Throughout history, herbs have been used for a range of purposes, including cosmetic products, medicines, disinfectants and even as currency. A small collection of herbs in even the smallest of gardens or windowsills is a great asset for both the kitchen and your senses.
When choosing to grow herbs in your garden it is important to survey your garden to make a note of the sunniest and shadiest spots. Generally, herbs will do best in the hottest and sunniest area in the garden. The high level of sunlight will promote an increased production of the aromatic oils that give herbs their flavour and smell. Be sure to check soil conditions as drainage is very important. Most herbs dislike sitting in a cool, wet soil so if necessary add organic matter or horticultural grit. It is also incredibly important to consider what herbs you want to grow. If you truly wish for your plants to be productive then only choose herbs that you actually like and remember to harvest them regularly to encourage fresh growth and prevent them from going to seed. Herbs which tolerate moist shade include parsley, chives, mint, chervil and lemon balm. If you are growing mint you would be well advised to grow it in a container, or to plant in the flower bed within a pot which has drainage holes to restrict its growth. If unchecked it could well take over your garden and is very invasive!
The methods of growing herbs are varied as they are very adaptable for either plant beds or containers. A traditional planting design is the creation of a plant bed with the appearance of a cartwheel. A circular plant bed is dug out and then edged with bricks. The divisions should be placed to give the appearance of a cartwheel’s spokes and can be created out of bricks or with a low herb hedge using lavender or rosemary. Each segment can then be planted with low, clump forming herbs such a thymes, marjoram and chives to create a formal plant bed. If you have a patio of paving you can grow low growing herbs like thyme in the gaps between the stones.
Placing herb containers near to your back door or kitchen window is a good idea as they will be on hand when you are cooking and preparing food. A popular container for growing herbs in smaller spaces is a terracotta tower with several planting pockets around its sides. This allows perfect conditions for growing a basic selection of herbs or a collection of the same herb in one container. Herbs can even be grown successfully in hanging baskets and can be planted up with choices such as parsley, chives and basil which have a limited growth size. There are now larger herb ‘tables’ which allow you to grow a selection of herbs at waist height for easy maintenance and harvesting. Containers are always prone to drying out quickly, particularly in the summer months so be sure to water your plants regularly and feed once a week with a liquid fertilizer.
Many herbs such as rosemary, chives or thyme are decorative enough to feature in your flower beds, especially if they are left to flower in the summer. There are many which are worth growing for the smells and scents alone, with which they fill your garden as you brush past them. Their flowers also attract a huge range of bees and butterflies.