Our favourite herbs to grow in the garden

A Herb Garden is one of the easiest and most satisfying features you can build into your garden. Good for wildlife and if planted near your kitchen door, they can provide an amazing and bountiful supply of fresh herbs for the kitchen. - by Françoise Murat

A Herb Garden is one of the easiest and most satisfying features you can build into your garden. Good for wildlife and if planted near your kitchen door, they can provide an amazing and bountiful supply of fresh herbs for the kitchen.

Herbs can either be planted in pots or in the ground. Easy to maintain and in general free from pests, they are the perfect ornamental and edible plant!

The herbs we know come from the Mediterranean region. They prefer a sunny position with a well-drained soil so choose the sunniest place you can. If the herb garden is in an enclosed area, choose a south-facing site.

A HERB SPIRAL

This is so easy to build and can be done in a few hours unless you’re building a Tudor mound...which I don’t recommend!

Follow these simple instructions:

  • Choose a sunny site 
  • Best to put cardboard down before you build - this stops weeds 
  • It might be easier to go for a clockwise pattern so you don't get confused with levels 
  • You can build rock or brick walls or just have a ground level spiral 
  • Remember though not to build too high- soil is heavy and without proper wall construction it will fall down and might injure someone 
  • Place the rocks or bricks in a spiral formation from large to small in the area you have chosen 
  • Put the soil between the spirals and plant the herbs - if building in levels, fill as if it were a pot 
  • Plant herbs such as rosemary, thyme and tarragonin the inner part of the spiral. They require less water and therefore need less attention 
  • Plant the other more tender herbs on the outer rims of your spiral. 
  • Chives, parsley, chamomile, mint, corianderand fennel will do very well here These herbs need more water and as you water in the middle the water will trickle down to the plants which need it more 

**HERBS TO PLANT FOR SCENT AND THE KITCHEN
**

Below are some herbs you might like to plant. All have interesting textures and foliage, therefore great at enhancing any garden design. Not all can be eaten and obviously always consult a professional before planting or eating any unusual herbs. People often assume that because herbs are ‘natural’ that they are safe – this is not so. Be extra careful round children.

Culinary herbs

  • Parsley 
  • Thyme 
  • Sage 
  • Marjoram 
  • Chives
  • Lemon Balm 
  • Mint 
  • Coriander 
  • Sorrel 
  • Bay Leaf 
  • Tarragon 
  • Feverfew 
  • Chervil 
  • Chamomile 
  • Oregano 
  • Rosemary 
  • Fennel 

‘Bouquet garni’ ….is parsley, thyme, marjoram and bay leaf

Tie loosely in a muslin square Leave to savour your broths, soups and casseroles

Aromatic Herbs

  • Lavender 
  • Rue 
  • Basil 
  • Thyme 
  • Marjoram 
  • Chamomile 
  • Mint 
  • Santolina 
  • Evening Primrose 
  • Rosemary 
  • Anise 
  • Hyssop 
  • Sweet Woodruff

HINTS AND TIPS FOR EASY HERB GROWING

  • Generally, a light open soil/compost mix is best. An ordinary potting compost, with perhaps a little grit or garden soil mixed is fine 
  • No need to feed the soil and pots on a regular basis, most herbs are used to growing on weak soils anyway 
  • I always add a little 'long term' fertiliser, such as good compost or worm cast for potted herbs. This will feed the herbs in their pots and keep them growing well for a whole season 
  • Another good idea, would be to incorporate a little water retentive gel to the compost before you plant up your containers, which will vastly increase the water holding capacity of the compost 
  • Do not plant too many herbs per container - use more pots! Herbs do tend to spread rapidly and increase in size 
  • If planting the herb spiral, do not plant too close together 
  • If the soil is heavy such as clay soils – they can become too waterlogged or too dry - add compost and grit to help drainage 
  • Do not add more peat for three reasons: 
  1.  It makes the soil acidic. Most herbs don't like acid soil 
  2.  the John Innes compost probably already has some, so don't add to it 
  3.  the world's peat bogs are being used up, so do your bit to save the planet  

**
WHICH COMPOST?**

The best compost for growing herbs is John Innes No. 3 because it is soil based and contains longer-lasting nutrients. This means less feeding. It also holds moisture well. If it does dry out, it absorbs water quickly. However, take care not to over-water! John Innes No. 2 will also do. The higher the number, the more added nutrients are present in the compost.

There are a variety of composts out there which do not use peat. Three were awarded Best Buy by Which? Magazine in February 2010:

  • Vital Earth Tub and Basket Compost 
  • New Horizon Multi-Purpose Compost 
  • Vital Earth Multi-Purpose Compost 

**HERBS IN POTS
**

  • Almost any container is suitable to be used as a pot provided it has: drainage holes,  a wide base to prevent it falling over and  it is big enough and suitable for the plant 
  • Wash any pots that have been used before 
  • Check the drainage holes are unobstructed 
  • Place gravel or broken pots in the bottom 
  • This prevents the holes from filling with soil and aids drainage 

PLANTING UP

  • Fill the container three-quarters full with compost 
  • Or if planting in the ground, ensure the hole is ¾ of the pot deep 
  • Remove the herb very carefully from its pot and plant up 
  • Gently firm the soil around the plant, adding more compost, leaving a 2-3cm rim. 
  • Water the plant well 

So there you are – a fragrant, edible and beautiful herb garden in a few hours and for very little money!

Photographs copyright F. Murat

Françoise Murat & Associates specialise in interior, garden & landscape design.

For more garden and interior design information visit us at www.francoisemurat.com.