Choosing the best herbs for your space
Herbs are renowned for how easy they are to grow and maintain. However, while many herbs are similar in their likes and dislikes (sunlight, positioning, etc.) there can be slight differences that can make quite a big difference.
Looking at how the sun travels across your space is key to working out what you can plant and where. For most herbs, direct sunlight for a half or full day is preferred, however some can still do well in shady spots. These herbs are chives, coriander, lemon balm, mint and parsley.
When mapping out what goes where in your herb garden, put these plants in the spots that receive less sun and watch them thrive!
Carol Skyring, a gardener from community garden organisation The Happy Hens, explains the importance of taking sun trajectory into account: “Most herbs like around 6 hours of sunlight per day. Be careful with the soft stem herbs as they may be scorched by direct sunlight that’s too hot - shield them by planting them in front of taller plants that will block the strong afternoon sun.”
Growing herbs in harmony
Carol Skyring explains that there are no herbs that can’t be planted next to each other. However, she gives great insight into the dangers of mint, by saying “Don’t plant anything in the mint family in the ground as they’ll take over and smother other plants - keep them in pots.”
Herbs are the perfect plant to grow in your garden as they do not damage any other plant variety (apart from the smothering nature of mint!), and they harmonise great in any design. Better yet, they bring pollinators when the season comes around, which is great for the preservation of Australian bee species and to keep your plants happy and healthy.
Utilising colour, texture and height
When designing your herb garden, the layout of each individual plant should be given some thought. When picking plants to go next to each other, it is important to think about:
Not only are you considering how it will look aesthetically, but each plant needs to be in reach for you to harvest and use.
For example, planting rosemary at the front of a garden bed with thyme sitting behind it is not ideal, as rosemary can grow up to 1.5m tall. Thyme is a compact and sometimes ground-covering plant, meaning it will be lost behind the height of a rosemary plant and may be forgotten.
When planting, take a look at each plant's height and plant tallest at the back descending to shortest in the front. If you have a circle pot or garden bed, plant tall herbs in the middle and have them descend outwards in height.
Colour and texture
To make your garden look cohesive, looking at the different colours and textures is a great way to bring everything together. Not only does colour draw in the eye, it also draws in the pollinators!
For colours, you might not group all the bright-green, soft-leaf herbs together. This is especially necessary for coriander and parsley, which tend to look very similar.
This is also prevalent when considering texture- placing thyme and oregano next to each might mean your garden looks flat or lacklustre.
Bright-green herb varieties:
Dark green herbs:
- Lemon thyme
Formal herb garden layout design
Whether it’s in raised garden beds or straight in the soil, this design concept is perfect for those that want their herbs to be the centre of attention. Take a look at the layout below for inspiration of what a more traditional herb garden can look like.
Middle plant: bay leaf tree
- Chives or garlic
- Mint (preferably kept in a pot or contained area)
When creating a formal herb garden, don’t forget to consider colour, texture and height.
As shown in this layout, each section of the garden is scaled by height; the rosemary plants are situated toward the back or middle of the garden bed (depending on whether the sections are able to be reached on both sides).
As Skyring recommends, “If space is not an issue, plant in a circle, square or rectangle that’s no more than 1.5 metres wide - this allows you to reach into the middle of the bed.”
The bay leaf tree is positioned in the middle of the circular garden bed to act as a beautiful focal point.
Smaller plants line the front of each section, and the coriander and parsley is completely separated. In terms of colour and texture, the rich-green herbs have been separated and dotted around the garden, while the more textured plants provide a great point of convergence to break up the greenery.
Smaller garden layout design
For gardens that don’t have the space for large garden beds or a more formal design, it may be best to consider utilising other areas for growing your herbs.
Using wall space or investing in planting pots are a great option for small backyards, and your herb growing will not be compromised in the slightest. Take a look at the design concepts below for inspiration!
A herb spiral looks great as a focal point for your garden, and is perfect for small areas that have lots of sunlight!
Carol Skyring recommends a herb spiral for smaller gardens that do not have enough space.
“A herb spiral works well. If you’re short on space you can build the spiral ‘up’ so that the centre of the spiral is higher than the base. This extends the amount of growing space you have on that spot. You can make a similar arrangement by placing a large pot on the ground & placing successively smaller pots on top of each other.”
This herb spiral has rosemary as its centre point. The mint is placed on the very end, preferably in a pot or contained space so it cannot grow over other plants.
Again, the taller herbs are placed in the middle of the pot, or to the back if the planting pot is up against a wall. The ground covering plants like thyme can drape over the edge of the pot to increase space for other herbs as well.
While you are more limited to positioning as it is a smaller surface area, pots are great to fill with herbs and make your garden, balcony or outdoor area look lush and full of greenery!