Growing herbs brings rewards to anyone with a garden. Herbs are attractive and offer a wonderful aroma. And anyone who cooks appreciates having a continuous, fresh supply of flavorful herbs. Most herbs are fairly compact, so they don't require much garden space, yet still provide an abundant harvest. As a side bonus, many herbs help to repel common garden pests.
Decide where you would like to plant herbs in your garden. You might like to set aside a small plot just for herbs. Alternately, herbs blend in well with ornamentals or vegetables and also make great border plants. Choose a sunny spot, since most herbs require about six hours of sunlight per day, and be sure your soil has good drainage.
Choose a variety of herbs, based on your needs and preferences. Some popular herbs that are useful are basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, parsley, sage, cilantro, dill and mints. Buy starter plants from a nursery. Look for plants that are stocky and full, with healthy-looking foliage. If you prefer to propagate your own plants, please refer to the Growing Herbs resource below for recommendations based on the types of herbs you are growing.
Make a garden plan. Sketch your garden on graph paper. Decide where you want to place each of your herbs, keeping in mind that you need to be able to easily reach them for frequent pruning and harvesting. Place taller herbs in back rows and short, bushy herbs up front.
Purchase a soil-testing kit to determine the pH level of your soil. Most herbs do best in soil with a pH level of 6.5 to 7. If you are not sure about the quality of your soil, replace it with store-bought top soil.
Prepare your soil by breaking it up with a spade or garden fork and turning it. Work in some compost, but keep in mind that herbs generally grow best in soil that is neither too rich nor too poor.
Transplant your herbs into your garden whenever conditions are appropriate for them. Different herbs do well at different times of the year. For example, parsley wilts and produces little during the hottest days of summer but thrives in the spring and fall when the weather is cooler, and even tolerates light frosts. Basil, on the other hand, is frost-tender and will die in the cold, but loves the heat and bolts in hot weather. See the Culinary Herb Guide resource below for specific information on different herbs.
Mulch well to help with weed control and to keep the soil moist. Water herbs lightly but frequently. Keep the soil moist, not muddy, and avoid letting it dry out. Fertilize sparingly with an all-purpose vegetable and herb liquid fertilizer, once every six to eight weeks.
Prune herbs frequently by harvesting regularly. This will encourage bushiness. By keeping herbs from flowering you will help keep them growing at their most flavorful.