Herb gardens come in all shapes and sizes
What type of garden should you grow? There is no simple answer to that. LIke anything else in life, much will depend upon practical considerations. What gardening zone do you live in? How much gardening experience do you have? Are there any zoning regulations or bylaws or subdivision covenents that will affect where you can grow a garden? Are any herbs prohibited by your provincial or state agriculture department?

Then of course there are all the mundane bits that are easy to overlook when one is leafing through gardening magazines and books. Behind every appealing picture, there are hours of nitty, gritty work. Because planting is actually the easy part, it is really easy to overlook the simple fact that all garden chores take time and energy.

The best advice I can offer is to start small. Make one raised bed and tend it well. It is always more encouraging to build on success than to become overwhelmed with too much work, eh?

That being said, herb gardens can be generally classified in several different ways.

Culinary herb gardens.
For years, I have been growing my culinary herbs right in my vegetable garden. Garden designers call this sort of thing a kitchen garden and often locate them by the backdoor. In my yard, the full sun needed for success is down the hill from the house. In other words, being practical means being realiistic about the space you have to work with.

If I was ever going to grow a separate culinary herb garden, I would keep the perennial culinary herbs separate from the annual ones. How would I do that? I would plant the perennial herbs in beds along the outside perimeter. Here in Nova Scotia, that would include tall perennials like lovage and horseradish. I would put the mid sized ones, like fennel, moss curled parsley and sage in the middle and I would use the shorter salad burnet and winter savoury in the front of the perennial bed.

What I would not do is plant oregano in there. Maybe in other yards the oregano is restrained and will politely stay in place, but in my yard my oregano vulgaris runs rampant. It makes a fantastic green mowing strip under the trees and shrubbery but I believe it would quickly overrun any garden where it was given any traction at all. Nor would I plant the perennial sorrel. Why? It is now known that sorrel has a high content of oxalic acid and should only be consumed in small quantities.. It does however make a nice even border plant and is one of the earliest to appear each spring.

Here in Nova Scotia, I would not try to include tender perennials like rosemary in a garden bed. Many gardeners here treat it as an annual and those who do keep it year after year do so in pots that are safely wintered over in a cool dry spot in the house. Cliantro is another perennial that is often treate as an annual, but it will not thrive in pots.

Annual culinary herbs hold a special place in my heart after all my years of cooking. In my garden they are planted with the vegetables. Does that make the vegetables taste better? I think so but I also believe they do double duty by camoflauging the scent of the vegetables to garden predators.

If you do wish a separate culinary garden, why not plant a nice raised bed in the middle of the perennial border. Helpful hint … leave two feet of space on all sdes so that you can bring in a wheelbarrow. Trust me on that, eh?

Here in Nova Scotia, the best picks are culinary annuals that do not require a long growing season as most culinary annuals are frost tender. Any variety of basil will do well. Dill and summer savoury are two other standby’s. Italian parsley is an annual that does well here. Chili peppers will do well if started early indoors. Tarragon is another tender perennial that is often grown as an annual here.

In any type of garden anywhere, I would always recommend growing a few annual flowers to encourage bees. Cosmos is not a herb, for example, but it is a tall showy plant that will flower from mid summer until the first hard froat and is a particular favourite of bees.

A few suggestions for herb garden plants

Culinary Herbs

Perennial: Lovage, Horseradish, Fennel, Salad Burnett,

Annual: Anise, all varieties of Basil, Italian Parsley, Borage, Chervil, Dill,

Biennial: Moss Curled Parsley

Medicinal Herbs

Perennial: Arnica, Horehound, Valerian, Vervain, Roman Chamomile, Sage,

Annual: Shepherd’s Purse,

Biennial: Clary

Tea Garden Herbs

Perennial::   Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Lavendar, Lemon Verbena

Annual:        Lemon Basil, German Chamomile, Calendula

Scented Garden Herbs

Perennial:      Scented Geraniums (TP),   Roses,  Lemon Balm, Thyme

Biennial:         Clary,

Annual           Lemon Basil, Anise,

Shade Garden Herbs 

Perennial:  Lady’s Mantle, Purple Dead Nettle, Lady’s Bedstraw,  Avens, Sweet Woodruff

Biennial:     Moss Curled Parsley

Dye Garden

Perennial:  Yellow Dock, Woad, Betony, Agrimony, Broom, Comfrey,

Annual:  Weld, Marigold,