Great Herb Gardening: Growing a great herb garden

Growing a great herb garden can add healthy, natural eating habits as well as a wonderful outdoor activity to your life.

Add spice to your garden’s scenery. With a myriad of colors and textures, herbs are always good ornamental company for flowers and vegetables.

Among the most care-free plants, herbs just need a little attention to keep them growing vigorously and looking their best.

Give herbs a soil customized to their needs. Condition the soil with compost and manure before planting to give a solid foundation. A nonacidic soil rich in lime grows the best herbs. You can add lime or crushed shells as well as wood ash or small doses of bonemeal to boost alkalinity. For thin or poorly drained soils, use raised beds.

Herbs for shady northern exposures with moist soil and strong indirect light include cilantro, dill, fennel, mint and parsley. Shrubby aromatic perennial herbs like sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, winter savory and thyme demand sunlight. Basil, chives, horseradish, tarragon, sorrel and lovage need only a few hours of sun.

Decorative herbs mingle well in the moderately rich soil of a flower garden. Plant purple leaf basil, sages, chives, tarragon, lemon balm and mints to fill in the foreground. Invite tall, statuesque fennel and lovage to dance in the breeze alongside delphiniums, peonies, poppies and roses.

Herbs such as cilantro and sweet marjoram rely on rich, organic soil and plenty of moisture – conditions compatible with vegetable gardening. The right herb paired with vegetables can ward off pests or provide soil nutrients. Perfect partners include basil and tomatoes; summer savory and beans; garlic, leeks or onions and dill.