How to Prevent Weeds with Herbs

Growing dainty, fragrant herbs in the crevices of paths and walls prevents weeds and adds whimsy to your yard or garden.

| April/May 2007

If you’ve ever seen a determined dandelion growing out of the crack in a sidewalk, you understand the idea behind growing herbs in tight spaces. If an unwanted plant appears to be growing out of nowhere, then a more desirable selection will probably grow there as well.

Some hardy herbs will grow almost anywhere there is soil, sun and a water source. With a little encouragement, fibrous-rooted herbs can provide fragrant weed control along walkways or the difficult-to-maintain areas between stone pavers. Little herbal gems tucked into stone crevices can define a stone pathway, lure walkers down rocky steps or highlight an unusual hardscape feature in a garden. Discover the ways to take advantage of these tight spaces.

Between a Rock

Brushing against a retaining wall planted with herbs or stepping on low-growing herbs planted between a wall and the stepping stones releases their scents. Do not overplant these miniature rock gardens if moisture and soil between the stones is limited.

Drainage from the stones and the shade can provide a moist ground in front of retaining walls. Shady, moist ground is ideal for mints. Give the Mentha genus a try in a confined space that will control the wide-spreading underground rhizomes. The best-known species are peppermint (Mentha ×piperita) and spearmint (M. spicata). Other fragrant citrus-mint choices, such as lime, orange and lemon mint, will grow in the same conditions as peppermint and spearmint. Pennyroyal (M. pulegium) is a mint family member ideal for the confined spaces between rock walls and sidewalks.

Herbs planted in the crevices of a wall can dry out quickly. Before planting in a retaining wall, observe how much sun or shade the plants will receive. Unless the wall is facing directly south, plants that thrive in shade or partial shade are best. Consider that plants on a southern exposure must adapt not only to the limited space but also to the heat of sun-warmed stone.

A south-facing wall, or any sunny place with well-drained soil, is a good location to plant lavender. Mix in a handful of leaf mulch or other organic fertilizer to the planting hole. A well-mulched lavender plant does not need much additional water in the summer. Once established, lavender is tolerant of dry soil. Try several varieties of lavender to extend your bloom season and quickly discover which varieties do best in your location. Deer and rabbits do not care for this fragrant plant, but it can’t tolerate much foot traffic.

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