While there are different definitions of what is considered essential for herb gardeners, the method to grow them is the same. All herbs, regardless of their use, are either annual or perennial and take weeks to grow into usable plants; many herbs can be started indoors and transplanted in early spring to shorten the time needed before harvesting.
Choose the location of the herb garden. Pick a location with good drainage, full sun and good air circulation. For colder climates you can set up windbreaks to avoid freezes or wind damage; use large rocks, blocks or fabric held upright by posts to create the windbreaks.
Set up the starter pots at the beginning of winter. Put potting soil into the starter pots up to within an inch of the top. Poke a 2-inch hole in the center of the soil with your finger. Put the seed into the hole and cover it with soil. Set the starter pots under fluorescent lights to help the germination process. Keep the soil moist but not wet to avoid drowning the seeds. Herbs such as dill, fennel, anise and coriander should be planted as seed directly into the outdoor garden as they do not transplant well.
Prepare the soil after the danger of frost has past in the early spring. Break up the soil with the claw rake to a depth of two inches. Add mulch or compost and mix it into the soil. Dig furrows two inches deep into the soil.
Bring the seedlings outside. Plant the perennial herbs in a permanent location where they can grow each year as these will only need planting once. Herbs such as lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme are perennial herbs. Plant any herb seeds in an area away from transplanted herbs to ensure the seeds have enough water and sunlight to germinate and grow. Plant the annual herbs where you can easily reach the soil; this will allow you to move plants around, change organization from year to year or swap out plants that are used up. Annual herbs include parsley, basil and cilantro.
Water the garden thoroughly; get the soil to a dark brown color and test the moisture with your finger. Poke your finger into the soil midway; if you can feel water on your finger the soil is too damp. Keep the garden moist for 14 days until the plants are established. Water weekly afterward, using your finger to test the moisture after watering.
Harvest annual herbs as needed; take cuttings from perennial herbs regularly to keep them pruned and healthy. Stop harvesting herbs at the beginning of autumn so they can get ready for the changing temperatures during colder months.
Cover the garden with a few inches of leaves or straw to insulate the garden through winter. Cover the ground after the first freeze; remove the cover after last frost.