Starting Your Vineyard Herb Garden
Martha’s Vineyard’s all-things-growing guru Chuck Wiley of Vineyard Gardens shares his expert advise on how to start and maintain a healthy herb garden that will add spice to your life all summer long and even into the fall.
The most important thing for herbs is to have good drainage. It’s easier to enrich soil with compost than to improve drainage. A slight slope is good and be careful if the garden is near the house that the roof doesn’t drain onto the garden. Herbs don’t need very rich soil, a sandy loam would be best.
3. Animal protection
The good news is deer and rabbits don’t like most herbs. Fragrant ones like lavender, chives, thyme,rosemary and mint are rarely eaten. Parsley is another story and should be protected with a fence if you have rabbits or deer.
I recommend lightly fertilizing with an organic slow release product mixed into the soil before planting or lightly scratched in around perennials in spring.
5. Plant Selection
There are annual and perennial herbs. The annuals like basil and parsley can be started from seed or young plants. The perennial ones are usually grown from divisions or new nursery grown plants. Some gardeners are able to overwinter rosemary in a warm protected spot on the Vineyard but you may want to grow them in pots and bring inside in the winter. If you grow rosemary in the ground, it needs what we call perfect drainage especially in the winter. I also grow Laurus nobilis the source of bay leaves for cooking in a pot and bring it inside for winter too.
Beware of the mint family…they can be very invasive. I suggest either putting them somewhere where you don’t mind a large patch – but not near any other perennial or annual small plants as the mint will overwhelm them. I plant them in pots so they can’t take over any gardens. Most winters they overwinter in the pot outside just fine. Every few years I move them to a new pot to replenish the soil.
Thanks to Chuck Wiley and Vineyard Gardens in West Tisbury for the contribution of this article.