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tired herb bed June 2011 in central Virginia, zone 6. This bed was installed in 2001.

Over a decade ago, this small patch was claimed out of the lawn and provides yummy ingredients for many of my annual pestos, while supplying host food (dill and parsley) for black swallowtail larvae.

Herb bed May 2011

Herb bed May 2011. Berms and swales were the first attempt in this herb bed, yet constant surface water from across the turf forced the assorted mulches onto the gravel, making this design a total failure. I originally had parsley, dill, French Tarragon, and chives placed here, just outside the kitchen door.

When I paused at this place early one summer morning, gazing with an objective eye, this workhorse herb bed appeared to scream time for renewal!

At first, I envisioned a bubbly fountain in the center of the bed where perennial chives and French tarragon are primary residents. These two herbal varieties survived a decade of surface water and blazing western sun, yet this year both herbs looked exhausted following their initial spring harvest.

Originally I used berms and swales as a stopgap — successfully for years — yet this year my plants needed intervention. Therefore I began dreaming, drafting, plotting, and Internet research.

I envisioned round shapes within the pie shaped bed to hold the hardy herbs. Over a period of sweltering summer weeks, prices and material availability shaped my decisions. First, I removed the sundial from the center of the bed. Second, a beautiful urn, lost in the lower garden, took center stage as the spilling sedum suggests movement. A real fountain was not in my budget nor did I want the maintenance.

herb bed renewal in progress one hot August

Third, round raised beds were not available, therefore I opted for shaped pavers easily obtained from a local home improvement center. These babies are not for the faint of heart, as each weighs 20# and I needed 48 or 840#!

The patient and helpful guys at the garden center loaded a cart as I hand-picked each paver; since each block would be highly visible, I wanted no chipped blocks. Along with this purchase, I collected bagged topsoil, pea gravel, and heavy-duty landscape cloth. This assortment was transported in three separate trips, so as not to do in moi or my eleven-year-old MPV.

French tarragon bed complete and I like it! Once the ground was level (+OR-), I rolled out the landscape cloth, then placed the pavers. When the pavers were in a happy place, the cloth was cut out of the center of the circle to expose soil. Then amendments began. I transplanted herbs as I went.

Once the pavers were placed and the cloth removed from the inner circle, sod busting came next on the agenda. For this, I used a sturdy pitchfork that dug twelve inches deep — the slender tines eased the heavy clay out of its fist-like grip.

slim tines of the sturdy pitchfork ease clay out of the ground so new topsoil could be added

In order to clean up the outer edges of the main bed, I raked back the wandering gravel and reused the tumbled bluestone pavers from the first bed then added found river rock to detail the opposite eleven foot side. The pre-existing outer curved rim of the bed is a mini French drain filled with river pebbles.

side view of herb bed in transition…so sad.

The soil was a hodge-podge of tough Virginia clay with years of amendments, yet digging strained every muscle/tendon in my upper body, so I took a few days off to admire my handiwork. Keep in mind this was a one-woman DIY project! Following rest and a few rain showers, I began the task of hauling and placing the pavers. Armed with both a rake, scissors, and one roll of landscape cloth — which helped create a blank canvas — I persevered.

this brand is super!

I liked the first circle, yet added additional pavers to the next two beds to enlarge. Over the course of one week, this bed was heaved and shifted into place, transplanting the herbs as I completed the next circle. Both the landscape cloth and pea gravel gave nice finishing touches, resembling icing on a cake.

project ongoing between rests! Adore that pea gravel! Such a nice finish.

Other than the heavy lifting, this project was highly enjoyable, budget-friendly, and the finished result pleasing to the eye…do you agree? Two years later, the herbs continue to thrive and the paver beds are as tidy as the day they were installed.

completed herb bed renewal August 2011. Pea gravel is nice touch!

The third and final circle (right) will grow annual herbs such as cilantro, dill, and curly parsley. They will look handsome planted in pie-shaped wedges within the circle. Perhaps rosemary will find this new environment habitable and continually remind me that  “Rosemary is for Remembrance”.

Oh how true

the herb bed in June 2015. A real success story.

the herb bed in June 2015. A real success story.

Here is a personal invitation for you to check out my recipes for chive/artichoke and kale pestos. Simply type the word pesto into the search bar on my blog site.

In closing, I assure you that having a healthy herb bed will provide both you and your family nutritious and simple food choices that are easy and fun to grow, even when space is limited. And if you have help and a F350, this project could be completed over a weekend! Plus, the French tarragon and chives featured here are now fifteen years old — lots of bang for the buck…Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2011 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved