A kitchen herb garden is positioned close to the kitchen door and may be planted with culinary and medicinal herbs. Throughout history, the proximity of kitchen gardens to the home allowed the cooks to step outside without having to step through muddy lands during bad weather or leave the kitchen for too long a time. In contemporary times, kitchen herb gardens may be incorporated into vegetable gardens or herbs may be grown in containers on a patio or porch. A few potted herbs on kitchen window sill, though, may serve as an herb garden.
Monasteries in medieval Europe devoted much of the garden area to medicinal herbs as monks were expected to act as physicians to the local population. In the countryside, a small patch outside the cottage door was devoted to culinary herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme. The herbs flavored broths and stews, and were used for teas. If the woman of the house was savvy in the use of medicinal herbs, she might include them in her garden, but excluded such herbs as belladonna and mandrake, as these were believed to be used by witches.
The kitchen herb garden was just as essential in America. The colonists from England and Europe brought with them seeds from their gardens. Just as in Europe, the garden was planted close to the house. The colonial housekeepers included medicinal herbs in their gardens as there were no monks to act as physicians.
A well -planted kitchen herb garden includes a mix of perennial herbs and annuals. Perennial herbs live for three years and longer. A healthy rosemary plant may live as long as 15 years. Other perennials include sage, thyme, oregano and mint. Annual herbs live for a season and then die back. Annual herbs include basil, dill, parsley and marjoram. Though technically not an herb, chives, which are perennial, are treated as herbs in cooking and may be included in a well-planted kitchen garden.
Herbs in pots on a window sill, a single container with several herbs planted in it, or a plot as large as a vegetable garden may serve as a kitchen garden. Outdoor kitchen herb gardens may be organized into a formal, geometric pattern that includes separate sections, with each section hosting one herb. The perennials may be used to border the garden with annual herbs grown within the herbal walls.
Herbs may be grown from seed. Seedlings are usually available from local garden centers. In a new garden, plant seedlings for both perennials and annuals. Follow up with seeds for the annuals and the garden will produce enough fresh herbs for cooking as well as a sufficient amount for drying.
In temperate climates, an herbal garden may produce year round; the perennials needn't be "winterized" and the extended growing season may extend the life of the annuals. In colder climates, the perennial herbs in the kitchen garden are cut back and protected with covers throughout the colder months.
Mint and oregano are voracious growers and may expand to take up considerable garden space. Keep these in check with consistent clipping. These may also be placed in pots to control their growth and prevent them from robbing other herbs of nutrients.