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Versatile Herbs – How to Make a Herb Wheel

by User Not Found | Jun 18, 2013

(Image Sources: Dee Sewell)
Do you buy fresh herbs for culinary or medicinal purposes? Would you like to see more pollinators in your garden? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you might like to start growing herbs at home as they are surprisingly easy plants to manage. Once you have them, you'll never have to trek around the supermarket again looking for that elusive fresh pot or packet that's always sold out!

Herbs can be grown in containers, in borders, herb wheels or spirals, in the garden, in greenhouses or on windowsill making them a tremendously versatile plant. The majority of herbs we cook or make teas from are perennial plants such as oregano, fennel, sage, bay, thyme, rosemary, lavender, chives or mint which means that once you have them they'll keep growing for you year after year. As time passes you can divide them up, giving you more free plants for your garden or gifts for friends or neighbours. You might also be able to take cuttings from the harder wood varieties. 

If you plan to use your herbs in the kitchen you can freeze them in ice cubes, dry them, or use them fresh and it’s usual to do this before they flower. If you want to attract bees and butterflies into your garden however, you might like to leave your herbs to blossom as they are adored by pollinators and are often one of the first flowers in springtime to bloom, giving a nutritious feed to overwintering insects that are just emerging.
I’m a big fan of herb wheels in community gardens as there’s almost always space for them and gardeners can just pop in and pick a handful whenever they need them. If you’d like to make a fragrant herb wheel as a feature in in your garden here’s how:
Herb Wheel
1. Decide where you’d like your herbs to grow. They prefer a sunny spot and if you can place them close to the kitchen all the better for easy picking and fragrant aromas close to your door.

2. You will need some bamboo canes or sticks, some stakes or tent pegs, string, a garden spade, fork, rake, well-rotted manure or garden compost, edging for each section and/or the edge of the bed and herb plants or seeds of your choice. (Note: avoid planting Basil outdoors in Ireland as it’s generally not warm enough for this tender little plant to thrive.)

3. Using the canes or sticks, mark out the rough size and shape of your wheel. Place a stake in the centre and tie a piece of string to it, cut to the radius of your final wheel size. Using the string as a guide, measure the circumference of the herb wheel placing stakes or markers at regular intervals around it as you move the string around.

4. Once you have the shape marked, remove the top layer of turf by sliding a spade under it and ‘cutting’ it with the tip of the spade. When all the turf has been removed from your desired shape, dig over the new bed with a fork, adding well-rotted manure or compost at approximately one bucket per square meter. Note that herbs generally don’t need rich soil to grow well, but you may want them to grow in this bed for years to come so it’s a good idea to give them a good start.

5. Measure out the different segments you’d like in your herb wheel by placing the bamboo sticks as markers and finally add the edging material of your choice.

6. Plant the herbs into the different segments or sow seeds directly into the soil, keeping each variety separate.

7. Water and watch them grow, taking care to weed regularly until your plants are established.
Selection of Garden Herbs
When you're choosing what plants to add to your herb wheel, it's a good idea to place taller varieties in the middle of the bed and  smaller ones at the front. Tall architectural plants are shown to their very best if they're accompanied by soft, feathery foliage and try varying the colour combinations too.

Some popular hardy perennial herbs suitable for growing outside in Irish gardens

  • Lemon Balm - Perennial - height 60cm
  • Bergamot - Perennial - height 90cm
  • Borage - Annual - height 90cm
  • Chamomile - Perennial - height 30cm
  • Chives - Perennial - height 30cm
  • Fennel - Perennial - height 2m
  • Lavender - Perennial - height 90cm
  • Lemon Verbena - Perennial - 2m
  • Marjoram (Oreganum) - Perennial - 25cm
  • Mint - Perennial - various heights depending but contain in a bucket as can be vigorous!
  • Parsley - Biennial - 25cm
  • Rosemary - Perennial - 2m
  • Sage - Perennial - 30-60cm
  • Thyme - Perennial - various heights

If you don't have room for a herb wheel, you can plant them into your borders amongst the ornamental flowers or in your vegetable beds as they make great companion plants. Whichever way you plan to use them, whenever you look at your herbs growing remember you're keeping a tradition going that's been around for centuries. Enjoy them!

Dee's Bio
Dee Sewell is owner/manager of Greenside Up, a Carlow/Kilkenny based horticultural business that teachs growth, teaches green. Dee specialises in working with  community gardens and is Chairperson of The Community Garden Network that supports community gardens and allotments in Ireland and Northern Ireland.