If you are serious about gardening and self-reliance, you might grow almost all the things you eat. In addition to vegetables and fruits, you can grow all your seasonings, too, except salt and probably black pepper.
You can grow your herbs among your vegetables, as we discussed last week, but it can be nice to have dedicated herb gardens. There are two main categories of herbs for the serious herb grower: seasoning or kitchen herbs, and medicinal or tea herbs. I am building what will become my Apothecary Garden; I’ve started with comfrey. I keep what I call tea herbs in my English Country Garden because lavender and rose hips and such go so nicely together.
As for a kitchen herb garden, you can place that right outside your kitchen door so the herbs will be quickly accessible whenever you need them. Or, you might have reasons to place it elsewhere, like I have: My north-facing kitchen door is up a staircase from an outside door, yet my south-facing front door is near a wedge-shaped bit of earth between a wooden ramp and stone path. I found it an ideal location, and visitors have said they like that it welcomes them as they approach.
In this space, I grow Greek and Italian oregano, flat and curly parsley, sage, several kinds of thyme around the sundial (and Mother-of-Thyme down in the front corner), stevia, sweet basil, garlic and regular chives, and a plant called German garlic that is more like a strong version of garlic chives. Because I am at the edge of the range for rosemary, I tucked it into a protected south-facing corner so it will come in for the winter. Normally, I also have dill (caterpillars got it this year), sweet marjoram and winter savory (winter got them this year), and lemon verbena (I forgot to take it in, so winter got it, too).
To choose which herbs to grow, consider what types of cooking you do most. As you might be able to tell, I like Italian. At any moment, I might make homemade pasta and run out for basil and oregano for it. There’s real garlic in the vegetable garden, not to mention tomatoes, peppers and onions.
If you like French cuisine, you could turn to the Herbes de Provence. This was once simply a description of many herbs commonly used in southern France. The use of this name as a particular herbal mixture you can buy has narrowed down the true richness of the Provençal herbs to five: savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano. If you really like French cooking, there are many more, and French tarragon and French thyme will probably be essential.
You can take these ideas as far as you like, and if you are a market gardener, herbs give you far more scope in a much smaller space than other produce. One healthy patch of oregano will provide dozens of half-ounce bags or mini jars of dried herb. Check local regulations; here in Kentucky anyone can sell sprigs of fresh herbs, but you have to be certified to sell dried ones.
Herbs—good for what ails you, and if nothing ails you, they’re good for that, too.