Walking on Herbs

August 5, 2019

Anyone who gardens seems never to have enough time on their hands. You can, however, enjoy “thyme” at your feet. An herbal lawn or pathway is somewhat more difficult to install than a conventional grass lawn, but in the long run it is much easier to maintain and is less subject to destruction from disease or insects. The appearance of an herbal lawn is more interesting than plain grass, and the aroma is enchanting.

Low-growing thyme comes in several distinct varieties. Creeping thyme, woolly thyme, and lemon thyme are the most common. Once established, thyme can endure a fair amount of foot traffic.

Chamomile is more delicate than thyme and will not hold up to major traffic, but interspersed with other plants it will be reasonably durable in the lawn, offering yellow, buttonlike flowers and a sweet, pineapple-like scent when stepped on.

While it might be anathema to Americans, the dandelion is popular in England as a ground cover, and like many herbs, it has medicinal value as well. Likewise, violets and Johnny-jump-ups, commonly considered pests in the grass lawn, make for lovely sights and smells and can be part of your herbal lawn.

And then of course there is mint, which may be the most appropriate plant for a pathway: It’s named after Mentha, a mistress of Pluto who was trampled by the jealous Proserpine and transformed into a plant to be forever walked upon. Pluto eased her fate by willing that the more she was trodden upon, the sweeter she would smell. Mint varieties include gill-over-the-ground, peppermint, spearmint, catnip, and many others, all of which are quite invasive. Mint welcomes mowing.

In an herbal lawn, grass becomes the weed, so you will want to start with a well-cleared area. Herbs do not like rich soil, but the healthier the soil, the easier they will become established. Regular watering is important, and weeds must be pulled until the herbs predominate. Mowing a couple of times a year will help to eliminate other high-growing weeds and will encourage bushiness in the herbs.

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