Creating an Herb Garden: Hot, Dry & Sunny Locations

February 12th, 2013 posted by Brenda Hyde

by Brenda Hyde

This herb garden can be located in a small or large area as long as it’s in full sun and the soil is extremely well-drained to the point of being dry. It shouldn’t be amended with any compost or organic matter. If the soil seems too heavy it’s good to mix in sand and peat before planting. Pick out any large rocks–small gravel sized rocks are fine. Stand back and look over the plot to see if it’s level. You don’t want any dips where water will collect. It should be fairly even. I surrounded my 10×10 foot bed with medium sized rocks as a border, but bricks would work well too. You can also leave it without a border and that works fine too.


The next step is deciding what to put in the bed. Not all herbs need this kind of soil. It took me years of experimenting to figure out what herbs do best grouped together. I think it’s easiest to choose the ones with the same needs. The list of herbs below is easy to grow, harvest and use. They are the ones an herb garden should never be without. Each of these herbs can be started from seed. However, if you find a good sale, the plants are inexpensive, especially when you buy small pots. Remember—they aren’t small for very long so give them the space they need right from the start! // Sage: No fancy sage in this bed–buy your standard garden sage –plant it in the back of the bed. It’s one of the first to grow new leaves in the spring and the last to die off in the late fall or early winter. Each spring cut off any dead wood, and trim it. Don’t worry, it grows back quickly!


Place in the back of the border. There are many types available, but I grow Old English, L. angustifolia, which is very hardy for me in the Midwest. It spreads up and out, so give it room.


This is a low growing herb, so place it in the front. It is fairly slow growing compared to the others, but will also spread. There is a variegated thyme, which I found did not have the flavor of the standard thyme. Lemon thyme is also nice and one of each is ideal.


Not as tall as the sage or lavender, but it spreads. Place it in the middle or sides–depending on how you have the bed arranged. The best tip I can give for oregano is NEVER let the flowers stay on the plant after blooming. Harvest them for vinegar, cut flowers, dried flowers etc., but if you leave them on to form seeds they will reseed ALL over your garden. Harvest it as needed, trim it back–oregano is hardy and tough!


Everyone loves chives. They grow best in full sun and will adapt to different soils. I plant them among the herbs I’ve mentioned above, where I want to fill in. The flowers are the first to bloom in the spring and are wonderful in salads.


I’m including nasturtium here because a couple of years ago I made a little raised 12×12 inch space in the middle of a small herb bed with bricks. I stacked the bricks three rows up, and then I put in soil that had compost, peat and soil mixed together. In the spring I sowed seeds of the variegated Alaska nasturtiums. They were wonderful! They grew and trailed over the edges of the bricks and gave color to the bed. I would pick the blooms for salads and vinegars. You can also place them in pots and put them in various places.


The herbs I’ve featured can be planted in a 10-12 foot square. They can also be planted in a longer and thinner bed that is against a house, garage or other building. The key is the dry and sunny location. If you are lucky and have more room, then plant two of each plant listed instead of one!


Prepare the soil as mentioned, plant the herbs, water well after planting and don’t fuss. Mulch isn’t necessary, neither is fertilizer. If you have fish tanks you can give the water you take out after cleaning the tanks to the herbs—water below the foliage. This is a no-fuss herb bed—it wants to be left alone. The nasturtiums will need to be watered regularly, especially if they are in pots. If you are use to growing flowers it will be hard at first. You’ll want to fuss over the herbs, but the only thing you really need to do is harvest them on a regular basis. The first year take it easy, and snip evenly on the plant. Give them a chance to get settled. FRUGAL TIP: Look for bargain herbs at the local garden centers. If they are leggy and over grown, trim them and plant as usual. I usually don’t buy annual herbs as plants, but any perennial herbs should come back just fine. I’ve found herbs at places like Home Depot for great prices, but you need to get there as soon as they are in stock and buy quickly. They are in little pots and dry out fairly fast, at which point the quality goes downhill.

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