Planning your herb garden.
Since little can be done in the garden at this time of year, Winter is a good time for planning and designing your herb garden.
Most of us have herbs dotted around our beds but there’s something delightful in having them massed in one area, putting all your flavourings together. So many herbs enjoy the same conditions that they make natural companions.
Best Herb Garden Location
Accepted wisdom dictates that herbs should be grown as near to the kitchen door as possible. Cooks, it is felt, are unwilling to stray too far to pick parsley. I suppose if you own an estate the size of a small county, this could be true, but personally, there’s nothing I enjoy more than an excuse for a trip down the garden in the middle of a busy day. True, in winter, in the rain, the trip is less appealing. This is why, wherever you place them, herbs should be easily accessible. At its simplest, this could mean placing them along the edge of a path.
A good position for the herbs is far more important than a good position for you, and their first requirement is sunshine. You can get away with a bit of shade during the day (perennial herbs such as rosemary and thyme will pass the winter in shade without harm), but most herbs appreciate as much sun as they can get (mint and chervil are exceptions which do better when partially shaded). Shelter is also appreciated – in the UK that usually means away from northern or easterly winds (this could be an excuse to create a sheltered spot with espaliered fruit trees or trellis), and a south-facing slope in full sun is worth serious consideration; large perennials can be placed at the back, while more tender annuals sit protected at the bottom of the slope, where the soil will be moister.
Soil Requirements for Herb Gardens
Most herbs hate getting their feet wet for any length of time so soil should be free-draining. Sandy soil is fine but clay soil will need compost and grit added liberally to loosen it up. Bearing in mind where they come from, Mediterranean perennials such as rosemary and lavender thrive in poor, impoverished soil, but annuals tend to be a bit different. Basil, coriander and dill, for example, all enjoy good, moisture-retentive soil.