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Thursday, 31 May 2012

How to plan a herb garden

A herb garden will provide you with fresh herbs for culinary or medicinal purposes all year round. But if you do not want, or do not have sufficient space, for a herb garden you can grow herbs in containers or in existing vegetable or flower beds.

If you have sufficient space, here are some ideas on how to create a  practical herb garden. Start with a sunny but sheltered spot which is preferably near the kitchen, so that when cooking you can easily pick herbs to use fresh out of the garden. 

Many herbs originate from the Mediterranean area and will do well in rocky, relatively dry soil, remember that they evolved in conditions of good drainage. This means that they do need some water, but the soil should be moist not wet. So while soil preparation is minimal it is not non-existent, a mix of sandy loam and clay or a good compost will support a good range of herbs, but it must be well drained.

Designing yourself a herb garden is a simple task. Start by measuring the space available and making different plans of assorted shapes until you have a few good ideas to work with. Simple forms such as square, triangles, circles or half-circles are a great way to begin a structure to plant your herbs. The design options are entirely up to you, draw a plan of the space available and get designing but take into consideration the number of herbs and relative size of the herbs you want to grow and their accessibility. You might also want to incorporate paths which can be paved with bricks, stones or even old wood to make access easier and add some charm to your herb bed.

Obviously the choice of herbs depends on your personal tastes, whether you want them for cooking, cosmetics, fragrance or medicinal purposes, but these are our favourites (in no particular order): 

Annuals - parsley, coriander, basil, aniseed, rocket and summer purslane.

Perennials - bay, rosemary, mint, sage, oregano, thyme, lavender, chamomile, chives and fennel

For detailed advice on how to grow and care for the herbs of your choice go to http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/herbs

If the herbs you want to grow are annual and you want to grow a large quantity to harvest and dry at the end of the season then you can make additional plantings anywhere in the garden. In fact, these can be incorporated into your vegetable beds, as herbs such as basil, coriander and dill, will attract beneficial insects which can help with pest control.

Culinary herbs, that are perennial, might not take as much space since you cut only what you need and a few plants should be enough to see you through the season and can be placed in a more permanent bed. Use the space you have available to grow the herbs you find most useful. Another consideration is if you are growing certain herbs for pot pourri or dyes, you will need a much larger space. 

It's important to plan the distribution of you herbs from the beginning. When growing, various herbs will take different forms. Some herbs grows thick but short in height while others are long and lean. Certain herbs have the tendency to grow and crawl about and can even behave like vines. This unstructured mixture can seem totally out of control especially during their peak season of May through June. 

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