Fresh herbs, added to your culinary endeavors, offer more flavoring than dried herbs. It's quite simple to grow your own herb garden in a series of patio or deck terra-cotta pots. You might even consider a small indoor herb garden placed on your sunny kitchen window sill, for handy use. When you are just starting out, it's a good idea to work with herbs that are easy to grow.
Basil is a must-have for every herb gardener. It is used in so many dishes, but is most commonly used in pesto. There are many varieties of this herb, but sweet basil is the most commonly grown and used. Basil is considered an annual, so you will need to reseed or purchase new plants each year. This plant prefers a warm, sheltered location, so if your outdoor environment does not provide for this, grow it indoors. You can also move it indoors as the temperature drops and the weather becomes windy.
Chives are considered to be a hardy perennial, meaning they can survive colder temperatures, reemerging with new sprouts the following year. Unless you live in an extreme climate location, you can leave your chive plants in the ground or in a sheltered area of the patio during the winter months. You can start your own seeds or purchase a chive plant from your local nursery or garden center. Chives give a light onion flavor to dishes, such as salads, sauces, soups, eggs, casseroles and meats. Choose garlic chives for the added undertone of garlic.
Thyme has versatile use in Italian and French dishes. It especially offers a complementary flavor to meat, tomatoes and vegetables. This perennial herb needs protection in cold climates. It prefers a sunny spot during the growing season while planted in a sand-based soil. If you have extra thyme, at the end of the growing season chop it up and store it in the freezer, or dry some for winter use. Try a lemon thyme plant for a hint of citrus flavor.
This flavorful herb is only needed in small amounts in recipes. It is most often used with poultry, meat, cheese and fish dishes. Sage plants prefer a clay-based soil and a high nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season. This herb grows to a height of up to 36 inches. If you decide to grow it indoors, make sure it is in a location that will allow the entire plant plenty of sunshine or use fluorescent lamps.