There are so many different kinds of herbs and your first step in
planning a garden is to choose the ones you want to grow. If you are new
to herb gardening you will probably want to start with those that you
can have the most fun using. Culinary and fragrant herbs can be used to
make teas, jellies, herbed butters and breads, and preparations such as
potpourris and sachets. Herbs such as the santolinas and artemisias are
most useful as a landscape feature; others are grown mainly for their
exotic appeal and interesting histories.
Gardeners in many areas of the West and Southwest (and, generally,
where winter temperatures never drop below 0°) have the opportunity to
use many of the shrubby Mediterranean herbs as basic landscape items.
The rosemaries, lavenders, and marjoram, for example, will grow larger
and more attractive each year, planted outside.
There is no set way or place to grow your herbs. They can be raised
like vegetables in rows or plots, neatly staked off and labeled. You can
integrate them into the landscape as ground covers, edgings, or
companion plants with other ornamentals. Or, more
casual plantings can grow in corners of the garden or small sections of
a border. You also can grow herbs in containers both outside and
indoors. If you are more ambitious and want to be traditional, you can
plan the kind of formal herb garden which originated in the Middle Ages.
It is best to keep those herbs that require different amounts of
water (such as the mints and thyme) at separate ends of the bed. Some
herbs do not require as much sun as the others and can be planted near
taller kinds that will filter direct sunlight before it reaches them,
or, you can locate the bed where one section will receive fewer hours of
sunlight each day than the rest of the bed. Aggressive or persistent
herbs such as lemon balm, the mints, and sweet woodruff, should not be
positioned where they can crowd out the others. Plant them in a separate
bed or contain their roots with divider boards sunk into the ground
around them and keep the runners that spread along the ground cut back.
If you intend to sow seeds of slow germinating perennial herbs in the
fall followed by seeds of annual herbs in the spring, plan spacing for
the whole garden in the fall and carefully recultivate the bed in the
spring so you don’t disturb the germinating perennials. An alternative
is to sow the perennial seeds elsewhere in the fall, and then in the
spring transplant the seedlings into a freshly prepared bed where you
can also sow annual seeds.