Start a Culinary Herb Garden

A geometric layout for a culinary herb garden gives each herb its own space. This layout is not only visually pleasing, but it also prevents more dominant herbs from "running over" less-dominant growers or those that are clipped less often. Locate your herb garden close to the kitchen door, if possible, for ease of access. The site should be in full sun, though in desert climates partial shade is acceptable. Your herb garden should be no smaller than 4 feet by 4 feet.

Make a list of the herbs you wish to include in your garden. Common culinary herbs include rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, oregano, dill, marjoram and parsley. Include any herb you use frequently in your cooking.

Sketch out design options for your garden. For a square or linear garden, create a grid so each herb will have its own section. For a circular garden, draw a large circle and divide it into equally sized wedges.

Plan gravel or paver garden paths that follow the lines on your sketch. Include plant edging for each section to aid in plant control; use wood planks or commercial garden edging.

Designate plant locations on the sketch. Place taller herbs, such as rosemary or lavender, in the back on a square layout so they don't block sunlight from lower-growing herbs.

Prepare the herb garden site by removing all grass, weeds and debris. Dig down approximately 4 to 6 inches and add compost as a soil amendment. Turn the compost into the soil with a shovel. Smooth the soil surface with a rake.

Lay out your design with stakes and string. Install the garden edging for each section, followed by the garden paths. Install a drip-irrigation system and test it before planting.

Plant the your herbs in their designated sections. Add a layer of organic mulch around each seedling. Keep the soil in the herb garden moist, but not wet. When the herbs begin to flourish, clip the tips to encourage new growth and larger leaves.

Clip the culinary herbs frequently, as they respond well to continual pruning. Dry excess herbs by laying them out on screening or hanging them upside down in paper bags. Collect the dried herbs and keep them in an airtight container.

Cut perennial herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, to the ground just before the weather turns cold. Cover them with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. These herbs will return in the spring.


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