Designing your own herb garden for everyday use can be an excellent and very fulfilling way of enhancing your culinary skills, improving your health and adding a fragrant and interesting dimension to your country garden. Try to place your herb garden near to the kitchen door or in an easy access all weather area. Select a site which is as sunny as possible with well drained light soil as many of today’s herbs originated in hot Mediterranean countries and don’t enjoy sitting with their roots in heavy, sour and waterlogged soil.

Don’t worry if your garden is tiny or an odd shape, you can still grow a great selection of both culinary and aromatic herbs in the most unlikely places. Herbs are easy going plants that can be grown in a number of unusual ways. One of the most practical, especially for cottage gardens, is to use a variety of containers which can be almost anything.

You can grow them in interesting pots or even unusual items that may range from an old tin pail to a weathered stone trough. Popular herbs for the garden are Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley, Dill, Tarragon, Coriander, Oregano, Chives, Mint, Sage and Lavender. So long as they have adequate drainage herbs may be grown in almost any container, provided they are kept well watered during hot dry spells of weather.

Since they are portable items, containers make it easy to group your herb plants together accordingly to texture, leaf size, height, colour and how rampantly they grow. Container grown herbs may be moved around the garden and into a convenient place near to the kitchen door so that they are available and ready to use when you need them.

Most herbs will thrive in containers that are about 15cm deep but be aware that some of the larger herbs such as fennel and bay trees grow best in large containers such as a large pots or half barrels.

Window boxes placed on sunny window-sills are another good alternative for small cottages without much outdoor space, especially for upright and prostrate herbs. It is easier to grow the herbs in pots first then fill the window box with gravel burying the pots up to the rim, this will make maintenance and watering easier. Terracotta pots are attractive and look more natural but need frequent watering, as they tend to dry out.

The traditional formal knot garden, edged with box, rosemary, lavender or thyme, is very historical and indeed also looks amazing. Do remember though that a knot garden can be expensive and time consuming to plant and is far more difficult than other planting schemes to maintain as you must keep the herbs looking pristine.

Also the edging needs trimming at least twice a year so that it looks tidy and doesn’t compete with the herbs for light. This said however, once a knot garden matures is a great feature for any garden, especially the the larger country garden or estate.

An easy way to plant, tend and to gather herbs is by growing them in a raised bed, especially if your garden has a heavy clay soil. Raised beds are an ideal solution to give you well-drained fertile soil, therefore ideal for herbs from a Mediterranean climate such as thyme, oregano, sage & rosemary.

To make a raised herb bed choose from bricks, natural rocks, wood, bamboo or even railway sleepers (make sure they are not so new that they ooze creosote) just so long as they enhance your garden. Wooden raised beds are easier to install than brick and can make an attractive feature. If you decide to paint the wood, to make it look more stylish, do be certain to use a water based paint or stain so that it will not harm your precious herbs.

Construct your herb bed so that the north facing side is slightly higher than the south facing side, this way the surface of the soil will slope towards the sun and absorb more warmth during the day. Once you have completed the planting your raised herb bed try covering the surface with pea-gravel to help water retention & reduce weeding; it will also look very smart.

You can gain enormous satisfaction by raising your own herbs from cuttings, division, layering and seed or you can purchase very small plants quite easily, either from a garden centre or from a specialist herb grower. Bear in mind that even if you only have a very basic herb garden it is still much nicer to use your own freshly picked home-grown herbs, rather than the little packets of herbs from the supermarket.