Development and implementation
- Visit a nursery and find out if these herbs are available. Scratch out the ones that are not available, you can always add them at a later stage.
- If you are struggling to choose, make a list: Must have; Nice to have and Not necessary. Start with 5 – 10 herbs, max 15.
- Divide your herbs between annual and perennial and sort them by height.
- Draw a detailed plan of where each herb should go.
- Do some earthmoving if needed.
- Do the hardscaping. This is a term used by most landscape designers and simply means that you should add all the elements you want to make use of: wood, brick, concrete, paths, benches, fences etc.
- Amend and enhance the soil (see planting tips below).
- Purchase the herbs and plant them.
- Mulch. Water your herbs and help them settle.
- When preparing your site, remove weeds as they compete for nutrition, fork in organic matter such as compost and rake the ground so that the bed is level. No need to add large amounts of fertiliser or manure as that causes soft growth.
- Before you move the plants from their nursery pots into the ground, water these pots well as dry rootball is difficult to wet once your herb is planted in the ground.
- Nursery pots tend to cause the roots to become root bound because the pots are so small. Encourage new root growth by gently loosening the root ball before replanting the herb. Pinch out the tips of shrubby herbs to encourage bushy growth. Add fishmeal or bone meal to each planting hole.
- Place your herbs in their exact position (according to your plan) while keeping them in their original pots as it’s easier to move around this way. Space them according to their height and once you are happy, plant them out.
- Once your herb is planted, gently firm the soil around the plant to settle it.
- Some herbs like mint have the tendency to take over, plant them in sunken containers. Repot them yearly with fresh soil.
Caring for your herb garden
- Water your newly planted herbs often but once they are settled, they are naturally drought resistant. Watering and drainage goes hand in hand, rather water your plants too little than too much. After a good soaking, allow the water to drain and the soil to dry off. Water again when the first 2 – 3 cm of soil is dry.
- Mulch your herbs once a year by adding organic matter such as shredded bark.
- If you are planning on using your herbs on a regular basis, fertilizing plays a very important role. During the growing season (August to April in the Southern hemisphere), fertilize once a month. Once or twice during the winter months will be sufficient. Use a balanced fertilizer like 2:3:2 – always half the dosage given on the packaging. If your herbs get too much fertilizer, they will be more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
- Prune your herbs to encourage healthy growth. You should often remove dead flowers and leaves. If you are planning on using your herbs regularly, you don’t have to prune them as you will be doing this automatically.
- Herbs are not prone to pests but if you do have a problem with this, cut back the herbs or use an organic pesticide.
Harvesting your herbs
- Pick small quantities and try to handle them as little as possible.
- Use a sharp knife or scissors, do not break, bend or tear off the branches.
- Do not cut herbs at random, pinch or prune the plant at the same time to promote growth.
- Always harvest from healthy, clean plants.
Reference: SA Herb Academy