Jekka's Small Culinary Herb Garden Designs

Jekka's Small Culinary Herb Garden Designs

Herbs are in vogue, which is wonderful news for the pollinators! As a result, we are frequently being asked for planting plans for small gardens or raised beds. Unfortunately, due to the size of our team this is not something we can provide for all enquiries. Therefore, we have written a series of blogs for the sustainable gardener to provide a good starting point. This blog focuses on the small herb garden, which would be ideal for a town house, allotment or area in the garden which you would like to grow some herbs.

Want to know more? Try Jekka’s Garden Design Master Class (sign up to our newsletter to be told when it is scheduled as it is very popular!)

Some additional Guides and Blogs that might also help are:

The first Guide is a general guide for growing herbs, the second lists her top 22 herbs for a culinary herb garden and the last is all about container growing.

We were also featured on Marcus Wareing’s BBC 2 series and you can read about his Jekka’s Herb Garden as well as see his garden plan in our blog here.

Basic Herb Garden Design Principals

Jekka always starts by trying to understand what you wish to use herbs for and encourages you to only grow what you will use in your kitchen. For example, there is no point in trying to grow Coriander if you cannot stand the taste! However, if you are a fan of Rocket Pesto, then maybe only one plant is not enough.

Secondly, you need to consider  the position of your plot and try to either reproduce the conditions and environment of the herb’s natural environment, which is typically Mediterranean, or plant for the conditions of the bed (check out Jekka’s blog on her top 10 herbs for sun, semi-shade, dry & damp conditions). For small gardens, if you have heavy soil, you should add some horticultural grit and compost to break up the ground and improve drainage.

Thirdly, you need to consider the maintenance of your garden, whether that is pruning your perennials, removing your annuals or harvesting seeds for the subsequent year. Therefore, having good access and space around your plants is preferable. We have various guides on maintaining your garden in early spring, late spring, summer and autumn & winter as well as Jekka’s pruning videos.

Fourthly, you need to think about watering and feeding your garden. In the growing season we recommend feeding on Friday. F for Feed and F for Friday. For the busy gardener, you might wish to consider installing leaky hoses on a timer. For feed, we recommend Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed.

Finally, you do not need to do everything all at once as sometimes it is better to slowly build out your herb garden to see what works and what doesn’t. This allows you to also budget your garden.

Jekka’s top tip is to check out your neighbour’s garden and see what is growing there and what you like.

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show Exhibit,
for which we received our second Tudor Award in 2008

Designing your herb garden

If you are new to garden design and do not already have an idea of how you wish to lay out your herb garden a good starting point is to divide your herbs into beds, arranged symmetrically around a central point. This follows the approach of traditional monastery gardens and how Jekka teaches on her Garden Design Master Class.

You can find the spread and height of the herbs in Jekkapedia, our online encyclopaedia of herbs, or in Jekka’s Pocketful of Herbs. As a rough guide, a spacing of 30-45 cm between plants is a good estimate and will allow you to work out quantities.

For a new herb garden, a good starting point would be to put a feature plant, such as an upright Rosemary in the centre and then surround it by a tall flowering plant, such as Chives (both garlic and normal). Then you can plant Creeping/Upright Thymes or Oreganos along the borders and Sages or Prostrate Rosemary's in the corners.

We recommend not over planting to start and allowing your herbs to naturally grow and fill the space. Only then fill in the gaps with additional herbs.

Jekka's RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden, 2016

Jekka’s top herbs for a small culinary herb garden

Large feature plants for the centre of the bed or at the back of the bed for height (make sure you check the height and spread before planting):

  1. Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
  2. Bay (Laurus nobilis)
  3. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
  5. Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
  6. Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora)
  7. Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
  8. Szechuan Pepper (Zanthoxylum simulans) - Read Jekka's blog all about Szechuan Pepper.

Must-have salad herbs:

  1. Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
  2. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  3. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  4. Basil (Ocimum)
  5. French Parsley (Petroselinum crispum French)
  6. Dill (Anethum graveolens) (however, beware, it grows tall)

Clumping, spreading or border culinary herbs:

  1. Buckler-leaf Sorrel (Rumex scutatus)
  2. Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum 'Greek')
  3. French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
  4. Jekka's Thyme (Thymus 'Jekka's)
  5. Lemon Thyme (Thymus 'Culinary Lemon')
  6. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  7. Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
  8. Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
  9. Winter Savory (Satureja montana)

Mints that need to be grown in a pot, which can be sunk in the garden, 5 of our favourites are:

  1. Basil Mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Basil')
  2. Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita f.citrata 'Chocolate')
  3. Mojito Mint (Mentha suaveolens var. crispa 'Mojito')
  4. Moroccan Mint (Mentha spicata var. crispa 'Moroccan')
  5. Swiss Mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Swiss Ricola’)

Check out Jekka's Guide to Mint for all the varieties available.

We grow over 400 different medicinal and culinary herbs, the above list is therefore not an exhaustive list but a good start. Check out Jekkapedia for some more ideas or Jekka’s looking good list to see what is currently available.

A private herb kitchen garden designed by Jekka

Jekka’s herb garden planting plans

As a good starting point Jekka has designed two small beds, which can be followed exactly, shrunk, expanded or joined together to fill your space. What you actually grow will be dependent on your situation.

Jekka’s Square Culinary Herb Garden

Jekka’s square culinary herb garden is ideal as a standalone central feature of a garden, a bed just outside the kitchen door or as a perfect transformation of a forgotten corner.

This garden is formed around the Rolls-Royce of herbs, Lemon Verbena, which is wonderful for making a lovely, refreshing tisane. Chives line the two sides, both garlic with its white flowers and standard, with purple flowers. The other sides have two flavoursome, must-have, cooking Thymes of Lemon Thyme and Broad-Leaved Thyme. Other culinary must-haves are French Tarragon for chicken and vinegars, Sage for stuffings and pasta sauces and Bronze Fennel for salads and the seeds for breads.

Jekka’s square culinary herb garden is a feast for the senses and contains:

  1. Broad Leaved Thyme (Thymus pulegioides)
  2. Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum')
  3. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  4. Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)
  5. Golden Oregano (Origanum vulgare 'Aureum')
  6. French Parsley (Petroselinum crispum French)
  7. French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
  8. Lemon Thyme (Thymus 'Culinary Lemon')
  9. Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora)
  10. Oregano Hot & Spicy (Origanum 'Hot and Spicy’)
  11. Prostrate Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus (Prostratus Group))
  12. Sage (Salvia)

Jekka’s square culinary herb garden planting plan

Jekka’s Rectangle Culinary Herb Garden

This rectangular bed is the most popular shape that we get asked about. Whether on your allotment or as the border to your garden this little rectangle will not only provide you with a lot of flavour for your kitchen but will be wonderful for your pollinators.

The garden is designed around the magnificent bay tree (read Jekka’s blog all about Bay) which then cascades down to Rosemary Miss Jessops and is borded by Chives, Thymes and Oregano. The corners feature the compact and beautifully formed Lavender Miss Muffet which should be abuzz in summer. This can be replaced by a different Lavandula angustifolia if you prefer. Therefore, with the Borage, Chives, Marigolds and Lavender not only will you be happy but your bees will be as well.

The forms of the compact varieties of the Lavandula angustifola, compact oregano and thyme and upright habit of the Rosemary Miss Jessops should mean that, with pruning and maintenance, the garden will also keep its shape and be relatively tidy. However, herbs do have a mind of their own!

Jekka’s rectangle culinary herb garden contains:

  1. Bay (Laurus nobilis)
  2. Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum')
  3. Borage (Borago officinalis)
  4. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  5. Compact Oregano (Origanum vulgare 'Compactum')
  6. Compact Thyme (Thymus vulgaris 'Compactus')
  7. French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
  8. French Parsley (Petroselinum crispum French)
  9. Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)
  10. Lavender Miss Muffett (Lavandula angustifolia 'Miss Muffett')
  11. Lemon Thyme (Thymus 'Culinary Lemon')
  12. Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens')
  13. Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
  14. Rosemary Miss Jessops (Salvia rosmarinus 'Miss Jessopp's Upright')
  15. Winter Savory (Satureja montana)

Jekka’s rectangle culinary herb garden planting plan

Want to know more?

You can find more about herbs in Jekka’s blog and videos as well as Jekka's book 'A Pocketful of Herbs' or Jekka's Complete Herb Book, browsing Jekkapedia and exploring our herb based recipes.

Alternatively, come and visit the herb farm in South Gloucestershire at one of our Open Days, Master Classes or Herb Experiences (see our events calendar).

For 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.

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 (sales@jekkas.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.

Jekka's Herbetum