Anytime you want to start a garden, it's important to plot out on paper exactly how you want your plantings to look. The same is true when you want to design a culinary herb garden. Because your culinary herbs will be used in your food, it's especially important to spend the time beforehand planning the design of the garden so you can recognize which herbs are which when you go to harvest them. Whether used fresh or dried, nothing beats the flavor of cooking with your own herbs.
Make a list of the herbs you use most in your kitchen and that you would like to grow. Don't worry about the garden space required to support your list, just make the list of desired herbs for now or in the future.
Look up the herbs on your list in a resource book such as Arabella Boxer's "The Herb Book" or a series by Better Homes and Gardens, or online at sites like culinaryherbguide.com. Add information to your list about your herbs such as the mature size of the plant, whether it's an annual or perennial, prefers sun or shade, and the growth habits of the plants.
Select the outdoor area for your culinary herb garden. You'll need a spot that is easy to get to from your backdoor, has good drainage and receives at least six hours of sunlight a day to support full-sun and part-shade varieties.
Measure the size of your herb garden space. Draw the outline of your garden area on your graph paper with one square on the paper equal to 6 inches in the garden.
Follow your spacing guidelines on your list to begin to plot where each herb you wish to grow will be. Don't forget to select the herbs that grow best based on the light of your garden area. You might or might not be able to fit all of the herbs on your list, so narrow your selection as you design.
Be creative with your herb layout, but be certain that the taller herbs stay closer to the back of the garden so shorter plants can get an equal amount of light. Try curving designs, geometric patterns, wagon wheel set ups, or your own personal style.
Design in small stepping stones, narrow gravel channels, or bricks between plants if you want to create clear divisions in your herb garden. Having barriers like these often keeps the aggressive-growing herbs separated from the rest of the garden and makes digging up portions of the bed easier and less disruptive.
Color in your design based on the shades of greens, reds, grays and purples of your herbs to get a better idea of how the culinary garden will look visually once it's planted. Doing so can quickly help you realize if you need to rearrange without having planted anything yet.