Herb gardens are delightful places, or so we thought even before we began to care of Corujas. Our first book on gardening was actually on herb gardens. Others followed, such as Jekka's.
Getting water to the center of the farm, from the existing water well that fed the main reservoir, was our first major work. From the reservoir we made a level waterway to get water near the house, and built a new reservoir in a small piece of land just below the house, the highest point we can get water to just using gravity. This place, organized with the reservoir and bound by a string of vines and an olive tree, was small enough to be manageable as a herb garden and we started the lists of herbs and the design of the patches and walkways. We used granite slabs, easily bought locally. We do not get English-looking red-bricked paths, but our plants can compensate for that.
The herb garden was first planned on paper, selecting the herbs we found more tempting. The design turned real after some visits to "Cantinho das Aromáticas", our supplier of all original herb material.
The herb garden exceeded our expectations, both in the fast growth of the herbs, planted in groups of 4 in the 1.4m patches, and in the amount of weeding required to keep it clean. We have been improving it over the years. Some seasons we were patient and mended the place, replanting lost species and changing locations, others we just weeded and let them spread around, others we tried mulching. Overall we have reduced the watering to almost none, realizing that it was not possible to make biennials like parsley, requiring a fair amount of water, co-exist with sage, thyme and other more drought-resistant herbs. So we moved basil to the vegetable garden, encouraged parsley to get established wherever it likes by spreading its seeds in various places and made our herb garden the place for Mediterranean herbs that can endure our summer with only occasional light watering.
The herb garden has its ups and downs, some years it is renovated and we try new species, others we just let them run wild. Some of the species we have tried have been propagated and now exist in some other corners of the garden. We regularly use herbs from the herb garden: varieties of sage, varieties of thyme, rosemary, chives, tarragon, lemon grass.