A Back-Door Herb Garden

A tiny, carefree culinary herb bed can satisfy a family.

| February/March 1994

Compactness is sometimes the only option for the urban herb gardener, but it is also frequently the choice of busy people balancing time and priorities, no matter what the size of their yard. Just because you like fresh herbs in the kitchen doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily willing to give up fly-fishing or quiltmaking to have them. One little bed of culinary herbs may be all you want and all you need.

But you may be astonished at how much pleasure and good flavor you can derive from an herb garden that’s not much bigger than a baby blanket. It doesn’t take a lot of space to ensure a steady supply of snippings and clippings for salads, garnishes, and flavorings as well as small harvests to preserve for winter use.

Mike and Kate Eagleton, two commercial artists who live in an urban neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, mix a lot of herbs into their perennial borders, but they’ve concentrated some favorites in one small raised bed. Close and convenient to the kitchen door, this carefree culinary herb garden is an excellent example of what anyone can do with a very limited space.

Their lot is a standard size on the block, measuring 50 by 128 feet, but the fenced, lushly planted yard wraps around the house to create an oasis of privacy and peace. Mike and Kate both love to garden, and they started adding trees, shrubs, and flowers to the yard when they first bought their home in 1987. The culinary herb bed was one of their first projects.

Within a few feet of the back door was a sturdy planter made of wooden timbers and measuring about 81/2 feet long by 21/2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. It was home to some low-growing evergreen shrubs,

but the Eagletons dug these out and replaced them with herbs. The resulting garden is a small fraction of the total green space in their backyard, but it is probably the most used and appreciated part. It provides the view from their kitchen table, and it’s the first stop on the tour they give friends who come to visit.

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