Gardening SIG: Planning your Herb Garden

Herbs have been grown for thousands of years for their medicinal and culinary uses. Because of their small size, herb gardens are easy to grow and maintain. Every culture has their own herb design style - from Asia to New Zealand.

You first need to decide what the purpose of your herb garden design is. Don't worry you don't have to be a designer or an artist to make a plan for your garden. Every herb garden is beautiful and will serve a great purpose. You must take into account the amount of space you have, what you wish to grow, and having easy access to your herbs.

Once you have a general idea in mind, take a look at the area and soil you have available. Draw out on a piece of paper the general shape you have, and mark what type of soil or soils are in that area.

Soil Testing is key and the most important factor.

Wait until it has rained significantly. Dig a hole 12-18 inches where some plants are growing. Observe the topsoil and subsoil beneath it. You can tell if the rainwater has made the roots waterlogged, or if it has drained away. If the roots are deep then the your herbs should do well here. If not you can add compost and grow plants hat have deep roots. To test the condition of your soil you should dig a hole about 2 feet in the ground. Place this soil into a glass jar. Then add water to the jar and shake well. Once it settles you will be able to see the organic matter because this will float to the top. The clay, sand, and stones will separate. A soil that has almost equal amounts of sand, clay and organic matter is soil that is in good shape.

Soil Types:

Chalky Soil: Tends to very light and drains well. It is often rocky and has a high content of calcium and alkaline. If your soil is chalky making a raised bed can help. Plants for chalky soil are catnip, hyssop, juniper, hyssop, chicory, lavender, lily of the vally, rosemary, lungwort, motherwort.

Sandy Soil: Tends to drain well, but tends to have a lower ph balance. Plants for sandy soil are: anise, alfala, borage, chamomile, fennel, tarragon, thyme.

Loam Soil: Tends to be rich in nutrients great for plants. Plants for this soil include, basil bay chives, burdock, parsely, sage,and the thymes.

Moist Loam Soil: Has trouble with drainage. Herbs with flavor can do well here such as, comfrey, angelica, lemon balm, min family valerian, sweet violet.

Marshy Soil: Tends to wet. Herbs that do well here are goldenseal, horsetail, marsh mallow. Because it is close


The acid content of your soil is important as well. A netural soil has a rating of ph7. An alkaline soil range is higher than a ph of 7. A neutral soil ph rating is between 6.5 and 7.5. Remember the acid level in one part of your garden may be different than another.

Acid loving plants, are arnica, sorrel the french, dandelion, honeysuckle.


Here are some suggestions of alkaline loving plants are, chickweed, chicory, elder, rose, wormworm and sorrel (wood).

Always keep in mine what sort of sun the garden gets, too. You´ll want to plant herbs that grow well in the soil, keeping in mine the needs of each plant.

With the list of herbs in hand, decide how they work well with your design. You may want your taller plants placed in the back. If your aim is more informal, arrange the herbs so that there is a mixture of colors and textures. If you´re going to be going into this garden daily for ´supplies´ for your cooking, design it so you have easy access to it.

Remember to have fun. Gardening is a ongoing process. Allow it to be your teacher.

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