Plans and photos of a small kitchen herb garden before and after planting with list of plants used and tips for planting your own herb garden. Now updated with photos of the garden through the seasons to see how it changed and grew.
While still in the process of our backyard deck transformation - going from a huge, unusable, rotting deck to multiple outdoor rooms all connected by gravel paths - we completed this cute herb garden just steps from the kitchen. The whole makeover took months because it was one of those DIY projects that we had to take in steps for various reasons - financial, time, and weather.
But the area I really wanted done in the spring was the herb garden, both because it's the best time to plant and it was also the area I knew I'd find most useful.
What I didn't realize is that it would be one of the areas that made me the happiest! I LOVE looking at it when I'm outside and from the kitchen window and I love being able to run out one of our back doors to snip herbs for recipes.
Seriously one of the best things, ever.
Herb Garden Before and After
Let's take a little walk down memory lane first. Here's what this area looked like as part of the huge deck before we dismantled it:
It's easy to see the rotting sections, but I hope you can also see how hard it is to take advantage of all that space when it's all just one big wooden deck. My pots look quite lonely, don't they?
Then back in April we removed most of the deck and framed in a new small back porch deck at the French doors, leaving us with this area between it and the mudroom door porch (on the left below):
It's not a big area, but it's what we had to work with between the two back doors and I knew it would be enough for my purposes. I wanted to be able to quickly run out the back door to clip rosemary, thyme, or chives for a meal.
Note: the reason an herb garden in the ground was important to me is because I did have some herbs I tried growing in pots during the years we had the deck, but they were a lot more work for me (daily watering) and they never grew very well, especially rosemary.
TIP: Even though the area might be small (ours was a 7' x 11' area), you'll still need a way to walk through it to easily reach the herbs for harvesting. You can use brick like we did, pavers, stepping stones, or a path made from gravel or wood chips - it's up to you.
In our case, there had been a small section of brick that we had removed when we built the mudroom porch to the left of the garden, so we decided to use the brick to make a path through the herbs.
This ground had spent 30 years under a deck, so it needed soil amending as well, all of which takes time. But Brian decided to finish the path for my birthday in late May and help get the soil ready (isn't that sweet?), so I could plant in June.
TIP: While herbs are known for surviving in less than great soil, it's always a good idea to amend the soil when creating a new garden, especially if the area is compacted badly or is being converted from sod.
And now this is what I see out our back doors:
Isn't the path lovely? We did have to buy a handful of bricks to complete it, but everything else we had on hand.
Most of the herbs I transplanted from the pots they had been in for years on our deck. I added a few annual herbs I grow every year - basil and parsley - and a couple $2 herbs I wanted to add like lemon thyme and savory.
List of herbs used:
- 2 rosemary
- 1 lemon verbena (in center pot)
- 1 savory
- 1 Italian parsley & 1 curly parsley
- Greek oregano
- Mint (in large pot on the right)
- 2 chives
- 2 large leaf basil
- peppermint in urns
- 1 common thyme
- 1 lemon thyme
- 1 variegated thyme
- 2 French lavender (these performed better and lasted much longer than English lavender - highly recommend!)
I had to plan for the hose area when I designed the garden, so the bricks at the foot of the new step from the mudroom porch create an area for the hose to be pulled out. The 4" x 4" post at the corner leading out to the gravel path acts as a hose guide to keep the hose from crushing the herbs.
TIP: planning for hoses and other used garden equipment (like making it easy to access with wheelbarrows, etc.) should always be part of your initial plan. It will make your garden life so much easier.
We did add another post on the other side for symmetry (which you can see in the previous photo) and I've temporarily topped them with some solar lights we had. They will eventually have wooden finials on them (Update: scroll down to see the posts with finials).
The Wooden Hose Box
I have to point out the hose box Brian made (it's in the upper right corner). It's WONDERFUL! It's so easy to use- no reeling a hose back (which hardly ever happened, so there were hoses everywhere), and they are simple to put back into this size box. To keep it in one place, it is screwed to the side of the porch.
We had looked at buying one of those pots that hold hoses- but they were so expensive and usually only fit a 50' hose. We can fit our 75' hose and our 50' spiral hose all in this box.
But the best part? We didn't spend a dime on it- it's made simply from wood we had laying about! I highly recommend a hose box like this.
We did find after a few days that our dog loved the new soil we added to the garden. Between his digging and running through on his way to the back door, the herbs didn't stand a chance.
So I placed a pair of urns (planted with mint) at the path opening and made a simple bamboo fence out of pieces we had from our clumping bamboo plant. And believe it or not, now he stays on the path.
Again, the cost was nothing. You know how I love that.
Obviously, the tip here is to plan for pets!
TIP: Plan for what the garden will look like in all the seasons by planting some evergreens.
On each corner I planted some evergreen plants for definition in all seasons. The outside corners have a couple of dwarf boxwood I transplanted from the urns and the inside corners have French lavender.
Updates through the years and seasons of the herb garden:
Summer 2013 (2 years after planting):
- Large rosemary bushes in the back.
- Annual basil on the right.
- Narrow evergreens in the corner pots.
Spring 2014 - Replanting after hard winter:
- I lost a lot of plants in our -10 degree winter, including the large rosemary bushes (I wrote more about this and the replant plan here).
- I used this as a fresh start to do some different things.
- You can see the finials on the corner posts, mint now growing in the large pots, and the chives that breezed through the cold.
Fall 2015 - The herb garden in full growth with it's new plan including:
- Corner obelisk trellises.
- The garden fountain makes a nice focal point - see how I created the aged look on the plastic fountain here.
- Patio zinnias added for a fuller look.
- Urns planted with an easy care grass.
June 2016 - the final summer we were in this house.
- This view gives more of an idea of how the herb garden looked with the rest of the backyard.
- Most of the plants are the same: mint in the pots, larger dwarf boxwoods, grass in the urns.
- The large plant growing up the side of the hose box is a variegated sage plant - it obviously liked it there!
I hope this herb garden before and after has given you some ideas and inspiration to create your own garden! It really was one of the most useful and pretty areas of our backyard.
I can't wait to create another version in our current farmhouse fixer!
This article had been updated - it was originally published in July of 2011.
Make This Year's Garden A Success!