How to start a formal herb garden at home

comments (0) August 21st, 2013

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A typical formal-style garden
A formal herb garden at home.
A typical formal-style gardenClick To Enlarge

A typical formal-style garden

For those who enjoy home cooking, nothing beats freshly picked herbs grown in your own garden. Herb gardens can be both functional and beautiful, providing you with everything from rosemary and basil to sage and thyme for roasts, soups, stews and more.

There are many types of herb gardens out there, but as a rule, herb gardens can be either formal or informal. With their clean lines, geometric layout, symmetrical design and contrasting textures, formal gardens can be a visual delight. Informal gardens are less about looks and more about utility, while formal gardens have defined beds and clear pathways in between.

Start by choosing the right location – that means close to your kitchen for easy access, as a rule, and in full sun. Good soil is crucial, as herbs need a fertile and well drained area to thrive.

Decide on the general shape you'd like your garden to follow – a rectangle, perhaps, or a circle – and then divide it into sections. Each section should be of equal size and contain similar plants. You could theme various sections, for example, creating a bed for Asian herbs and another for English herbs.

Plan the layout carefully. Popular designs include the knot and the wagon wheel – learn more about that here. Your blueprint should show pathways that break up the garden, although they don't need to be overly wide – just big enough for one or two people to walk through and pluck herbs. These can be edged with bricks for a clean line, or left as bare soil for a more natural look. Rocks and gravel or even a small, low hedge of plants are another option, but are more labour-intensive. You could also incorporate elements such as fountains and birdbaths into your formal herb garden. To maintain its formal status, try to keep edges clean and straight - it may be worth investing in a line trimmer to keep everything neat and tidy.

Ideally, look to plant a mix of evergreen, annual and herbaceous (seasonal) herbs. You'll need to replant the latter types as they die off and prepare to have empty spaces in your herb garden during this time. Herbs that grow tall should be planted in the centre or the back of your garden, and shorter ones toward the edges. Obviously, the herbs you'll use the most should be closest to the paths for easy access.

Leave enough room for your herbs to grow; some types grow much faster than others. Any herbs that tend to spread of their own accord should have their own section, or be planted in pots – these can rest either above ground or in the soil.


Finally, don't forget about colour! Edible flowers can be grown in your formal herb garden to complement your herbs. 

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