Growing an herb garden is as rewarding as it is easy to do. To begin growing herbs, you need soil that is fertile, either herb transplants or herb seeds, a bit of water and fertilizer and you are ready to go. Most herbs are tolerant plants that do not require extreme soil preparation or extra care. Information in an herb gardening reference book will tell you which herbs prefer full sun and which ones require shade as well as their individual water requirements. Most, but not all, herbs are grown after the danger of frost has passed.
List your reasons for wanting an herb garden. Whether you want herbs for the kitchen, for teas and other medicinal uses or for the beauty and scent they add to the garden will affect the types of herbs you choose and the site and preparation requirements of the herb garden.
Select the site(s) for planting. Herb plants vary in their need for amended soil, amount of sun, eventual size and water requirements. Group herbs within a site based on common characteristics. Herbs that are not cold-tolerant may be best placed in containers so that they can be protected in the winter or treated as annuals.
Lay out your herb garden. Make sure that each type of plant has enough space to grow to maturity and that aggressive herbs like mint are contained. A measuring stick will help you keep plants far enough apart. Within each selected site, place plants considering their eventual height, so that taller herbs will not take away sun from shorter ones. Exercise your creativity in design, use of color and contrasting textures and styles.
Prepare the site. Clear all residue plants and trash from the site and turn the soil down at least 3 or 4 inches with a spading fork or tiller. Amend the soil with organic matter as needed and smooth the surface. Place paths, soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems.
Plant your herbs. Herbs can be planted from seed, but most gardeners are more satisfied with the results of using transplants. Herbs already started and hardened off in containers give you better control on placement than using seeds, and some types of herb seeds require special knowledge to get good germination.
Dig a hole with the trowel that is slightly larger than the container. Place the herb plant gently into the hole about an inch below the surface. Add potting soil around the base, leaving a slight depression for moisture and mulch around the plant. Measure the distance between herb plants to make sure that each plant has air circulation at it mature size and room to spread its roots.
Water the herbs into the soil and add a light dose of balanced fertilizer.
Watering your herb plants depends on the requirements of the herb. Some, such as basil, like to have moisture available. Other herbs, like oregano, prefer a drier soil. Refer to herb-growing reference books for the water requirements of each herb.
Harvest herbs when the plant is established and before seed heads appear (unless you want the seeds). Most herbs can be harvested by cutting pieces for immediate use without disturbing the remainder of the plant. Herb leaves are most flavorful in the morning after the dew has dried. Some herbs such as chamomile are harvested from the flowers rather than the leaves. Cilantro and dill offer both flavored leaves and seeds. Some medicinal herbs are extracted from plant roots, such as echinacea from the purple coneflower.