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.
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.
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.
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).
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.