Saturday, August 21, 2010

Building A Herb Garden

Small seeds grow into bigger things. In the case of my herb garden, one seed of an idea has taken root, thrown out off-shoots and taken over completely.

All I planned to do was make another bed. The herb garden was looking neglected and all but the toughest herbs had shrivelled away in the heat of last summer, leaving just my stalwart rosemary and lavender bushes, as well as the scented geraniums that seem to thrive here whatever you do to them. Last year I ended up growing my basil and parsley in a pot, which is crazy seeing how much space we have here.

So this new bed was to be slightly raised, with lashings of compost and organic matter added to make a nice cushy home for the pickier herbs – basil, parsley, sage, oregano and so on. My sisters-in-law planned to give me some herbs for my birthday to re-stock the new bed. That was going to be all.

Then I thought of bricking the main path through the garden, basically just a sandy track worn by the dogs running through to chase cars, with some leftover bricks we had stacked in a corner.

That is when things took on their own momentum. Before I knew it, the whole family had taken the idea and run with it. Now one bed was nicely laid out the others needed to be raised to the same level. No point just bricking the one path, we’ll level all of them to be bricked. And what about the area beyond the bed.

We should lay out that at the same time, and round the rain-water tank… so we’d better make a proper retaining wall that side to build up the area around the olive trees, which is at a higher level than the main herb garden.

Our two farm-workers also joined in the enthusiastic makeover and have been working on the paths and beds all week making everything just so, asking me to decide things every step of the way, so my usual vague, see what happens, not quite ever finishing things off modus operandi has been thwarted. Now I have to live up to the garden, which is obviously planning to be finished and beautiful this year, rather than in some dim and distant future.

Seeing how things were taking shape so alarmingly quickly, I felt that I needed to put my own mark on the garden. The scarily straight and perfect motorway outline of the main path, so carefully worked out with string lines and levels, had to have something to slow it down, to keep the energy meandering among the herbs.

So I decided that I would lay the bricks for the path myself, in a herringbone pattern. And that is why I’ve stayed away from my blog for a couple of weeks. Last weekend I was putting in the time and putting in the bricks. Every day in the week while supper was cooking I’d nip out and put in a few more. This morning I reached the house end of the path. The only reason I’m here writing about it now is because the rain started bucketing down.

The only trouble is, our vision has expanded way beyond the leftover bricks in the corner. We’re going to have to go and order another shed-load of bricks to get all these paths paved and my weekends are sorted for the next month or so! But it’s going to look gorgeous. And once it is all planted up, I’ll have a medicine garden on my doorstep. There are already two tea tree plants waiting to go in and some buchu, as my sister in law couldn’t resist buying a few plants even before we got to my birthday.

So my next project is learning about herbs and their medicinal uses, courtesy of Margaret Roberts’ excellent books and hopefully a visit to the herb lady who lives on a farm quite near us.

I'll post some more photos when more paths are finished and the beds are planted up.


  1. What an amazing project! And what a lot of hard work. Congrats, Kit.

    (BTW, I first read the heading of this post as 'Bullying a Herb Garden', but I'm sure you won't do that.)

  2. Wow--that looks beautiful! You will have an incredible space when you're done.

  3. Thanks Charlotte and pilgrimchick.
    I'll try and be nice to the garden, Charlotte, I wouldn't want to be mean to the plants. After all I want them on my side to cure all known ailments and transform my cooking into culinary genius.

  4. god, i envy you sooo much! it looks amazing!
    nay advice on herbs and their medicinal use, don't hesitate to ask, i also have tons of books, of course and can recommend a few good blogs as well.

  5. Hey Kitten - what a gorgeous project! And here I thought I was hot stuff for putting in a brick patio... you're doing an entire landscape!

    Wicked cool. Can't wait for more "in progress" photos, and then the "all done" pics! I can almost smell the herbs in the sun by just looking at the pictures...

    WOOOT! Bravo!

  6. Thanks Johanna, I'll definely be happy to get any recommendations of good online resources for medicinal herbs.
    And Marcheline, thanks for the enthusiasm! Can't wait to plant out the herbs now, jsut waiting of rht eright moon phase, so it's lookign like this coming weekend will be planting day. I'll post more pics then!

  7. It looks beautiful! I've always wanted a herb garden. I love the photo of you holding the bricks. :)

  8. Hey Kit - enough basking in our enthusiasm... LET'S GET SOME UPDATE PICTURES POSTED, EH?????

    I'll never let the moss grow on your blog, trust that! 8-)


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!