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Herb garden

phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
Hello and thank you for reading this message.

Can you help with this?

We have recently moved into a home on the Surrey / West Sussex border. At the front of the house there is a flower bed with dimensions 2.6 metres side to side and 2.0 metres front to back. The front of the house faces north west. On the north east side of the flower bed there is a wall forming part of a garage. There is a neighbouring house to the south west. The next house to the south west is 35 metres away. So I think the flower bed will get a little sunshine late in the day, maybe only during the summer months.

It would be nice to have a herb garden. This flower bed seems good for it because of its limits I think for other potential.

Having listened on the radio to Gardeners' World, establishing a new herb garden is likely to be more involved than starting off as the flower bed is now and sticking plants in the ground. How should this herb garden be created and which herbs will be suitable?

The considerations that have come to mind so far are:

1) Ground level bed, or raised beds (and if raised then appropriate dimensions)
2) Preparation of the existing soil if ground level bed, or which soil for new raised beds.
3) Which herbs to plant
4) When to plant these herbs
5) Slug prevention
6) Cat prevention. According to our neighbour, the cats in the area dig and do stuff!

Thank you again for reading. Any help much appreciated.

Posts

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 2,839

    Mediterranean-type herbs like baking sun and gritty well-drained soil so your bed might be too shady for them to do well.   Softer things like parley and coriander might do OK. 

    It might be better to look at shade-loving plants, possibly with some spring bulbs for seasonal colour (but not tulips - they like to bake).

    Whatever you plant, plan for it to spread and cover the ground, and/or think about using a mulch of pebbles/slate - cultivated bare soil or fine gravel will attract cats (from their viewpoint it looks like a giant litter tray). 

  • phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
    Thank you for your reply Jenny.
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 15,115

    Most herbs, as Jenny said, like sun. You could mix shade loving perennials with herbs, such as parsley, coriander, chives and tarragon. Don't plant mint as it would take over, too vigorous.

    If your soil is heavy then dig in some compost. You could mulch with largish bark chippings or slate.

    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
    Thank you for your ideas Busy-Lizzie
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,987
    edited January 2019
    sweet cicely is happy in shade. Or there is this list https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/shade-loving-herbs-to-grow/ although I agree with Busy-Lizzie about mint. I grow it in big pots. Some of those - dill and lovage - will give you height but there's not much there for winter structure, so a mixture of herbs with some other winter evergreens - sarcococca perhaps, would be lovely by your front door - a waft of winter fragrance as you go by.

    The shade lovers generally don't need as free draining soil as the Mediterranean herbs and most aren't fussy about soil pH.
    I would probably go for a 'ground level' bed as the plants don't really need a raised bed and it's quite a lot of work and expense to go to unless you want it raised for some other reason - if the area is prone to flooding, or if you want to have the herbs up at seating level, for example. Raised beds don't impede cats. A water scarecrow might but it will also impede your postman and anyone else coming to your front door, so not practical.
    If you do go for raised beds, you'll need to import topsoil to fill it (unless you have some you're digging out elsewhere). You can't fill it with bags of multipurpose compost from the garden centre.
    If the bed is next to the house wall, you can't build a raised bed against the wall - so overall, you do need a strong reason to take on a raised bed.

    “This isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in the oncoming traffic.”
    ― Terry Pratchett
  • phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
    Dear raisingirl, 

    Thank you for your reply. That's great, thank you.

    For cat protection I was thinking of covering the area in a box of netting. Canes at each corner, side netting and possibly top netting.

    About sarcococca, there seem to be a few varieties. Which ones are you thinking of? If this plant is near the door then it may cast shadow over the bed which would eliminate the little sunshine that the bed may get. Is there a variety that grows well at a low height?

    Thanks again for your reply.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,798
    Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage need full sun as stated above.  I would add chervil to a shady bed - lovely mild aniseedy taste.  Sweet cicely is lovely but in my last garden was always keen to make a world takeover bid - shaded bed, moist, fertile soil.   Basil could probably cope with partial sun as long as it had moisture but wasn't wet.   Worth a try.   Something else to consider are alpine strawberries.  They did well on the north side of the house in my last garden so full sun only for a couple of weeks either side of the summer solstice.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
    Obelixx, thanks for the ideas.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,987
    phildig said:
    About sarcococca, there seem to be a few varieties. Which ones are you thinking of? If this plant is near the door then it may cast shadow over the bed which would eliminate the little sunshine that the bed may get. Is there a variety that grows well at a low height?
    I was thinking of ruscifolia or hookeriana - they seem to be quite well behaved. The fragrance is quite strong though, so even if you put it furthest from the door, you'd still smell it.

    Sweet cicely self seeds in my garden - it doesn't everywhere in the UK, it needs cold winters to germinate. I dig up the seedlings (it's a very distinctive leaf, so easy to spot when it's small) and pass it on to friends, neighbours, local plant sales, innocent passersby. I use it as a culinary herb and also OH chews the green seeds when he feels in need of a liquorice 'hit', so I find it worth the small amount of trouble keeping it in check. It's not in mint's class for thuggery but it is very deep rooted once established, so you can't take your eye off it for long.

    Most herbs grow better if you are using - i.e. cutting - them regularly (except marjoram which is worth growing just for the bees' sakes) so I'd advise you to only grow ones you actually like to eat.
    “This isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in the oncoming traffic.”
    ― Terry Pratchett
  • phildigphildig "New home with a lot of gardening to do!"Posts: 52
    Hello raisingirl,
    That's great, thank you. Yes, I'm going for a herb garden hopefully so that there's a fresh supply for cooking. Since it would be out the front of the house maybe if it gets going well I could offer the neighbours to help themselves to it.
    Thanks again.
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