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Planning Your Herb Garden

The first thing to consider is how much time you wish to devote to your garden during the course of a day, week, or year. Maintenance is required, be it little or much.

My suggestion is to start out small and grow the size as you grow in knowledge and desire.

Selecting Your Site~

The perfect site is quiet and sunny with a protective surrounding. Healthy soil built through composting and organic/natural means will minimize insect problems, weeds, and worry of doing harm to the mother earth.

A good question to ask yourself is this: Do I want a kitchen garden close by the kitchen door – or do I want a retreat garden away from the activities of the household.

You can have both if time and space permit…otherwise you must make a choice. Either will flourish within these guidelines.

You should have spaces that offer support for climbing or top heavy plants, good drainage, some shelter from the wind, and at least 6 to 7 hours of sun a day.

Designing Your Garden~

Formal or informal…the style of your neighborhood or home may help you decide on this. It’s strictly a personal choice and you will be happiest if you follow that line of planning.

Drawing Your Plan On Paper~

Depending on the size and location, having your plan on paper will help you avoid mistakes that don’t line up with your surrounding yard and home – considerations such as driveways, decks, trees, etc., are important.

If raised beds are in your plan, the best thought with those are no more than 4 or 5 feet across. Makes for easy work and brings the view into focus quickly.

Paths are another point to consider and should always be changing direction, have a break in the flow to encourage lingering. A bench, sculpture, or a very tall herb, something rare or out of the norm will stop viewers and invite conversation.

A major point for consideration is overcrowding. While herbs are happy close in to their companions, too close will lead to an unsightly look and or extra work in transplanting.

So know the herbs you are planting, the size at maturity, and the easy and results of having to move or prune them.

Rosemary, thyme, lavender, even basil, can be manipulated to grow in different shapes or forms but, keep in mind that they all do their best when allowed to grow in their natural direction.

Theme Gardens~

When planning a large herb garden consider the idea of small theme gardens inside the larger plan. A Chinese medicinal grouping, herbs known for their aromatic favors, herbs that glow under the moonlight, and of course those that work overtime to attract bees and butterflies.

I love the idea of a Children’s Garden, a place where all the plants are pretty, are all safe to pick and eat at will, and will invite activity and also encourage a single focus.

A maze layout works very well for a garden dedicated to children.

Biblical And Literary Gardens~

Should in my opinion follow a more formal design: the Elizabethan style is perfect, with clipped knots of evergreen shrubs and a pretty stone sculpture in the center.

Note: There are no hard and fast rules with herb gardens, as long as you give them a fair amount of love and attention they will reward you with double fold delight.

Happy growing!

Bea Kunz

NOTICE: You may reprint this article by giving credit back to the author and by using it as written.

Lavender Facts

Lavenders are all members of the same botanical genus: Lavandula. There are about 28 species of lavender, and each one is distinguished from one another by a different species name. For instance, Lavandula viridis, Lavandula lanata, Lavandula dentata.

lavender2The most popular lavenders fall into two basic groups. The first are all cultivars of the species Lavandula angustifolia and are often called English lavenders. Some books use the names L. vera or L. officinalis for English lavender, but both names are incorrect. The second group is made up of hybrids between the English lavenders and another species, Lavandula latifolia, and is called the lavandins (L. x intermedia).

Both of these groups have gray/green foliage, make nice low shrubs, and are hardy down to about USDA Zone 5. They prefer full sun and a well-drained soil. All are fragrant, and though the compositions of their essential oils do differ, it is difficult for most people to tell them apart by their scents.

The biggest differences between them are in their heights, flower colors, the size of the flower heads, and the time of blooms. The English lavenders tend to bloom in early summer, the lavandins in midsummer. The darkest flower colors are among the English lavenders, while the tallest plants, the longest flower stems, and the largest flower heads are among the lavandins.

The biggest killers of lavenders are root-rotting diseases, which proliferate in high humidity and wet soils. These are especially a problem for the English and lavandins. If you live in a humid area, like the Southeast, give your plants as much air circulation as possible. Don’t crowd them in because if one plant catches a disease, it can easily be transferred to the others if too close together.

Don’t use organic mulches around lavender; try pea gravel or white sand. Increase your drainage by planting in mounds or raised beds, and incorporate crushed granite, like chicken grit, into the top 12″ of the soil.

The soil should be slightly acidic. Though lavenders don’t require a lot of fertilizer, some should be added each spring. Chicken manure actually has a fungal deterring component and is especially safe to use.

The easiest lavenders to grow in hot, problem areas are the French (L. dentata), Spanish (L. stoechas), and the hybrids ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, L. x heterophylla and L. x allardii. These are also some of the best lavenders for containers, and all but the Spanish will bloom nearly year-round if given enough warmth and sunlight.

Happy cooking!

Bea Kunz

NOTICE: You may reprint this article by giving credit back to the author and by using it as written.