The beauty of gardening with herbs is that they don’t need a garden all of their own. They don’t even need a section of garden to themselves. In fact, they don’t need a garden at all—you can grow them in the house!

However, when it comes to designing an herb garden, there are some points you will need to bear in mind before you start.

The most important design decision is where you’re going to site your herb garden. Herbs need sun, and it needs to be at least four hours of good sun a day, but preferably six.

parsley plant enjoying some sunshine

So you need to pay close attention to where the sun rises and sets, and what shadows are cast over the spot you’re half intending to use. A good herb garden design will also make sure that the drainage of the soil is good.

Herbs just cannot cope with being waterlogged. One way to help this problem is to build a raised bed or buy one. This allows good drainage and means you can construct the soil to how it needs to bed.

For example, our soil is composed of rather heavy clay, but we have mixed in plenty of gritty sand and fiber, and things are looking pretty lovely now. Raised garden beds also make weeding so much less unpleasant!

The preparation of herbs is generally done in the house, so a spot fairly close to the kitchen would be a good idea if available. This also makes it more likely that you’ll make the effort to just nip out the back door and snip off a bit of this or that.

If you have to put your boots on and trek up the garden, round the bikes and rabbit runs, you’ll soon get fed up with it.

Of course, it maybe that the design of your herb garden is intended to cope with the growing, harvesting and drying of large amounts of herbs, and therefore you will have them to hand in the kitchen already, so visits to the garden aren’t relevant during cooking.

Whether your herb garden design involves herbs in garden pots or having them planted straight in the ground, some herbs are a little rampant and will need to be kept in check.

One option here is to plant the herbs in the pots, in the ground. This will help contain any roots and runners from spreading.

Formal herb garden design takes some work, that’s for sure, but the results if you can cope with both the initial and maintenance work, speak for themselves.

Formal herb gardens generally take some form of geometric shape; such as a circle, wheel, semi-circle or squares and the sections are usually separated and linked by some kind of hard landscaping pathways or borders, or even neat little clipped hedging.

Like in other areas of the garden, herb garden design looks more accomplished if it follows some kind of theme. This is easily done with herbs, by making use of the different colors or textures of leaves.

Equally, having a series of garden pots all planted up in front of a south facing wall looks simple, stunning and planned. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Use of herbs generally comes down to four main categories-

  • Fragrance
  • Culinary
  • Medicinal
  • Cosmetic
  • That’s four more themes!

There is usually a central focal point such as a sundial, seating area, fountain etc. which serves to pull it all together.

This structured herb garden design also helps detract the eye from spells during the seasons when the herbs are not their best.

The underlying hard structure remains constant and looks good even during the winter when covered by frost or snow. How large you make your herb garden design comes basically down to how much you want to grow.

If you plan to make potpourri, for example, you will need quite a large area. If you want to just have a few bits and pieces for the kitchen, they can be incorporated into the flower beds you already have.

Growing herbs in garden pots has always been popular and is one of many good ideas for small gardens. Some herbs are annuals, in that they will only last one season. Others are perennial and will return year after year.

several herbs grown in a medium-sized pot

Some gardeners will have these two different types in different sections. It is however possible to make use of the longer lifespan of the perennials, and use them as a backdrop to the annuals which will change on a yearly basis.

For beginners to herb garden design, it may be a good idea to limit the number of different herbs grown to perhaps less than ten. Once you’ve completed the first season, you can filter out the ones that didn’t do well, or didn’t get used and try some different ones.

Growing Herbs in the House

Growing herbs indoors does sound easy, but it’s not quite as simple as maintaining a spider plant from the summer fete.

Herbs do need the sun and plenty of it, and although your kitchen might seem bright and airy enough, the actual sun it receives might not be anywhere near enough for the plant to thrive.

As stated earlier, herbs do need well drained soil to live, but they don’t cope all that well with the central heating on full!

It’s also worth noting that the little rows of pots we see lined up in magazine photo shoots look all very nice on glossy paper, but they really need a 12” garden pot at least to live and grow properly.

Sure, it’s possible to move the herb garden pots around to catch the sun, but are you that dedicated? It’s not impossible to grow herbs well indoors, but these points do need to be considered.

a few herbs grown indoors

So, there you are—a few pointers and tips to help you in your herb garden design endeavor.  Certainly not a comprehensive or in-depth covering of the subject, but some points to consider when you’re putting you plans together.