5 Ways to Use Herbs in the Garden


Herbs—those plants for “use and delight”—deserve a place in every garden, no matter how small. Check out our 5 ways to tuck herbs into your garden, and get planting!

A Dedicated Herb Garden

For serious cooks and crafters, a garden dedicated to nothing but herbs offers a bounty of materials to work with. You might choose to create a circular garden with a pie-shaped wedge devoted to each herb or a formal geometric garden with tidy, clipped borders. For a space-saving herb garden, consider an herb spiral. This permaculture technique lets you grow lots of herbs that prefer different conditions in a tiny footprint.

lavender oregano herb garden

Lavender and golden oregano are a pretty pair in the herb garden.

The trick to a great-looking herb garden is lots of structure. A brick or stone path or wattle fences offer contrast to the billowy-looking herbs.

As a Background to Other Plants

We tend to think only of the relatively low-growing Mediterranean herbs, which prefer a lean soil. But many herbs love the rich soil of garden beds and make terrific fillers. Consider self-sowing borage (Borago officianalis), with its starry blue flowers peaking through your perennials. Tall, celery-flavored lovage (Levisticum officiale) fills in the back of the border admirably with its substantial stalks and jagged leaves. Some dills (Anethum graveolens) grow to 3′ tall, providing a fern-y flourish to the border (and attracting butterflies).

As a Groundcover

In a hot and sunny spot, thyme (Thymus spp.) is a stellar groundcover. Often planted between stepping stones, it can take some abuse. Be sure to choose a low-growing form for groundcover, whether you use a culinary variety or not. The sunny color of golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’) lights up a part-sun to full sun spot. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) thrives in part shade, with the bonus of little white flowers in May.

sweet woodruff herb garden

Sweet woodruff acts as a groundcover below centaurea and coleus in this part-shade garden.

As an Edging Plant

Lavender is a traditional edging plant, but it’s fairly short-lived here in central Indiana; you might only get five years from it. For a similar look, try catmint (Nepeta spp.). For an edging that takes shearing well, we like wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys). It looks like a very short boxwood, and bees love the purple-pink flowers.

In Containers

Herbs thrive in containers. You can plant one variety in each pot, or several together, as long as they share the same preferences. Aggressive herbs like mint should always be grown in pots and not in garden beds (patrol them regularly to make sure they’re not trying to escape).

mixed pot herbs lettuce

In these cool-weather containers, sage and parsley share space with lettuce and chard.

The containers you choose can give your herb garden a personal stamp. In addition to regular pots, we’ve seen plants grown in tea pots, stacked galvanized tubs, and even an old clawfoot bath. Just be sure your container has holes in the bottom to allow drainage.


Amy graduated from DePauw University with a degree in physics, a lifelong love of theatre, and a problem-solving style that combines the approaches from both those fields. A Master Gardener and long-time communications professional, Amy conducts gardening seminars and blogs about gardening in addition to her work with Spotts.

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