in planters to circumvent any possible invasive qualities they might have.
Getting it all down on paper first will give you a very good starting point for a custom herb garden design that will allow you to get everything you want out of your plot, whether medicinal, culinary, aromatic, or simply ornamental. You can also experiment with growing and interspersing a crop of herbs alongside a vegetable or flower garden, as long as you ensure that all of your plants are getting the sun that they need.
Have fun with it–this is your harvest, after all, so the only rules are the ones that you impose upon yourself.
Are you still reading? By now, you should have a shovel or spade in your hand, a big floppy hat on your head, and a whole bunch of soil under your fingernails. You started with a lot of options (maybe even too many) for a great herb garden design, but by now you should have an inkling of where to get started. Once you’ve got a bountiful harvest, maybe you will give fully sustainable gardening a try, since you’ll already be well practiced. Or perhaps you’ll use what you’ve got to try your hand at a whole new type of adventurous cuisine, like vegetarian Indian dishes.