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Gardening column: It’s not too soon to plan an herb garden

Start from seed in February so they’ll be ready by mid-May.

Friday, January 18, 2013 - 12:01 am

This seems to be the perfect time to plan a garden — in fact, I've been getting ideas for designing a small culinary herb garden — one that will be close to my kitchen.

Having said that, here are some ideas that you may want to consider if you would like to begin one at your home this growing season:

•Whether you have a large space or small, or just a patio, you can have an herb garden. (The “h” in herb is silent).

•Most culinary herbs like full sun and well drained soil.

•We've all heard for years that herbs will grow in any type of soil, and even though that is somewhat true, they will do much better if you prepare the soil bed by tilling in compost, some well-composted manure and soil lighteners, such as sphagnum peat moss. Finally, work in slow-release fertilizer according to label directions.

•You can start your herbs from seed or purchase plants. If you decide to start them from seed, they need to be started in February so they will be ready for the garden by mid-May. Some gardeners make arrangements with a local greenhouse to start the seeds if they are planning on having a large garden.

Design tips

Here are some creative ways to design an herb garden:

•Plant a wagon wheel garden. Lay the wagon wheel where you want the garden to be.

•Mark the area with spray paint or whatever way you choose, lift the wagon wheel and remove the sod.

•Amend the soil as I mentioned above, then lay the wagon wheel down on the prepped area and plant between the spokes.

•Do you have an old wooden ladder? Do the same thing we talked about with the wagon wheel.

•Create a raised bed of cement blocks, stones or landscape stone in whatever design you would like, add the soil mixture, making sure it is at least 12 inches deep, and plant.

•Old wooden barrels make great herb gardens for small spaces or patios. Just make sure it is in the sun and that the barrel has many drain holes in the bottom.

•If you have an old wheelbarrow you are thinking of tossing, drill drain holes in the bottom of the metal pan, paint the outside green and then paint large multicolored flowers here and there on the green background. Fill with soil to the brim, and plant your herbs. (That would also look great filled with wave petunias in a variety of colors.) If your landscape has shade trees and the direct sun moves, you can follow it so your plants receive the six to eight hours they will need each day.

•A typical kitchen herb garden will have one or two chive plants, three to six sweet basil plants, two rosemary plants, one lemon verbena plant, one sage plant, three Greek oregano plants, three sweet marjoram plants, six Italian parsley plants, three French tarragon plants and three thyme plants. They might also contain two or three dill plants and one or two mint plants. (Mints should always be planted in containers, as they are very invasive. Pots of mint can be sunk in the ground, which will stop their spread.)

•Always read seed labels for plant height and width, then plant so larger plants will not shade smaller ones.

Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at This column is the writer’s opinion.