September 30, 2009

Planning The Herb Gardens

For awhile now, I've been working on a plan for my herb gardens. When we developed our master plan, I put them in the front yard, with a long term goal is no lawn! I know that I want the entire front yard to eventually be filled with culinary and medicinal herbs, dye plants, and probably some fruit and vegetables as well. Since the majority of these will be perennials, I need to plan it out well.

These photos give you an idea of the area I'm working with:

I have a good size front yard...
... to plant herbs and flowers in.The front yard measures roughly 46 by 108 feet. It's pretty good size, so obviously I'm going to have to plant in stages over the next several years. As I consider an overall plan, there are three elements that are key to my final design:

~ Privacy
~ Shade
~ Visibility

Privacy is a personal preference. We love sitting on our screened in front porch, but also like the privacy that the present bushes afford. These ones are kind of ugly however...

The zinnias can't hide the tall, scraggly bushes on the right.... so I want to replace them with something more aesthetic. The one keeper is the bush on the left, which is nandina. Bettina tells me it is a dye plant, so it will stay. I don't know what the tall scraggly looking things in the back are. Probably something intended to be kept trim and shaped. No matter, they are soon to be goners. My current thought is to transplant them (and a few other things) to along the property line of field #2 (see master plan for that.) In their place, I would like to transplant some of the azaleas that are hidden at the back of the house.

The zinnias in both beds ....

That's my studio on the right.....were basically for color this year. BTW, these are the beds I mulched with cardboard. Two and a half months later I can report that the cardboard did an excellent job; not only for keeping weeds out, but for keeping moisture in.

Since the house faces southwest, we need to shade it from the late afternoon summer sun. A deciduous tree would do that, plus allow for solar heating during winter. In addition, I'd like to leave the majority of the front yard sunny, to accommodate sun loving herbs and flowers. My plan at present is to plant a ginkgo biloba tree where this year's garden is (to the left of the driveway). I've been keeping a eye on the path of the sun this summer, and have a fairly good idea of where to plant it, in order to shade that side of the house. Eventually this year's garden will become a shade garden.

My studio (right hand windows in above photo) needs shade too, but I'm thinking of something smaller there, perhaps a dwarf peach tree? Another option would be a vine, but that would mean putting up a trellis or pergola. I'm less certain about that however, because another building project would not be very high on the "to do" list at this time!

Visibility is an issue when pulling out of the driveway. Because of the rises and dips in the terrain, it is difficult to see anything that might be in the road. This year, I discovered that my sunflowers and green beans hindered visibility somewhat, as they were planted closest to the road. I've realized that I need to keep low-growing plants toward the front of the yard, getting taller closer to the house.

So. After all that ruminating, how is my plan coming along? This is my current tentative one -

Phase 1 of my herb gardensClick to biggify
This is just a sketch, and not to scale, but it will give you an idea of what I'm hoping to accomplish next year. The green areas are in the plan to develop. Notes below:
  • A ginkgo tree (male cultivar, Autumn Gold) will be planted to the left of the driveway (not in the above sketch). Hopefully it will shade those windows and the porch without shading the rest of the front yard too much.
  • Azaleas (which can also be used for dyeing) will be transplanted from the back of the house, where they are currently hidden from view. Azaleas do well in shade, so shade from the ginkgo won't be a problem. They will provide privacy while sitting on the front porch, plus lovely spring color. Another bonus - we already have them!
  • Nandina tolerates partial shade, so it may be okay there too.
  • Bed #1- At this point I'm planning echinacea there as it can tolerate some shade. Possibly with yarrow, liatris, and/or coreopsis. These have medicinal and dye qualities.
  • Bed # 2 - Possibly hollyhock, dahlia, monarda, butterfly weed, though these may eventually need to be moved to a sunnier spot. Another option is a couple more azaleas.
  • Dwarf peach trees are possibilities to shade the windows of my studio. I had a dwarf peach when I lived in Texas, and it was more of a large shrub than a tree. Their height (8 - 10 feet) and spread (about the same) make them contenders for this job.
  • The walkway will be extended in from of bed #2 and then split curve into the front yard as well toward the back of the house. Currently all we have are large cement blocks going from the driveway to the front door, but plan to replace them with leftover bricks as pavers.
  • Bed #3 - culinary herbs and lavender, which like similar soil conditions. On the list are rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, and sage.
  • The Beauty Bushes (right edge of the yard) were planted as a privacy hedge long before we got here. They bloom most of the summer, smell wonderful, and attract bees. They are under a pecan tree, which shades this side of the yard in the morning. I need to keep this in mind as I develop my plan.
Of course, all of this is subject to change, but with cooler weather here, I can begin transplanting some of the bushes and prepare to plant new trees soon. Very exciting.

Planning The Herb Gardens photos and text copyright 

8 comments:

  1. It will be beautiful!

    You do a fabulous job of planning!

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  2. I like your plan! And fall is such a good time to get started, we just planted ten trees!

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  3. I like how you've got a plan of attack and are working on it. Here we don't know what to do and keep trying things. sigh as you can guess it's a big mess.

    right now I've got some unwanted vine stuff in the front garden that is creaping towards my front door...and roundup didn't kill it! I guess I have to go pull it out. sigh

    Your plans sound great. I just love how you found that place with so much already there for you. What a treasure!

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  4. I envy you your climate, Leigh...you'll be able to do so much more than we can here. Check out your county's Master Gardeners - they may have plant lists of known well-do-ers for your specific area. (I'm one here)
    I would keep in mind to keep your culinary herbs close to the door near the kitchen. When you're cooking, you don't want to have to trot all over creation for what you need. (Something I've noticed as I've gotten older...I like easy!)
    Also, you can incorporate "edibles" in other landscaping areas. Even annual garden plants can add interest when planted around amongst the perennials.
    A couple things I learned from the MG classes long ago:
    -plant in three's or odd numbers for best visualization;
    -it takes at least three times as much red plants to overcome yellows in the garden (something I have found to be true)
    -gardens "walk". Keep in mind that plants will not be where you plant them in a few years. (I thought this was stupid when I first heard it, but now have soapwort where I never wanted it - it "walked" there on its own.
    -microclimates mean everything. If a plant doesn't do well one place, try another
    -a glass of wine goes a long way in planning decisions ;)

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  5. Great plan! I bet you're enjoying the planning and getting your hands in all that good dirt. Houses and property are always an on going project.
    Have fun.

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  6. Thanks Cyndy. I can't say that the plan came easily, not that it won't change, but I'm excited about it.

    Julie, I love to plant trees! What kind did you plant?

    Renee, you just described my usual method of doing things. :) I'm hoping this time, to end with something that looks at least semi-logical. We have tons of vines too, and getting them out by the roots seems to be the best way to get rid of them. Of course, we have a big "yard" which is why we're getting goats for weed control!

    Kathy, I'm one step ahead of you with the master gardener lists. I picked them up at the county extension when I went in for my soil test kit. :)

    I would love to have a culinary garden by my back door, but there's no sun there. I'll just have to go out the front door to get that parsley! Sounds like you learned a lot of good stuff at the MG class. I may have to consider doing that sometime myself.

    Barb, aren't they though!

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  7. What a great post, great plan, and great property. I'm rather jealous!

    I'll keep following (I'll put you in my blogroll) because it seems like we're doing the same thing, only I have barely an acre... though still that Dream!

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  8. Wonderful article on planning the herb gardens.

    I found this website useful for Herb Gardening tips http://www.herbgardeningtoday.com. I think you guys will find it interesting too.

    Thanks,
    Leo - Home herb garden

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