A July Stroll in the Herb Garden

Nearly two months have passed since we last visited the Herb Garden. Would you like to see how the plants are progressing? Grab a drink and join me outside:

The drink du jour is Pinot Grigio, made even more delicious by the addition of a lemon verbena leaf. Lemon verbena, if you have never smelled it, is more lemony than a lemon tree and all of its parts. A single leaf can make even a cheap white wine taste expensive.

Not that I’d ever serve you a cheap Pinot Grigio. As an invited guest, you receive “top shelf” treatment.


SWOOSH! We are in the Herb Garden now. As you might recall from a previous post,  I designed this little 4-bed plot in the L-shaped nook where two wings of the house join together. You can see the garden’s design details in this post.

The first bed is an all-you-can-eat salad bar, now in its second planting. The current crop, which I designed in the shape of an “X”, is composed of romaine lettuce, red oak leaf lettuce, and basil.

The second bed features Swiss chard in the fore, and flat-leaved parsley in the back. Planted between the chard and the parsley, but not in view in the photo above, is a row of romaine lettuce. Romaine, in my experience, doesn’t faint in summer heat like so many other salad greens.

I planted bed number three with with two varieties of cabbage, one common and the other ‘Savoy.’ If you look carefully, you’ll notice some arugula, or “rocket” in there, too.

I love the crinkled, lace-like leaves of Savoy cabbage. It’s delicious to eat, but it can serve decorative purposes, too. I sometimes use the big outer leaves to line a tray of cocktail appetizers.

In the fourth bed, haricot vert (thin green beans) flank a large clump of common chives. Chives, unlike so many other perennial herbs, are not space-hogs.

And speaking of space hogs! The four beds you’ve just seen were originally planted with thyme, oregano, and other perennial herbs. Can you guess what happened? They grew and grew, to the point where the beds looked unkempt. So now I keep these invasives confined to big terra cotta pots, located at the south end of the herb garden.

Back to the beans! Lily the Beagle loves haricot vert as much as I do. In summer, they play a role in her Look-Great, Feel-Great Diet Plan.  Blanched and chilled, the beans are delicious in salads. But they are at their sweetest, I think,  when consumed raw.

And do you recall the boxwood cuttings I inserted along the perimeter of each bed back in April? I pulled up a single cutting this morning, and discovered it had rooted. (You can see the root in the fuzzy photo above. It’s between the two red arrows.) And I’ve seen new growth emerging from lots of other cuttings. Soon I’ll have a forest of boxwood, achieved for no cost at all.

Planted along the north fence of the garden are some winter-sown snapdragons. The mixed colors include the rosy variety pictured above…

And this sunny yellow variety.

The morning glories along the west fence are in bud and bloom now, too. Fortunately, this Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ is not invasive here.

Well. I hope you enjoyed this little stroll. I certainly enjoyed your company.

In the comments field below, talk to me about the size of your own veggie patch. Is it too big? Too small? Or is it…just right ?

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly email updates!

Other posts you might enjoy:
How I Freeze a Year’s Supply of Herbs
How I Freeze Kale and Other Leafy Greens
Recipe: Blackberry Buckle


  1. Lovely! it’s so great to see your garden survived the winter of 2013. Now, I’m going to go pour a glass of pinot grigio….

  2. Wow – your herb garden looks so much better than mine (although basil, chives and parsley can’t be the only herbs in there…you are holding out!). I went with the: get my SO to carve me some terraces, throw some compost in with the really yucky clay soil and plop some seed and plants in there, just to get space established for an herb garden. I have: basil, lavender, rosemay, parsley (one plant each, purchased at the farmers’ market) and then a few little basils (from winter sowing), a bit of cilantro and chervil from seeds that got scattered in there. And a large sage plant that I keep moving indoors in the winter and replanting in different places outdoors every summer. I tried throwing a few other types of seeds in there, but nothing came up…except an INCREDIBLE number of weeds.

    It’s grim, compared to yours…but I have high hopes for next year! (And I am at work…otherwise I would pour a glass of wine, also – it’s a lovely day out there!)

  3. I love your garden tours! Thank you so much!

    My flower gardens are glorious this year, thanks in large part to the cardboard-then-mulch technique and a daughter who loves being outside. My veg gardens are growing, growing, growing. We had a bumper crop of lettuce early on and now the onions, beans and peppers are on. It’s been a fab year for peppers for some reason and a lousy year for summer squash. Weird. We anxiously await the first ripe tomatoes.

    BTW – your tips on growing leeks have netted me two gorgeous rows of leeks this year for the first time. Thanks!!

  4. Paulette says:

    Great. I have found I really like fresh Basil and it is Tarragon that I am not impressed with. What to do with my Tarragon? I also like the arugula even on pizza. I did not plant arugula but wish I had, not easily found here. …..Is it too late to plant some if I find it- Pennsylvania.

  5. Kattrinka says:

    Ahhhh, thank you Kevin……lovely.

  6. My herb bed is in a strip between the house and the driveway right outside the back door. It is about 4 feet by 24 feet. It had gotten invaded by weeds and things were looking really ratty in there last year so my husband dug everything out back in the fall and we mulched it heavy over the winter. We replanted this spring and it is doing very well. We have a row of chives at the end nearest the door, parley and basil, then oregano and dill and borage and savory and a new rosemary bush is just starting out. Everything is growing very well. I enjoy being able to step out and get whatever I need to season our meals. The kitchen garden is farther out at the back of the house. It is doing well, too. It trails around the back of the driveway and into the back yard. Your gardens always look lovely. Thanks for keeping this blog going; I enjoy it a lot and it gives me good ideas.

  7. Louise Brouillette says:

    Kevin, I bought a lemon verbena plant and kept it alive through a few winters by cutting it back and covering it w/ mulch. This polar vortex winter, however, killed it (along w/ my rosemary and lavender). Do you plant a new bush every year? I’m in Zone 6, but I know you’re in colder climes.

  8. Wow Kevin, this is amazing. It must smell wonderful too. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Louise – Yes, lemon verbena is only annual for me. I start with a fresh young plant every spring, and by July it is the size of a shrub.

  10. Here’s a dog tip. Do not let Lily know from whence came the beans.Trilli the Corgi and Spike the JRT love beans and peas of any sort. I have learned from previous dogs, that you must take the produce away from the source before eating and or feeding the dogs. Otherwise they will pick their own ,dragging the vines and plants with them. Same with kids I bet!

  11. Michele Reeves says:

    JEALOUS!!!! So gorgeous! You do a great job! Love your blog!

  12. Kevin…what on earth is that beautiful purply plant with the cabbage. I cannot locate it anywhere!!

  13. badger gardener says:

    That “salad bar” bed looks so pretty. Everything looks so healthy too. I was finding my herbs pocked with holes in the open garden so this year most went into containers on my deck.
    Surprisingly, the various greens I do have in the garden are not yet under attack from whatever bugs like to chew them up.
    My space hog perennial was my mint and weeds were creeping in too. So two autumns ago I vigorously weeded the whole bed figuring it would come back in full force, since most people complain that you can’t get rid of it. I was disappointed last summer when I hardly had any at all , as were my friends who had come to rely on a summer’s supply for mojitos. I am glad to say that this year the mojitos are once again flowing and I’ve been able to make my fave mint thin cookies too.

  14. Your garden is beautiful. My dog loves beans too and she steals them regularly. She loves spinach and Swiss chard too. Some experts say that spinach, Swiss chard and similar plants are dangerous, others say they are beneficial. Have you ever noticed your dog eating grass and then getting sick? Well, some experts think that they need components of greens but they just can’t digest it properly. Others, believe the dog is sick to begin with and this is a way to help them along-I am sure you have heard this. All I can say is that my dog will pick some lightly steamed, plain Swiss chard over any doggy treat every time.

  15. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    My herbs are sprinkled all around the perennial beds, front yard and back. I had to replace my two favorite ancient culinary sages after this past hideous winter. I recently placed Lavender branches into a sock, tied it off, and ran it through the dryer with guest bedroom linens to help sleepover guests fall into slumber. My Bay Tree, faithful and fat-trunked, overwinters in the attached garage and does not drop its leaves. It lent me its foliage to deter pantry pests near pasta and flour, birdseed pests in the large storage can, as well as those library-glue-eating bugs on the bookshelf.

    My Lemon Verbena went through the winter in my toasty boiler room, under hanging lights, getting only sparse water after I cut it back significantly upon bringing it into the house. I also used cuttings taken in late fall, rooted in water, and potted up several weeks later, just in case the parent plant of Lemon Verbena would decide to give up. Happily, everything survived the winter inside. The smaller plants found new homes with other gardeners and the parent plant is really bushy and aromatic. No blooms yet, though.

    My Pineapple Sage, also overwintered as a cutting, was placed near a hedge where water is not as plentiful, and its branches are tight and shorter, less space between nodes, but it looks bushy and healthy and smells great.

    I use sunken pots for my 6 types of mints. The fuzzy Apple Mint has escaped twice. Only the Water Mint is allowed to run free, located near the faucet/hose which keeps it happy, and boxed in a small bed bordered by the flagstone patio and the house foundation, effectively containing it.

    The older I get, the more I appreciate the herbal touches in recipes and in the garden.
    You are a great role model Kevin, on both counts!

  16. lovely ! i cannot imaging fresh lettuce in my yard at this time of July ! It’s too hot here in Atlanta. I gotta tell you my happy experience with boxwoods. Many years ago when we lived in New Rochelle my ancient next door neighbor had a hedge of boxwoods he had gotten as cuttings from George Washington’s garden in Mount Vernon . He taught me your method of rooting some and I rooted them for my garden . I even brought cuttings from them on down to Atlanta and they took to Ga clay like troopers. What fun it is to see them and be rewarded with memories of good friends and some history

  17. Very nice indeed. I have never tried a second planting of lettuces. Hrm…I just yesterday dug up a bed of potatoes. You have me thinking now!

  18. Good Morning Kevin! Love your herb garden! So neat and tidy. Mine is 20 x 30 feet and divided into two beds each of: Sweet Herbs, Dye Herbs, Culinary Herbs, Tea herbs, Medicinal Herbs and just for fun – Spells & Charms Herbs! I planted it to reflect an 1850-1870’s herbarium to go with our 1850-1870 home on Lake Huron.

    Don’t you find it sort of soothing to walk thru the herb garden after a rain when all of the scents are so intoxicating? A rabbit family has made a nest between the oregano and purple basil and I see mamma rabbit has lined the nest with some of the lavender stems / flowers and more purple basil! OH NO!! I am hoping the garden tour next weekend will be a success and that the darned bunnies will not have devoured too much!
    Thanks for all of your great ideas!

  19. Dennis R says:

    How do you do a 2nd planting of basil this late in the year? or am I misunderstanding?

  20. Hi Kevin,
    Your column is one of my Sunday joys.

    Georgie the Schnoodle loves sugar snap peas and kale. He likes to come into the garden (fenced for deer on rural Vashon Island, WA) and pick his own. He generally picks very carefully, and does not destroy the parent plant. However, he thought the bok choy starts should be eaten whole, and we had to take those away and replant twice.

    It’s finally summer here.

  21. A groundhog is eating my small garden down to nothing!!!! We do not want to fence the garden but we’re at a loss as to how to stop this little critter.

  22. joyce,

    You must put up a fence to stop the Groudhog (woodchuck). I had two baby woodchucks climb a wire fence that had 3″ square spaces on the top row. The 3 ” spaces is where they climbed thru. Mama was too big to climb the fence. They devoured everything right down to the ground: radishes, beans, lettuce, spinach – all gone!! I have a 4′ tall fence now that has small 1″ holes everywhere.


    I mulched with newspaper and chopped leaves on my raised vegie beds last summer. I cut thru the newspaper with a knife to plant my rows of lettuce and beet seeds, this spring. I had a hard time getting them to germinate. Perhaps leaves blew into the row and the seedlings couldn’t push thru the leaves? I had to replant once, when hardly anything came up the first time. Should I have removed more of the newspaper and leaves? It looks like the lettuce in your kitchen garden does not have any leaves on top of the soil. Is that correct? I have hardly any weeds in those beds, which is wonderful. Mostly I have an occasional maple or acorn sprout.

  23. Maricela Infante says:

    Love It!

  24. Tracey San says:

    Kevin, the garden looks delicious! I truly love opening my inbox every week and seeing what’s going on in your world. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with us. We found a seemingly healthy hornworm in our tomatoes. We put him in an enclosure and my 3 year old named him Horny the Hornworm. We feed him tomato suckers and watch him closely…the opportunity to teach my daughter about good bugs and naughty bugs…Aahhhh. Could not wait to see him change. We woke yesterday to feed him and found him covered in wasp pupa. I must admit, I was sad for Horny. However, the lesson nature chose for us was surprisingly different than originally planned. I like to think that we do what we can but sometimes things are just out of our control. Poor Horny…but not really. Thanks again, Kevin!

  25. Kevin,

    I love your pictures and your posts. Very entertaining and informative.

    Thanks, Linda

  26. badger gardener says:

    All was well in the herb garden, until I began to see the signs of downy mildew on the basil. It is a relatively new disease in these parts and right now the recommendations are to yank out the plants. Dreams of my favorite basil dishes are all floating away.
    Upon looking for details on the internet about the mildew, I found a post on Garden Rant from a researcher at Cornell that is asking gardeners to help in research on this new scourge by reporting occurrences. So if anyone else out there is dealing with this consider reporting. The sooner scientists can get a handle on this the better for all of us. Think of all of those missing bowls of pesto.

  27. Hoosier John says:

    What do you use for cabbage caterpillar control?

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