Saturday, 1 November 2014

Planning and Planting a Herb Garden

Every good garden design book advises would be designer gardener to first take your squared paper and in fact, it is a good idea to draw the plan to scale. The size of the beds is much more easily appreciated, the spaces between them can be better compared to the dimensions of the beds, and the proportions of the various plants can be correctly assessed, so that mistakes in juxtaposition can be adjusted. Better still, if you’re anything of an artist, is then to transpose your scale plant to ta three-dimensional drawing, preferably colored, showing it as it will be in three or four years, time when the perennial plants are mature. 

Steps in Designing 

·        1. Assess your soil:

Is it well-drained (sandy, shingly, gravelly, and chalky?

Does it hold water and feel sticky when sticky when wet, cracking badly when dry (predominantly clay or silt?

Is it dark-colored, spongy when wet and dusty when dry (Peat)?

How does it react to a pH test (acid or alkaline)?

Does it contain organic matter (material floating on the surface of a solution of Soil?

·        2. Assess Your Site

Which parts are sunny-shady?

Does it get wind, if so, where from (north, South, east or west)?

Is it likely to retain frost and collect snow in winter?

Is it sheltered by walls/fences/hedges?

Is the garden close to the sea?

What is average winter and summer rainfall?

Where does the water lie the longs?

·        3. In the light of answers to these questions, select your herbs. Whatever choice of herb you settle on, before you start to mark the places for them on your paper plan, make sure you know what their final size will be when they are mature. The adult height and width are important facts armed with which you can plant without crowding or spacing; if the soil is a well worked heavy one, allow for extra growth. The converse is seldom true, since several herbs grow naturally in poor dry soils.
·        4. Make a rough diagram of your design and determine whether it is appropriate to the size of the site, e.g. a herb border on the grand scale will not be successful in an area 3 x 3 (10 x 10ft); in other words the proportions of the design should be such that theirs is room to make the most of them in the area concerned.

·        5. Select your plants according to your needs and the dictates of the soil and site as determined from your assessment. 

6. Enter their name on the diagram in your preferred arrangement, taking into account height as well as spread, whether they’re evergreen, perennial, annual, flowering or non-flowering. At this stage it can help to trace the design on the site in outline with the help of chalk rope, string, or the garden hose, and to use canes stuck in the soil to give an indication of the final height of plants.

·        7. Measure the area exactly and scale it down for transfer to squared paper a large scale would be 1.2 cm (1/2 in) per 30 cm (12 in), but if you want to mark in all the plants in all the beds, it’d have to be of the order of 5 cm/30cm (2 in/12 in).

·        8. Mark in the beds and borders on it to the dimensions required, in the required positions. 

·        9. Write in the names of the plants where they fit in to the pattern and draw a circle round them to indicate the extent of their final spread. 

·        10. Decide on the numbers of plants and the seeds required and order accordingly, unless you’re planning to plant up from different sources. The diagram above is an herb garden containing a collection of herbs grown in Britain and on the continent in mediaeval times; they’ve a variety of uses, and some of them fulfill several functions. 

The tall plants have been put at the back of the beds or in the center plants which are low-growing have been put near the edges, and naturally dwarf shrubs have been used for the edging, which gives the beds the necessary precision and unites the pattern. The pattern is further emphasized by repetition of plantings.    Herbs with evergreen leaves continue to provide a structural pattern in winter and cover the ground to some extent, though in a herb garden it is never possible to have a permanent blanket of vegetation if you wish to grow the annual herbs such as summer savory, coriander or sweet marjoram. Sun loving herbs are placed in   the center aromatic plants are distributed throughout the pattern to provide aromas and fragrances. A good deal of use is made of leaf quality, though with showy flowers e.g. tansy, marigold, feverfew, chives, rue, borage, clary and mustard. Herbs which need cooler soil, depth and permanent moisture should be planted in a position likely to provide this, so a site near the boundary to the south provides shade and is less likely to dry out. The mint should have a place where it can be easily chopped out before it runs amok amongst its neighbor’s. Feverfew will seed itself enthusiastically, so it will borage, and parsley, where it is happy. 

Herbs grown by division
Balm, Lemon, Bergamot, Burnet, Salad, Catmint, Chamomile, Comfrey, Costmary, Fennel, Feverfew, Madder, Marshmallow, Nettle, (Runners), Orris Root, Pennyroyal, Pink, Sorrel, Tansy, Tarragon, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Yarrow, 

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