3 TIPS FOR PLANNING THE HERB GARDEN OF YOUR DREAMS
1. Explore Your Needs; Indulge Your Desires
As you peer into the future, imagine how you might interact with your dream garden. Take a moment to write down all the reasons you wish to grow herbs, and how you might incorporate their medicine and beauty into your life. Then, think about how your garden will evolve with time, and which needs are the most important. Will it be a place of refuge, with secret nooks, replete with peaceful statues and comfortable seating nestled under verdant arbors? Do you envision your gardens as an inspirational educational setting, with wide paths and ample signage for visitors? Is your goal to grow herbs for your own apothecary and kitchen or do you have an herbal products business?
So, share the wealth of starts with friends and community gardens, host a plant and seed swap for local gardeners, and when all else fails, the compost pile will welcome those babes with tender arms. Think seriously about your needs, and limit yourself to the plan, especially when it comes to perennials, as your overzealousness can turn into overwork for many years to come.
2. Lavender is not Kale
While this statement is no shocker, it simply sums up why folks often have trouble growing herbs from seed, while, in contrast, sprouting their favorite veggies, such as kale or tomatoes, is easy peasy. Vegetables have been bred for countless generations, through millennia of cultivation, for uniform, quick and relatively easy germination. Medicinal and culinary herbs are a different story. Many of the herbs we grow are perennials, which typically have a more selective strategy for germination (with less of the live-fast, die-young strategy of annual plants). They need coaxing, cajoling and an ear pointed toward their needs. If you want to grow herbs from seed, you’ll need to give them some extra attention in the form of stratification, scarification and surface sowing.
3. Think Like a Meandering Stream
The following information is perhaps the least glamorous aspect of garden planning, however, you’ll be quite pleased if both humans and materials are able to move throughout the garden with the ease and dexterity of a gently tumbling mountain stream.
Proper placement of pathways and designing for materials distribution are admittedly not the most exciting aspect of creating a garden, but they are nonetheless essential. There are many types of pathways: mowed greenery, mulch, gravel, stones, recycled concrete “stones,” and bricks. Each option has its pros and cons. Many growers plant a low-growing, nitrogen-generating cover crop, such as white clover, to serve as a green pathway. It can be periodically mowed and the clippings used as a “green manure,” and applied as mulch or added to compost. Just remember that clover attracts bees, who are certainly wonderful to entice into any garden, but can present a challenge for the barefoot gardener. In smaller, more formal gardens, plantings of low-growing herbs such as thyme and chamomile make for aromatic paths or small “lawns”. Wood mulch makes for a pleasing pathway; it has to be reapplied every year, but has little maintenance other than that. An added benefit of wood mulch is that it can be inoculated with edible and medicinal mushrooms. Utility companies or city dumps often give away fresh wood clippings from sawed-off trees and limbs. Bark mulch is finer than wood clippings, so it degrades more quickly and needs to be reapplied more often. In addition, it costs money, and is a byproduct of the lumber and pulp industries.