The Essential Garden Planning


When you decide that you want to create a herb garden, its size should be relative to the overall size of your property. With over 10 acres of land we were able to think big(ish). I say ‘ISH’ because we have seen some amazing herb gardens in our travels that would put our effort to shame – Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, New Delhi, Katikati, London – to name a few.

So we selected a relatively flat piece of land among our undulating block to create what we now refer to as the Essential Garden. The area was previously covered in gorse (Ulex europaus) which was cleared in order to provide access to other parts of our property in the Upper Waiwera valley, north of Auckland, New Zealand.

The Essential Garden, after the gorse has been cleared.

It is always a good idea to spend some time observing the area designated for your herb garden, for a number of reasons. During heavy rain, where does the water gather? Which parts of the proposed garden enjoy full, all-day sun? How long are the winter shadows? Does the surrounding vegetation offer any frost protection?

Only by spending some time observing can you form an opinion on the best location for raised beds; where drainage is needed, whether delicate plants should remain in pots to be moved indoors during periods of sustained cold, or perhaps sheltered from frost.

See where water congregates after rain and how it will affect drainage

We changed our view several times in the initial planning stages of the Essential Garden, purely by observing how our initial plans would be affected by sun, shade, rain, frost, wind etc. While it can be extremely frustrating for those among us who want to start the project immediately, buying plants and politely demanding they be planted even before the plan is on paper, let alone agreed upon, in the end it is generally agreed that patience is the best policy.

It is at this point I would like to introduce my wife, Fiona. Fiona is the creative one among us and for most partners of creative people, you will know where I’m coming from; creative types like to get on with things and get started NOW. Being more of a planning-oriented person, I eventually won over the impatient one and committed our ideas to paper. Despite that plan changing on several occasions, our general blueprint is the same and all changes ended up being cosmetic and not affecting the overall plan.

Rough sketch of the Essential Garden

The above is a rough sketch of the Essential Garden andwas the culmination of much discussion and debate. Regardless of how many impractical suggestions are put forward, approach the exercise as if there is no such thing as a stupid idea. Possible alternatives to seemingly insurmountable problems eventually emerge. Although the idea of a cold beer fountain in the middle of the garden gained no traction at all, we were both pleased with the covered pergola as an alternative.

Alasdair Scott