How to create the right herb garden – A guide to doing it yourself

Gorgefully fragrant, fresh herbs can be used very versatilely not only in the kitchen or for the medicine chest, the plants are also a true feast for the eyes in the garden. The beauty of a flowering lavender field is legendary - but rosemary, thyme, sage or chamomile, nasturtium and marigold are in no way inferior. All you need to create a herb garden is the right location, good soil, sufficient water - and knowledge of the needs of the various plants.

The right location

Herbs sometimes have very different demands on their location, whereby the general rule is that most herbs need a lot of sun and warmth. An ideal location is therefore the south wall of the house or a wall. Hedges provide additional protection against wind and frost damage. A few less herbs such as bear’s garlic, lovage or mint, on the other hand, prefer semi-shady or even shady places. They grow best at the edges of hedges or under trees.

cultivate non winter-hardy herbs in pots

Many exotic as well as some Mediterranean species are not hardy and should therefore be cultivated in pots. Examples of this are: Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), Diptam (Origanum dictamnus), Ginger (Zingiber officiale) or many Rosemary varieties (Rosmarinus officinalis). Herbs cultivated in tubs are in good hands on a balcony (or terrace) facing south or west. In addition, they almost always need a bright and frost-free winter-quarter.

  • On which ground do herbs feel comfortable?

For the healthy growth of almost all herbs, permeable, medium-nutrient-rich soils are ideal. However, some species – especially those from the Mediterranean – need a permeable but rather nutrient-poor soil. So before you start planting and sowing, first find out about the special needs of the selected species and varieties – and work up your garden soil accordingly if necessary.

Before planting: Prepare the garden soil

Intensive floor care improves all floors and is therefore particularly important. Especially heavy, fat soils are well suited for very few herbs. They are cold, often compacted and tend to stagnate – not exactly ideal for healthy root growth. In order to sustainably improve these soils, air and a lot of humus must enter the soil. To do this, dig the ground thoroughly at regular intervals and loosen it up with sand. Green manure, regular application of compost and constant mulching also improve the soil sustainably over the years. Lean sandy soils, on the other hand, can be improved by adding green manure, mulch, rock flour and compost. If the soil is very sandy, adding clay will also help.

  • Planning a herb garden

Careful planning of the herb garden will prevent a lot of trouble later on – because if you look in advance which places in the garden are rather sunny, which are rather shady and where the soil is rather lean and where rather loamy, you can select and plant the herb species and varieties to fit exactly. Once the right location has been found and the desired herbs selected, the design and layout of the beds are planned. There are innumerable possibilities for this, depending primarily on the purpose and use of the garden. In kitchen gardens, herb beds are usually laid out according to formal criteria, while we know from typical farm gardens mixed cultures with herbs and vegetables. In addition, herbs can also enrich borders or the natural garden by combining them with ornamental plants.

Herbs for the rock garden

Most Mediterranean herbs do not tolerate heavy or even stagnant soil. They need a lot of warmth in the summer and especially in the winter they have to deal with moisture. These species grow much more naturally on barren soils, are more aromatic and produce more active ingredients. Often the rockery culture is the best solution. The location is sunny, the soil is warm and dry. By selecting the stones you can influence the soil, for example limestones but continuously remove lime and create good growing conditions for savory, lavender, marjoram, masonry pepper, rosemary, sage, thyme, wormwood and hyssop.

Herbs in the raised bed

High beds are often built on less fertile, stony or sandy soils. The frames of wooden boards, wickerwork or stone are filled with compostable materials and good topsoil so that the herbs can grow abundantly here. Basically, a raised bed can be built anywhere, the only important thing is sufficient sunlight at the location. The length of the beds is arbitrary, but they should not be wider than a maximum of one metre – so the plants can still be easily reached.

Build a spiral of herbs yourself

Herb spirals create space for many plants in the smallest space, whereby all herbs get their ideal location – dry or moist, lean or humic, sunny or semi-shady. The correct arrangement of the plants ensures that everyone can grow in good neighbourhood. The shape of the herb spiral is reminiscent of a snail shell. The stones are arranged spirally and layered higher and higher towards the centre. When you lay the stones, you fill in the earth immediately. Especially important: Fill in the soil that favours the herbs to be planted.

tip: Dry stone walls are also a wonderful place to plant herbs. Limestones are particularly suitable for this because they positively influence the acidity of the soil and also many herbs love warm, slightly calcareous soils.

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