19 Feb 2013
One of my goals since I moved in here has been a large culinary herb garden. I love cooking with fresh herbs and hate paying a premium for fresh herbs when I know how easy they are to grow or worse, paying for a large bag of fresh herbs when I only need a tablespoon. I had a small herb patch at the old apartment and found which herbs were easy to grow and which were unexpectedly difficult in our peculiar climate.
The design of the herb bed has been rather amorphous. It started as an herb spiral until I realized how unrealistic herb spirals are at a decent size, so it’s just been a patch of composting wood chips. I started planting in it despite a lack of clear vision, knowing that I’d probably have to dig all the plants up and move them at least once. No fear, herbs are tough and seeds are cheap.
The bed is roughly semi-circular, with the point of the angle dug down for a rain garden to take the water sheeting off the driveway during heavy rains. The challenge was the size- too large to reach into the middle without stepping on the soil. It needed stepping stones, or a path, or something. So I made desultory sketches in my garden notebook, lists of plants I wanted to grow, ignored the weeds, and let it simmer in the backbrain for a while. Then just a few days ago, I happened to take a picture of the herb bed from a certain angle, and I realized the shape of the bed and the orientation reflect the setting sun.
I started sketching immediately.
The next day I bribed my kids and some of their friends to start digging up bricks from the back patio. I hauled the bricks around in a wheelbarrow, used a rake to dig out the paths, and just laid the bricks directly in the trough. I didn’t worry about setting the bricks in anything, this is an experiment. The three paths took a couple hundred bricks.
Then I raked out the weeds in the new wedge-shaped beds between the brick paths, dumped some fine soil on top, and started planting seeds: thyme, oregano, marjoram, wild bergamot, echinacea, garlic chives, and lots of parsley. The fact that this bed was a pile of rough wood chips just a few months ago is a wonder. Then I covered the beds in plenty of loose straw and watered it all in well.
I can’t believe how pretty and functional this design turned out to be and I can’t wait for my seeds to start sprouting! Later in the spring I’ll replace the cilantro with culantro, the dill with epazote, and find a corner for a bay tree and maybe some sweet melissa. Any herbs I’m forgetting?