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Planning Your Successful Herb Garden Print E-mail
Didi Hoffman   
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Planning Your Successful Herb Garden

To help you make the most of your herb garden here’s a quick refresher on why it is so important to plan before you plunge in!

3 reasons why a well planned herb garden will be wildly successful:
  • It is more fun and less work.
  • It is more productive than one that is not well-planned.
  • It is more sustainable, because you can minimize on labour, water, fertilizer and pesticides while maximizing your yield.

That’s all well and good, but where does one start?

I have developed a step by step process for the SA Herb Academy's crash-course, “Planning and Planting A Wildly Successful Herb Garden" and here is the “Reader’s Digest’ version of that course.

These steps are not only for new herb gardens. They are also useful if you are planning to revamp or refresh an established garden.

Once these steps have been done you will be ready to visit your nearest garden centre and purchase seeds and plants for your garden.

Step One – Define the focus of your herb garden
  • Select a theme, like culinary, medicinal, fragrance, or cosmetics. If possible narrow that down even further by choosing a theme within a theme.
  • Decide whether you want to grow herbs for fun or profit, whether you prefer them in containers or in the garden (or both), and to grow them indoors or outdoors?
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve in terms of your enthusiasm, space, time, energy and money. Also visualize how your herb garden will fit in with the rest of your garden.

Step Two - Understand your garden

  • Check out which areas receive sun and shade, whether you get frost in winter, the kind of soil in your garden and what the drainage is like.
  • Draw a freehand sketch scale map (plot plan) of your property. Once you know the character of your garden you can select the best site for your herb garden.

Step Three – Select your site
  • Find a sunny spot (morning or afternoon sun is adequate) that is reasonably level and sheltered from wind and frost.
  • Soil should drain easily but if your soil is a bit heavy, just add lots of compost when preparing the soil and this should improve the texture and drainage.
  • Be as close to the house as possible for quick and easy picking.
  • If you don’t have an ideal site in the garden, plant your herbs in containers and you can move them to follow the sun.

Step Four - Decide on your style
The style of your herb garden should complement the rest of the garden and the look of the house. There are two styles; formal and informal. Take time to decide on the style. Look in books and magazines for inspiration.

Formal herb gardens
  • Require straight lines and geometric shapes that are framed by low hedges and paths.
  • A fountain, shrub (usually topiary) or bench usually forms a focal point.
  • The layout should be arranged around a central axis. Ideally, one kind of herb is planted in each block, for bold colour and texture.
  • It is an ideal picking garden, because everything is so accessible.
  • It can be labour intensive and expensive to build.

Informal herb gardens
  • The lines are more flowing, with curved beds and walkways.
  • Flowers and shrubs can be added for an exuberant look.
  • It needs less initial structural work and is easier and less costly to maintain.

Step Five - Select your herbs
  • Select herb that will thrive in your garden and fire your enthusiasm. To help you avoid the mistake of starting with too many herbs try this process.
  • Make a complete list of all the herbs that will fit in with your theme.
  • Check with your local nursery. Are they available? Scratch out all those that are not available.
  • Next make three columns. Must have. Nice to have. Not necessary. Try reducing your list to about 5 or 10 herbs – that’s a good number to start with.
  • Divide your herbs between annual and perennial and classify them according to height.
  • Check back with your design to make sure the heights conform to your concept.
This article by Di-Di Hoffman appeared in Timeless Herb Secrets.  For more information visit

Di-Di is the owner of Bouquet Garni Nursery – South Africa’s Top Potted Herb Growers and Marketers - and Director of the South African Herb Academy. You’ll find hundreds of tips and recipes to help you get the most from your herbs by subscribing to his insanely popular FREE Timeless Herb Secrets newsletters.

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