Herb gardening is an easy way to add variety to your landscape and your dinner plate at the same time. While some herbs, such as dill, prefer large spaces, many herbs lend themselves easily to container or small-space gardening. While a few herbs set demanding conditions for good growth, most types of herbs have varieties that will grow well in most areas. The best herbs to grow, of course, are the ones you really like to eat.
Choose as warm and sunny a location for your herb plants as possible. Note that the space does not absolutely have to be outdoors. Herbs can grow on sunny kitchen windowsills and in other warm, bright indoor areas. Add a full-spectrum plant light over your indoor herbs to extend their growth season beyond summer for annuals like basil and to carry perennial herbs like thyme through the winter. Herbs that live indoors can spend their summers on the back porch, terrace or patio. Water herbs regularly to keep them producing tasty foliage.
Select herb varieties that suit both your taste and your space. Parsley, basil and dill are well-known, reliable annual herbs to grow. Among perennials, thyme, sage, majoram, chives and rosemary do well in a variety of settings. If you are uncertain how much of each herb you will really use, begin with single seedling plants from the nursery rather than packets of seeds; a flourishing thicket of parsley is of little use if you only want a sprig or two a week for garnishing. Single plants let you experiment with fresh use (fresh herbs taste different from dried ones) and let you freeze or dry some for winter use. Next year you can grow from seed if you want a lot of a particular herb.
Use herbs as part of overall landscaping rather than confining them to strictly kitchen uses. Fresh herbs can enhance cut-flower bouquets, provide material for potpourri and add fragrance to your garden. No room by the kitchen door for a stand of dill? Combine it in your cutting garden with cosmos, Mexican sunflowers and zinnias, where it can both stretch to full height and draw butterflies to your yard. Add mint and sage to a colorful border for a green-and-silver contrast. Let herb plants bloom and go to seed, so that they can hopefully self-seed for next year.
Save room in your herb garden for at least one experiment--an herb with which you would like to become better acquainted. This can range from growing flat Italian parsley rather than the more traditional curly kind to a colored or aromatic basil you've never used for seasoning. Growing one new herb lets you research recipes into which it might fit, learn about a new cuisine or add variety to your current recipes.