Checklist: The perfect spot for growing your herbs…
- Will be near the house
- Have good access
- Receive full sun most of the day
- Has well-drained fertile soil
- Is reasonably level
- Is sheltered from cold winds and frost
- Is protected from pets
Does your intended spot meet the above criteria? Sure? Lucky you.
If not. Don’t despair…
Most of us have a very limited choice when selecting a location for our herb garden. Knowing how to use what you have and turning that to your advantage spells the difference between success and failure.
Let us look at each point in detail.
Two points to consider. First, make sure that when planted each one of your herbs will be within arm’s length. It makes tending them a lot easier.
Next, ensure that you don’t need to walk a mile, in the dark, through ten other garden beds, to reach your herb garden.
The natural position for a culinary herb garden is as close to the kitchen as possible. Simply because the closer they are to your kitchen door, the more likely they are to find their way to your dinner table.
But, bear in mind that many kitchens receive limited sun. To a certain extent the same applies to a medicinal herb garden.
The perfect position should be in plain sight as well. Where you will pass it each day as you enter and leave the house.
An aromatic garden can be anywhere where you will be able to enjoy the aromas. Below windows. In pots, or next to the patio or pool.
One of the advantages of herbs is that they can be planted almost anywhere. So if you don’t have the space to devote to a herb garden as such look for nooks and crannies in between existing borders and beds in your garden.
Don’t discard the idea of a few herbs in containers, either indoors or outdoors. Herbs are exceptionally easy to grow as pot plants.
Yes, it really is that critical. First prize is full sun throughout the day. But it is a myth that herbs can only be grown in full sun.
The minimum is about half the amount of available sunlight during the day. Just morning sun or just afternoon sun for example. Or perhaps somewhere in between.
If your herbs don’t get enough sunshine a couple of things might happen:
- The quality won’t be as good as those growing in full sun. But rest assured. The difference is normally so small that you won’t even notice it.
- They will tend to grow leggy. This is easily corrected by pruning or harvesting more often.
- They will probably need less water. That’s a bonus. But be careful of overwatering.
- They will produce “softer” growth, which will be more prone to pests and diseases. This is a little more serious. You’ll need to be alert and act immediately if you discover any pests or diseases.
Beware of trees or large shrubs in the vicinity of your herb garden. They will rob your herbs of water and nutrients. And the extra shade is something your herbs definitely don’t need.
Well-drained Reasonably Fertile Soil
All plants grow in some kind of soil or growing medium. Soil usually refers to the naturally occurring soil in your garden and growing media (medium, singular) refer to the material we put into containers.
Growing media normally do not contain naturally occurring soil. They are made with materials such as peat, bark, vermiculite, etc.
The primary functions of the soils and growing media, as far as your herbs are concerned, are to hold the herbs upright and to hold water, air and nutrients in a readily available form.
Yes, it’s true: plant roots need air too.
Soils and growing media are so critical to your success that we encourage you to dedicate some time to understanding and analyzing your own soil. Visit the library, search the internet or have a look at the Herb and Veggie Growing course which has a whole module devoted to understanding and improving your soil.
Next to sunlight, drainage is perhaps the most critical to your success. Most herbs are like humans – they hate constantly wet feet. If you suspect the drainage of your soil is a borderline case, ask your local nursery. They will know the soils in your area and the best methods for improving drainage.
If your drainage is really poor consider growing in containers or raised beds.
The more level the site the easier it is to cultivate. But a site with a slight incline will assist drainage.
Just make sure that your proposed site is not in a hollow. Hollows can become waterlogged when it rains. Another disadvantage is that it could trap cold air in winter.
If you don’t have a reasonably level site consider growing in containers, window boxes or terraced beds.
Shelter From Cold Winds, Frost and Pets
Providing shelter from harsh winter conditions can extend your growing season.
Most hobbyists simply pot up their tender herbs in winter and overwinter them in a protected spot. It makes more sense than spending money on expensive protection measures. Your local nursery will be able to advise on the most cost-effective measures.
A herb garden can quickly ruin the relationship between you and your favourite family pet. Cat’s love freshly dug soil as it eases their toilet routine. A mulch of bark chips can make the spot less attractive or you can fence in the garden, which also keeps the dogs out.
- What is your biggest ‘AHA’ (Eureka moment) from this unit?
- Find the perfect spot, or spots, for your herb garden. The best way of doing this is to walk through the garden and to identify as many spots as you can. Then score each spot on the criteria above.
- How many spots did you find? How did they score?
- Share what you learned in a Reply below. Don’t be shy. Getting your thoughts down on paper actually improves your learning.