Growing your own herbs has many advantages. They are cheaper than store-bought ones, you can get a fresh supply whenever you need them to flavor food, you can use them for medicinal purposes, and by starting them early in the season indoors, you can be assured of a supply when they are not available in the markets. You can plant them in separate beds of their own, in containers, hanging baskets or in spaces between trees and shrubs. Herbs thrive indoors and outdoors, infusing any space with their vibrant foliage and pungent aroma.
Decide where you want to grow your herbs. You can plant them directly into the soil or sow them in containers to bring indoors in inclement weather. Keep in mind that all herbs require good sunlight and well-drained soil.
Test the drainage of the planting site by pouring water there. If the water absorbs into the soil, the site is favorable. If the water pools, it is unfavorable. Drainage is the single most important factor for a successful herb garden.
Amend the soil if it has poor drainage before you plant the herbs. To do this, dig 15 inches of soil from the planting site, place 3 inches of crushed stone in the trench and let it settle. Then mix equal amounts of sphagnum peat or compost with sand and add several inches of it over the stone. Backfill with soil and tamp it down.
Purchase seeds of the cultivars of herbs you want to grow. They are available as seeds or seedlings from nurseries.
After the last danger of frost has passed, plant the seeds into the soil no deeper than twice the size of each seed, spacing them 2 inches apart. Herbs such as mint should be sown in a container or they will spread all over the garden. Fennel, coriander and dill should be sown directly into the soil, since they do not transplant well.
Start tiny seeds in containers indoors to prevent them from being washed away by water or eaten by birds at least six weeks before transplanting them outdoors. Transplant seedlings outdoors after the danger of frost has passed.
Water the seeds well after planting and spread a layer of mulch over the site to help it retain moisture and prevent competing weeds from growing there.
Water again every other day to moisten the soil. Most herbs germinate in 10 days to two weeks, although some take longer.
Thin seedlings once they are several inches high to space them 8 to 12 inches apart by snipping them off at soil level.
Harvest the herbs by pinching them off before flowers bloom to encourage new growth. Always harvest in the morning, just after dew has evaporated.