Climatic conditions

Climate types can be broadly broken down into tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean, temperate, semi-arid or cold.

Generally, planting is carried out in spring or autumn, with the determining factor being the timing of the first and last frosts.

Temperate locations with warm summers and cool winters can be divided further into "cool-temperate" climates, which are subject to frosts, and 'warm-temperate," which is frost-free. In tropical areas, the amount of rainfall and humidity can affect the suitability of some crops during particular months.

Microclimates

Within each climate zone are natural microclimates that create conditions outside the general climatic pattern, thus affecting the growth and suitability of plants. You can also deliberately create microclimates to provide more suitable conditions by planting windbreaks for shelter or building brick walls to retain heat and warmth.

So, if you live in a cold location, and you really want to grow a frost-tender plant, such as citrus, you can try creating the protective environment it needs.

If you're unsure whether you're making an appropriate choice, just wander around your neighborhood and look at what's thriving in other people's gardens. Also, seek the advice of a horticulturalist at your local nursery.

Use the vertical planes of your herb garden by installing pots of herbs on trellises.

Design tips

Before you start planting, always prepare new garden beds properly. Clear the area of weeds, rake il flat and improve the soil with organic matter (see page 150).

■ Make paths wide enough for a wheelbarrow or so that two people can comfortably walk side by side.

■ Experiment with plant placement. Sit rows of pots in position before planting, to ensure that the spacing is correct, the height is accurate and your color, form and texture choices work well.

■ Incorporate surfaces and structures into the new design — for example, paint fences, lattice, gates or walls to contrast with or complement the garden color scheme. These features can provide interesting backdrops to garden beds and enhance or tone down flowers and foliage.

Use the vertical planes of your herb garden by installing pots of herbs on trellises.

The principles of plant selection

What you can grow will be determined by the amount of space and available sunlight you have, soil considerations and, of course, personal preferences. Think about where your new herbs will be positioned - at the front of a garden bed as a border, as a hedging or screening plant, near the kitchen door for culinary use, as companion plants or space fillers?

So, make a list of the characteristics your plants need to deliver - for instance, you might need plants that 'prefer full sun and grow to a height of less than 3.5 ft. (1 m), preferably with flowers.' Once you know what you want a plant to do and look like, it's much easier to choose.

And think about specific areas of the garden. If there is a spot that seems to collect water after rainfall or watering, grow thirsty plants there to improve the drainage. Any area that is hard to access is easily neglected, so plant it with resilient herbs, such as Greek sage [Salvia frutieosa) or other survivors.

Planting ideas

Herbs are extremely versatile plants, suitable for a range of garden designs, from formal to cottage gardens.

• Set aside a dedicated area for growing herbs, or consider interspersing them with vegetables, flowering perennials and annuals and shrubs.

Grow herbs in containers, using them to create focal points or accents. For more impact, choose large containers, rather than small ones Isee page 167}.

• Think about color combinations throughout the year. For example, tone down summer's heat with soft, soothing blues, mauves and white.

• Plant tall herbs at the back of large beds, or in the center of circular beds, with other plants graduated in height in front of them.

' Use groundcover or spillover herbs to disguise borders or path edges.

• Position edible herbs where they're easy to access and can be monitored for growth, health and harvesting.

Aquatic herbs for ponds

An interesting twist on an herb garden is a pond or pool planted with aquatic herbs. Look for a low point in your garden thai is consistently boggy or wet, perhaps al the bottom of a small slope where runoff collects. Instead of correcting the drainage problem, consider installing a pond.

You can either buy precast ponds, or simply dig a hole and line it w ith waterproofing membrane. But first check wilh your town to see if you need planning approval.

Think about Ihe size and style of your pond. A larger pool will be less subject to changes in temperature; a small pond may freeze in winter in a cool-temperate zone. Make sure Ihe |K)ml is sited where it receives sunlight for about half a day. because too much sun will result in algal blooms.

Some aquatic herbs prefer to grow on the margins of a pond, while others thrive in the pond itself. When you dig Ihe hole, you'll need to create a level shelf about 10 in. (25 cm) below the surface on which to position potted marginals, such as brahmi [Baivpa monnieri) and water iris (Iris sp.).

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The water lily, an aquatic perennial, requires rich soil, still water and full sun.

The water lily, an aquatic perennial, requires rich soil, still water and full sun.

In the pond itself, plant such herbs as yellow bladderwort 11 Irirularia ausiralis) and water snowflake (Nymphnitles indica). Both are native Australian herbs. To help shade the water and prevent algal blooms from developing, plant floating-leaf plants, such as water lily [IVymphapa sp.) and lotus (Nelumbo nucifcra).

And if you don'i have the space for a pond, you can always plant up a large decorative pot full of water.

Continue reading here: Soils and organic matter

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