At Jekka’s we strongly believe everyone deserves a herb garden as they not only bring flavour and colour into your life but are a wonderful source of health & wellbeing. This is even more important in an urban setting that are typically more crowded, polluted and noisy than in a rural areas. Even in these places, you can create an oasis of greenery and serenity. Jekka’s were recently commissioned to create an Urban Car Park Herb Garden for a block of flats. We converted previously unloved raised beds into useful herb gardens. This innovative concept combines urban convenience with the timeless allure of herb cultivation, offering city dwellers a chance to reconnect with nature and savour the delights of fresh herbs in an unlikely setting.
The Concrete Canvas: Transforming Car Parks
Car parks are a ubiquitous feature of urban landscapes, often overlooked as mere functional spaces. However, the Urban Car Park Herb Garden challenges this perception, utilising the potential of these areas to create lush and vibrant herb gardens. By creatively repurposing these spaces, communities can transform cold, unloved areas into thriving ecosystems, enhancing the urban environment while promoting sustainable practices.
The 5 top benefits of an Urban Car Park Herb Garden
- Green Space Amidst Concrete and Stone: The presence of greenery in the midst of concrete and stone can significantly improve the aesthetics of an urban area. Herb gardens bring color, texture, and life to car parks, fostering a sense of rejuvenation and providing a respite from the monotonous urban scenery.
- Herbs at Your Fingertips: Imagine being able to pluck fresh Oregano, Rosemary, or Mint just steps away from your flat. An Urban Car Park Herb Garden not only beautifies the environment but also offers convenient access to fresh culinary and medicinal herbs, encouraging healthy living and fostering a stronger connection between people and their food.
- Air Quality and Biodiversity: Plants are nature's air purifiers, absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. Integrating a herb garden into a car park helps mitigate air pollution and contributes to an overall improvement in air quality. Additionally, such gardens can attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, promoting biodiversity in the heart of the city.
- Community Engagement: Herb gardens have a unique way of bringing people together. Residents, employees, and visitors can participate in the garden's maintenance and enjoy educational workshops on gardening, sustainability, and the use of herbs. This communal engagement strengthens social bonds and encourages a sense of shared responsibility for their urban environment.
- Sustainability and Urban Agriculture: Urban Car Park Herb Gardens align with the growing trend of urban agriculture and sustainability. By utilising under used spaces, cities can reduce their carbon footprint, promote locally grown produce, and inspire a shift towards a more self-sufficient and eco-friendly lifestyle. Read Jekka's guide to being a sustainable herb gardener.
Laying up and planting Jekka’s Urban Car Park Herb Garden
Jekka’s Urban Car Park Herb Garden
To help you start designing and planning an Urban Car Park Herb Garden, below are the designs and plants for the garden we recently created. The design of this garden took into account low maintenance evergreen herbs as well as a lot of easy to use edible herbs including those that make wonderful tisanes or herbal infusions.
Jekka’s Urban Car Park Herb Garden consists of three raised beds, in the center of which were the car park lights, and in between each bed are the parking bays.
For tips on planting your garden, see Jekka's 6 top steps to "Grow On" your herbs.
Jekka's Herbs in her Urban Car Park Herb Garden:
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a relatively common culinary herb, however the flavour is delicious when freshly picked. They should be added towards the end of the preparation of a meal so that the flavour does not disappear. Chives work well with eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish, and soups.
- Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum), like normal Chives, is a wonderful culinary herb but has a garlic taste and the white, star shaped flowers add a garlic hit that are wonderful scattered over salads or a roast potato.
- French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus French) is a must have culinary herb. Its flavour promotes appetite and complements so many dishes; such as chicken, veal, fish, stuffed tomatoes and, of course, it is the main ingredient in sauce bearnaise and the traditional ingredient of Fines Herbes.
- Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum') has attractive bronze foliage that sits in the centre of a bed due to its height and diffuses the harshness of the car park lights. It can be added as a seasoning for fatty meats like pork, and stuffings for poultry and lamb. It is also delicious as a salad or vegetable dressing.
- French Marjoram (Origanum 'French') has aromatic leaves that are green in winter and gold in summer. It is used for flavouring and is a staple herb of Italian cuisine.
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) has dense spikes of small dark blue flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators. Its flavour profile is a combination of Mint, Oregano and Thyme. Although we use it a lot in cooking, it is not widely used. You can add leaves to soups, stews and fatty food.
- Lavender Old English (Lavandula x intermedia Old English Group) has aromatic spikes of pale blue/purple flowers that are excellent for cutting and drying. As with a lot of Lavenders it is wonderful for attracting bees and pollinators to the garden.
Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum')
- Black Mitcham Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Black Mitcham') is a wonderful variety of peppermint. A classic infusion made from the leaves is still one of the best, not only for flavour but it also helps to stimulate the digestive process. Blend with a Spearmint, such as Tashkent, makes the most relaxing tisane. Read how in Jekka's recipe for perfect mint herbal infusion.
- Swiss Ricola Mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Swiss Ricola’) is another great peppermint for making herbal infusions or tisanes. Check out Jekka’s blog to see how.
- Tashkent Mint (Mentha spicata 'Tashkent') is one of our favourite spearmints that goes well with new potatoes and makes a wonderful mint sauce.
- Fota Blue Rosemary(Salvia rosmarinus 'Fota Blue') is a beautiful trailing Rosemary with striking dark blue flowers that will cascade down the side of a raise bed.
- Gorizia Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus ‘Gorizia') is an attractive upright rosemary with small light blue flowers. As with other Rosemarys, it combes well with meat, especially lamb, casseroles, tomato sauces, baked fish, rice, salads, egg dishes, apples, vinegars and oils.
- Green Ginger Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus ‘Green Ginger’) is an upright rosemary with short, dark green and ginger scented leaves. As a culinary herb it imparts a subtle ginger flavour; therefore, makes a wonderful tisane.
- Jekka’s Green Dragon Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus 'Jekka's Green Dragon') is an upright, arching Rosemary which forms an attractive dark green bush.
Rosemary Fota Blue (Salvia rosmarinus 'Fota Blue')
- Cotton Lavender Pretty Carol (Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Pretty Carol') is a hardy evergreen shrub that will add silver foliage through-out the year and has bright yellow pom-pom flowers for a bit of drama.
- Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens') is a hardy everygreen shrub and therefore, has its purple foliage all year round. Used with discretion, it adds a lovely flavour to meats, sauces, and vegetables and has long been used with sausages due to its preservative qualities.
- Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is one of the few soft leaved hardy evergreen perennials making it a wonderful addition to any herb bed. The leaves have a nutty flavour and a slight taste of cucumber. Can be used as a garnish to a Gin & Tonic!
- Compact Thyme (Thymus vulgaris 'Compactus') is a great form of Thyme making a tidy upright bush. It is one of the main ingredients of bouquet garni; it is also good in stocks, marinades and stews.
- Lemon Thyme (Thymus 'Culinary Lemon') is a staple for the kitchen, with its lemon scent and flavour that combines well with chicken and fish dishes.
- Winter Savory (Satureja montana) forms an evergreen bush that is covered in white flowers in the summer making it a haven for pollinators. The flavour is hot and peppery and compliments fish and poultry and is typically used with pulses and beans.
Maintenance of a Urban Car Park Herb Garden
Jekka’s top 3 main tips for maintaining a herb garden in raised beds are:
Water your herbs: In periods of high wind and temperatures, keep an eye on your raised beds (or containers) and ensure they do not dry out.It is best to water in the morning so the plants have the water when they need it throughout the day. Some days you might need to water more than once if it gets really warm. This is particularly important if this is the garden’s first summer and the plants are not yet fully established, so water regularly. Once established, many plants are tolerant of drought; however, keep an eye out on leafy plants, such as mint, parsley and comfrey, that all need water to flourish.
Jekka’s top watering tip: don’t water basil after midday, water Basil before lunch so he does not go to bed wet when the night temperature falls below 15C.
Feed your herbs: Ensure you feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser during the growing season, we use Maxicrop liquid seaweed. For the more established herbs in containers it might be beneficial to pot up into bigger pots or top dress with new compost. For new gardens, fresh compost typically has enough food for 6 weeks.
- Trim and/or cut back your perennial herbs: After they have flowered you should cut back your perennials to remove the dead flowers and to maintain their shape, especially plants in the Lamiaceae family, that includes both Lavender and Thyme (check out our Lavender blog on our website for more tips on how and when to prune Lavender). As soon as Mint starts to go over or get mildew cut back hard, this will promote a second flush of leaves that can be used until the first hard frosts. Other plants you might consider trimming or clipping are Box and Cotton Lavender.
For more advice on growing and maintaining herbs, check out ‘Jekka’s Seasonal Tips’ blog series, which includes what to do in your herb garden in early spring, late spring, summer and autumn & winter. Together they form the basis of Jekka’s guide on how to grow herbs.
The Urban Car Park Herb Garden is a testament to human ingenuity and the potential for transforming ordinary spaces into extraordinary urban sanctuaries. By embracing this innovative concept, cities can invigorate their landscapes, foster a sense of community, and promote sustainable living practices. As urbanisation continues to reshape our world, the herb garden offers a beacon of hope – a reminder that nature's beauty and bounty can thrive even amidst the concrete and chaos of city life.
Want to know more?
Jekka’s has a wealth of material on designing and planting culinary herb gardens. Some additional Guides and Blogs that might also help are:
- Jekka’s Guide on How to Grow Herbs
- Jekka's Guide to being a Sustainable Herb Gardener
- Jekka’ Tips to Planting a Culinary Herb Garden
- Jekka’s Advice on Growing Herbs in Containers
- Marcus Wareing's Herb Kitchen Garden
- Jekka’s Riverstone culinary kitchen herb garden
Please also see Jekka's herbs of the month blogs: Bay (January), Rosemary (February), Salad Burnet (March), French Tarragon (April), Angelica (May), Alliums (June), Lavender (July), Basil (August), Mint (September), Szechuan Pepper (October), Thyme (November) and Curry Tree (December)
Herb plants are available and you can organise a collection from our herb farm in South Gloucestershire or at one of our Open Days. Please see our 'Looking Good List' for availability and use our webform or email your list directly to us (email@example.com). We no longer offer a general mail order service for our plants but we do offer an occasional limited selection of Jekka's Culinary Herb Boxes.