Herbs were one of the very first edible plants I grew from seed over thirty years ago and they’re a great way to begin the journey of growing your own. They’re undemanding plants and can grow well in containers outside your door, in flower beds or in specially built herb gardens.
If you’ve thought about growing herbs but aren’t sure where to begin, the following will help you to start growing and picking your own herbs from your garden this year.
Soil Conditions for Herbs
Most herbs prefer warm, open sites that aren’t subjected to prevailing winds and are out-of-the-way of frost pockets.
Ensure the site has been cleared of pernicious weeds and there’s good drainage, which is essential for growing herbs as the majority of the ones mentioned below don’t like sitting in water. Try to prepare the area you’ll be planting herbs into a few weeks before planting time. This will allow you to remove any weeds that have grown in the disturbed soil.
Herbs generally like to grow in fertile soil with a neutral pH that isn’t too rich, so home-made kitchen compost or leafmould forked in as a soil conditioner when you’re preparing the soil will be perfect. If you don’t have your own compost to hand yet, head into a garden centre and ask the staff to point you in the direction of a good soil improver.
Herb Garden Design
When you’re choosing herbs to plant in the garden, it’s a good idea to place taller varieties in the back of the bed and smaller ones at the front. In a circular bed place the taller plants in the middle.
With a careful mix of colour, leaf shape and texture you can create a herb garden that will be a joy to be in. For instance, tall architectural plants such as silvery globe artichokes are shown to their very best if they’re accompanied by the soft, feathery foliage of a bronze leafed fennel.
If you’d like some ideas for more popular hardy, kitchen herbs that are suitable for growing outside in Irish gardens click here for a free PDF of Popular Herbs.
How many plants?
A basic rule of thumb is ten plants per square metre (one plant per square foot) which will give you something to look at during the first year and a good effect thereon after.
Smaller plants such as chamomile and thyme will need to be planted closer and can make good edging plants.
Very little maintenance is required in the herb garden bar keeping the weeds down. Allow them to settle down and establish before you begin to pick them for the kitchen and make sure they don’t dry out if they’re in containers.
If you’d like more information about creating a herb wheel, take a look at the guest post I wrote for CountryLife last year which gives detailed instructions. There are several posts on the Greenside Up blog for herbal teas and vinegar too as well as advice on drying them.
Are you growing herbs yet? There’s nothing like snipping a few leaves of fragrant plants you’ve grown yourself and adding them to dinners or refreshing drinks.