Growing herbs is a practical pleasure — they are handsome and fragrant in the garden, indispensable in the kitchen, easy to grow and fascinating to study.
The gardening of herbs is as old as civilization. The earliest known writings of nearly every culture include references to herbs used for preparing and preserving food, scenting the air or treating wounds and illness. The roots of modern medicine — in fact, of modern science itself — can be traced back to the herb gardens of medicine men, witches and sorcerers, and were nurtured through the ages by the systematic studies of herbalists. Some of the plants prescribed nearly 2,000 years ago are used in drugs prescribed by modern doctors for the same ills — although they are no longer boiled in wine or infused with honey, as was once recommended.
Most herbs are tough, wild plants that have changed remarkably little despite centuries of cultivation, making them easy to grow organically. Almost all of them do best in sunny locations and fertile, well-drained soil, but some will survive in partial shade and poor soil.
Herbs can occupy their own part of the garden — by tradition near the kitchen door — or they can be grown with other plants. Herb gardens are often arranged in intricate patterns to accentuate the contrasting colors and textures of their foliage.
To avoid confusion when sprouts come up, label each bed carefully. Better still, draw a precise map of your planting pattern. Plan the beds so that the taller plants do not cast shade on the low-growing ones.