Last year the herb garden got a major overhaul. Our initial plantings made in 2008 were foundering due to poorly draining, heavy soil. You often hear that herbs prefer ‘poor’ soil, but I believe you have to put that in proper perspective. It’s true that most herbs don’t need a particularly rich soil. But many of the culinary herbs do in fact require soil that drains well, since they typically grow in sandy or rocky soils in their native areas.
Unfortunately, the soil near the house where we had situated our herb garden was anything but well drained. It appeared to be either subsoil, or else fill dirt that had been hauled in. Most of HA has a quick draining, silty soil, but this stuff was hard clay, with lots of rocks, bricks, concrete and other debris mixed in. When it rained, water just sat there. And the plants drowned. It was conveniently located however, right near the kitchen door, and we didn’t really want to move it. So a makeover seemed in order.
To fix things, the soil needed to be amended. So I worked in quite a bit of sand and gravel, plus some peat moss. In general, adding sand to soil doesn’t make a lot of sense. It takes a huge amount of sand to make a difference. But this was a relatively small area to be improved – small enough that a dozen bags of sand and gravel could actually make a difference.
We situated the plants that didn’t like to have their roots wet in the ‘improved’ area. This was the place to put the oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary plants. And then we topped this area with a layer of pea gravel for mulch, just like we do for our lavender plants. The tall bronze and green fennels went near the deck, where they wouldn’t shade the other plants. And the two rosemary plants went in a corner near the house, where they were protected from cold winter winds.
A year later, the plants are thriving. No doubt the mild winter we had helped. There are two tender oregano plants that I dug up and overwintered in the greenhouse, but all the other plants made it through the winter, including the Tuscan Blue rosemary which is not always hardy here.
There’s one herb you won’t see in this garden area, and that’s mint. We have a lot of different mints here, but they’re all growing in containers. Most mints spread like crazy, and containers help keep them from taking over the place. And I learned that the hard way.
Hopefully, this herb garden will continue to keep us supplied with fresh and dried herbs for many years to come. And that’s a makeover that was worth the effort!