Thursday, June 3, 2010

Creating an Herb Garden

The first project that I undertook at our new house was pulling out a patch of ivy and turning it into an herb garden.  Ivy is not one of my favorite plants.  A bed of ivy brings to mind spiders, snails, and rodents at the very least.  Likewise, removing ivy is not one of my favorite gardening chores.  I started removing it early in the year in order to have time enough for amending and planting before the year got too warm.  Good idea, right?  Right. Except if the soil you are pulling the ivy out of happens to be like clay, and the weather you are working in happens to be rainy.  So, with the help of my gardeners (who don't enjoy ripping ivy out of mud either) I got rid of the ivy...and the old stump it was covering up.

With all the ivy out, I set about the arduous task of removing roots from clay, and trying not to look at all the poor worms I chopped in half with my shovel.  I had been planning on planting a small fruit tree in the center of the space to anchor it, but as I started digging up roots I realized that 12"-18" beneath the dirt was concrete.  So plan B was to find something else with some height but without the root system of a tree:  enter the artichoke.  After adding a few bags of compost to the soil, I tired out and gave up.  On with the hardscaping: a simple round raised bed (put together with extra cement pieces and bricks and filled with potting soil) and some slate tiles for stepping stones.

Meanwhile, I started some sunflowers from seed.  I've always had a horrible time with spacing seeds far enough apart, and an even worse time at thinning [killing] some of the precious baby plants, so all of these got replanted eventually, and I now have a small sunflower forest in my herb garden.

I happened to find a blueberry bush at my garden center and snatched it up without even thinking about the poor thing's needs.  I assumed that if it was being sold near me, it'd be suited to my weather.  That, I'm afraid, will remain to be seen after a few seasons pass, but as of now it is doing quite well.  The leaves have some beautiful coloring.  I ending up sinking a pot into the ground and filling it with it's own specialized blend of soil. From what I've read, this pot should be sufficient for it's root system even when mature.  And (SHHH!) I've already eaten a blueberry. DON'T TELL MY KIDS!

The herb garden is now basically complete.  Apart from the artichoke, blueberries and sunflowers, we also have cilantro, boxwood basil, cinnamon basil, chives, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, tarragon, sage, pineapple sage, and oregano (regular sweet basil is back in the garden) in addition to 3 types of lavendar, and some marigolds, cosmos and snapdragons filling in some extra space for now.

Here's a view from the other side:

I do still need to do some weeding and mulching, but everything seems to be pretty happy right now.  The artichoke has grown like gangbusters, even with the grasshoppers and snails ganging up on it.  Today, actually, I uncovered an amazing treat, a baby artichoke!


  1. Wow...what a fantastic garden! It is very pretty....I had some pumpkin plants that after I thinned (aka killed) the weakest, the strong ones I left were lonely and died themselves about a week later. Terrible! And what a lovely artichoke! How exciting! Will annual herbs like Basil keep growing down there all season?

  2. Annuals typically grow for quite a while here, although at some point they get to looking stringy and weird. As far as basil in particular...I'll have to wait and see. Last year I killed it on accident.