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Hi. I have a front piece of garden which is fairly sunny and I'd like to grow herbs for cooking in it. It had gravel on very compacted earth and is currently covered in grass. How do I prepare it for herbs please and what do I have to do to keep them alive? I'm an absolute beginner but keen to learn!



Most herbs like a rather dry light soil, ie one that's rather crumbly and doesn't stick together in lumps when its wet, and plenty of sun.

It will probably take quite a while to turn your present lawn into a bed like that so perhaps to begin with you could grow some in containers. Rosemary is quite happy growing in a pot. You could also try sage and mint, and in the summer you could also grow basil and coriander, which are grown as annuals anyway. You could even buy pots of these in the supermarket and transplant them into larger pots but they aren't very long lived. Keep them alive by watering - a good soak and then let it get almost dry before watering again - how often depends completely on the weather. too much water is as bad as not enough. Soft herbs like basil will need more water than woody ones like rosemary.

Then perhaps you might make a bed in the middle or along the sunniest edge of the lawn for starters. This will show you what the soil is actually like. Dig it to the depth of your spade if you can, breaking up any lumps and removing any large stones.. Add some good compost and if the ground seems heavy and lumpy you could also add some coarse sand or grit. Herbs usually do best in poor sandy soils. (Mint will grow anywhere...)

Hope this helps.

16 Feb, 2016


I agree with above. For now, just grow herbs in pots. They are too tender to get through the compacted clay. They also do very well in pots with quality growing medium. You can plant in succession.

While your potted herbs are growing, start preparing that bed for next year. It's back breaking work to break up all that clay and replace with soft rich soil. It also needs to drain well, so you may have to dig down 3 feet or so.

16 Feb, 2016


Hardy culinary herbs you can grow outdoors in the UK are Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Oregano (sometimes sold as marjoram), Fennel and the ubiquitous mint - BUT, and its a big but, I wouldn't recommend planting mint unless you create an area for it which is about 18 inches square by 18 inches deep, with a root rhizome barrier inserted all round to a depth of 18 inches. If you don't do this, you'll finish up with mint all over the garden...

All of the ones mentioned will grow quite well in ordinary garden soil provided the area is sunny, but if the soil is particularly heavy and claggy, probably best to add plenty of composted material and grit prior to planting. The fussiest one about soil is a lot of the varieties of Thyme - these often die out on heavy, wet soils over winter. Either way, if the soil is compacted, you'd need to remove any grass from the top, lifting it off in 'turves', then dig the area over thoroughly as preparation for planting, even if you don't need to emend the soil itself. If you've a corner somewhere out of sight, you can stack the 'turves' you've removed face down - after a couple of years, they'll make great compost to put back on the garden.You can start this preparation process any time the weather allows from now onwards, ready for planting, hopefully, mid to late spring.

If you decide to plant fennel for its leaves (as opposed to Florence fennel, grown for its bulbous root), a word of warning - choose the spot carefully, taking into account its eventual height and spread, because its next to impossible to dig up and transplant if you get it in the wrong spot... and Rosemary, of course, will finish up as a large shrub about 5 x 5 feet...

Once you've prepared the area, let it settle for at least a week prior to planting, and work out the best position for the plants you've got - you don't want taller herbs putting the low growing ones in shade most of the time. Bear in mind that, in winter, the chives and fennel will disappear below ground, and the sage, at the end of winter, will look like death warmed up - usually needs cutting back in April, as growth begins. After planting, water in well, and keep watered as necessary, particularly if the weather becomes warm and dry.

17 Feb, 2016


My suggestion of mint was when I was recommending herbs for pots... agree its a thug when let loose!

18 Feb, 2016


I have a wooded area near my house so I just let the mint do its own thing in there. It does like to ramble but not as bad as some others (spiderwort). It also tastes best that way. It's really good in tea and all sorts of dishes like stuffed cabbage and the air smells nice when you walk on it.

18 Feb, 2016


Im thinking...if you remove all the turves and find that theres still gravel underneath, then if you give it a really good dig to mix the gravel in to the clay it might be ok. Herbs generally like mediterranean conditions..poor soil and excellent drainage. You could also remove some soil and dig in heaps of grit. It depends how big the area is ..whether or not that would be practical. But thats what I did. Removed turf and dug in grit in to my clay soil and my herb garden is thriving. Agree about the mint. Variegated mint isnt quite as bad but it still needs a lot of controlling. Ever so pretty though! I've grown (in the past two seasons since I moved here) various thymes, marjoram, chives, parsley, sage, lavender, rosemary (grows fast but doesnt mind a prune) various edible viola flowers, pineapple mint, dill, fennel, tarragon (needs winter protection) lemon balm, and wild strawberries. Its one of my favoutite places to work in because of the amazing scents. Even last week when I tidied it I could still smell the thyme and mint. Enjoy!

27 Feb, 2016


Oh..forgot the Borage! Bees adore it and its essential for a decent Pimms cocktail! :) dead easy from seed too, and the white flowered is a bit of a novelty, but I adore those bright blue flowers that turn pink in your cocktail! Love herbs! :)

27 Feb, 2016

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