Growing an herb wall can be a wonderful addition to a kitchen, providing fresh and aromatic herbs for your restaurant’s dishes. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and have the space, you can even create one in your home! An herb wall is just what it sounds like; a wall that is dedicated to vertically growing herbs for consumption.
Vertical planting takes up less space than a traditional garden, and herbs are the perfect plant for this project. Roots and stems of herbs tend to be finer and lighter weight than many plants, so the risk of the herbs becoming too heavy for vertical growth is low. They also need to be trimmed often if they are going to be used in your restaurant’s cooking, which lowers the risk of overgrowth.
An herb wall can be simple and contain only some of the most often used herbs, or it can be a project where you get creative with your planting and experiment with your cooking by trying some new flavors.
Below is a general guide on how to grow an herb wall for restaurants:
Determine the Location
Find a suitable wall space within your restaurant that receives adequate sunlight or install grow lights if natural light is limited. Ensure the wall is sturdy enough to support the weight of the herb garden.
Choose a variety of herbs based on your restaurant's culinary needs and the available space. Popular herbs for North American culinary use include basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, cilantro, and oregano. Consider the growth habits, as well as the water and temperature requirements of each herb when making your selection.
Install Vertical Structures
Install vertical structures like shelving units, trellises, or wall-mounted planters on the chosen wall. Ensure they are securely attached to the wall and can support the weight of the plants and soil. Take into consideration how heavy the soil will be once watered.
Prepare the Planters
Use appropriate planters or containers that are designed for vertical gardening. Consider using pocket planters, hanging planters, or modular systems that allow easy installation and maintenance. Ensure the planters have adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging.
Soil and Potting Mix
Use a well-draining potting mix suitable for herbs. You can purchase a pre-mixed potting soil or create a custom blend of compost, peat moss, and perlite/vermiculite. Avoid using garden soil, as it tends to be too heavy and may not drain well.
Planting the Herbs
Fill the planters with the potting mix and plant the herbs according to their individual requirements. Learn about what plants can grow in the same container together without issue. (For example, I’ve found that mint plants tend to take over and do their best in their own containers.)
Spacing the Plants
Leave enough space between plants to allow for growth and airflow. Place trailing herbs near the edges or on higher shelves to let them cascade down.
Watering and Maintenance
Herbs generally prefer slightly moist soil but can be sensitive to overwatering. Water the plants regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Use your finger to check the soil moisture before watering. Prune the herbs regularly to encourage bushier growth and remove any diseased or damaged leaves.
Light and Temperature
Ensure the herb wall receives adequate sunlight or use artificial grow lights to provide the necessary light spectrum for plant growth. Most herbs require around 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Maintain a suitable temperature range for the specific herbs you're growing, as they may have different temperature preferences.
Herbs benefit from regular feeding. Use a balanced organic fertilizer or a specialized herb fertilizer according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be cautious not to over-fertilize, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth and reduced flavor.
Pest and Disease Control
Monitor the herb wall for any signs of pests or diseases. Use organic pest control methods like neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or companion planting to keep pests at bay. Proper airflow and maintaining a clean growing environment can also help prevent disease issues.
Harvesting Your Herbs
Regularly harvest the herbs when they reach an appropriate size to encourage continuous growth. Harvesting promotes bushier growth and ensures a fresh supply of herbs for your restaurant or home’s culinary needs. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging the plants. For plants like basil and mint, snip the leaves right by the stem to encourage new growth.
Rotation and Succession Planting
Rotate the herb varieties periodically to maintain a balance in growth and prevent overcrowding. Consider succession planting by sowing new seeds or planting new seedlings in empty spaces to ensure a continuous supply of herbs.
Consistency is Key
Remember, growing an herb wall requires consistent care and attention. Monitor the plants regularly, adjust watering, temperature and lighting as needed, and enjoy the bountiful flavors of fresh herbs in your restaurant's dishes.