ronbart
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New Herb Garden

I am finally getting to have a dedicated herb garden. It will be along the top of a low retaining wall and be 1 foot wide and 20 feet long. Mostly culinary herbs, both annual and perennial. I do a lot of vegetable gardening in raised beds and use large amounts of compost to amend my clay soil. I have been told that too much compost will affect the flavor of the herbs. Is this true? What would be a good alternative to improve the drainage?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New Herb Garden

I never heard that, but it is true that many herbs, especially the mediterranean types such as sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano, do not like their soil too rich and organic. They prefer a very well draining sandier soil. Adding some cactus mix helps.

Actually the herbs are nice mixed in with your veggies. They are protective, helping repel bugs from the veggies.
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applestar
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Re: New Herb Garden

Decide what kind of herbs you want to grow, then group them by their needs. Some will need full sun and well drained soil and drought tolerant — you will want to add limey gritty material like crushed granite, or marble chips, especially in the top layer. Some will need more moisture holding soil and some shade — those will benefit from the compost. You should also have good quality topsoil as the base of the mix, not just compost.
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imafan26
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Re: New Herb Garden

True herbs run the gamut from rich moist loam to poor sandy and alkaline. It does depend on what herbs you are planting. Some will be annuals and others will be perennial. Rosemary will become a tree if it gets richer soil and more water.
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ronbart
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Re: New Herb Garden

Thank you for the input. I want to put in oregano, thyme, tarragon, sage, and maybe chives. With the extra room I thought I would put in some basil, parsley, and cilantro. When I set up new beds, I use about 20% compost and double dig it to a depth of 18 to 20 inches. The clay provides the micros while the compost helps fertility and texture. Periodically I have moisture retention problems the first season, but after that the soil is like potting mix and a pleasure to work with. I just top dress with more compost in the fall. Last year I started using bio char and have worm towers in each bed. Is the reason for using the granite or marble chips as opposed to sand because of the sharp texture? I have access to sand but it is river sand and more or less smooth and rounded.

imafan26
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Re: New Herb Garden

the chives should be happy in that soil, it likes a little more moisture than the others.
I can only grow Mexican tarragon in my climate, but sage, oregano, and thyme are in the herb garden with a lot of compost, but not that much water and they are doing better than the ones at my house that get more acidic soil and daily water, but the ones at home are in pots. The herb garden has a pH of 8, so they have been very tolerant. The high pH and low nitrogen in the garden keeps everything smaller than they should be.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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applestar
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Re: New Herb Garden

Granite dust, marble chips ... and other limestone based shards help keep the soil more alkaline as well as create better drainage — and yes usually horticultural preference is “sharp sand”

It sounds like you’ve got a good start.
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