Grow your own fresh herbs for a supply of spices all year long. Most herbs were essential early in history to treat various illnesses and to flavor culinary dishes, and some were even burned for their fragrance, according to the West Virginia University Extension Service. Even a small herb garden can provide spices for your entire family for the coming year.
Select a well-drained, sunny spot for your herb garden.
Till the garden area with a rake or rototiller. Dig the tines into the soil. Work to a depth of 8 inches. Break up the soil until completely loosened. Remove any rocks and weeds from the loose soil and throw them into an outdoor trash container.
Shovel a 2-inch layer of compost on top of the soil. Till the area again to incorporate the compost. Thoroughly mix the compost and existing soil by digging the tines into the soil down to a depth of 8 inches. Work in rows until each row is sufficiently mixed.
Purchase seeds or transplants from a reputable nursery, garden center, seed catalog or online retailer. Buy healthy plants; stay clear of plants with yellow or wilted leaves.
Plants seeds or transplants in the soil. Follow spacing and growing instructions provided on the back of seed packages or on plant tags. Plant higher-growing herbs near the back and lower-growing herbs near the front of the garden. Plant seeds about an inch deep in the soil. Dig a hole for transplants as wide and tall as the plant's original container. Pack soil firmly on top of seeds or over the roots and base of transplants.
Water plants daily until the soil around the plant appears moist. Refrain from watering if the soil already appears saturated.
Harvest the leaves of herbs throughout the growing season. Cut as little or as much as you want for cooking or drying purposes. Cut the stem just below the leaves you wish to harvest. Use a pair of clean, sharp garden shears.
Dry or freeze the herbs for long-term storage. Dust off dirt and rinse lightly, if necessary before preserving. Freeze herbs such as chives that can't be dried, or freeze herbs you wish to use fresh in dishes. Remove herbs from the freezer and allow them to thaw for a few minutes before adding to a dish. If drying herbs, set stems on a clean towel to allow moisture to evaporate. Once free of moisture, tie the entire end of the stems together with a piece of twine. Hang them upside down from a hook in a warm, dry place like a closet or attic.
Strip the leaves of the stem from the plant, once dry. Use your fingers to remove the leaves. When dry, the leaves should easily crumble from the stem. Remove leaves while holding the stem over a shallow container. Crush the leaf pieces in the palm of your hand by squeezing your first together to break it up into smaller pieces. Store dried herb spices in plastic bags or other enclosed small containers.