Grow a Herb Garden
For some, it is the pleasant scent and colorful flowers that attracts gardeners to plant and grow their own herbs. Then there are those who wish to tap into the extremely exciting world of herbal health treatments. Herbs have the power to treat constipation in children and boost immune systems in the elderly. Fresh and dried herbs can be used to create soothing teas, skin creams, and potent ointments. Before enjoying your very own outdoor medicine cabinet, you should learn some of the basic to growing an herb garden.
Preplanning Your Garden
Besides watching the fruits of your labor grow, one of the best parts of creating an herb garden is selecting the items you wish to include. While some gardeners select herbs for their visual presentation, many growers spend time researching the potential remedies that can come from a well-stocked medicinal garden.
Commonly selected herbs tend to include basil, sage and parsley, which also makes great additions in food, but then there are the less chosen gems, such as chamomile and hyssop. When making plans for your first herb garden, you should take into consideration how large the plants you select will grow. This will assist in the layout and size of your garden. Additional factors to consider include:
a) Growing Conditions:
Just like any other plant or flower, there are some herb varieties that do better in shade than in the sun. Some herbs call for heavy watering, while others should be kept lightly damp . Knowing the types of growing conditions that your herbs require will help you in the placement, as well as maintenance and care of your garden.
b) Easily Grown Plants:
While garlic, marjoram, and peppermint are rather easy to grow, there are other herb selections that may demand a higher level of maintenance. For instance, planting lemon balm provides a distinct scent in the air, but also has a tendency to recklessly grow.
c) Color and Visual Appeal:
For those who wish to add visual flair to a sea of green, seeking herbs that produce flowering tops or colorful leaves is recommended. A few items to consider include the yellow buds of the cowslip or the exotic-looking passion flower.
Buying Plants vs. Planting Seeds
Buying Plants: For the impatient, buying plants not only bypasses the time it takes to set your own seeds, but also avoids the frustration of slow-growing or hard-to-propagate herb varieties. Buying plants also gets your herb garden off to a quick start. When browsing a plant nursery, you may also scan selections that offer a few colorful varieties. Below are a few tips to consider when purchasing herb plants:
1) Always seek out strong, vibrant selections.
2) Avoid damaged-looking plants with a yellowed appearance.
3) Check the new growth and the underside of leaves for pests, such as aphids.
4) Turn potted plants upside-down so you can gently coax the plant out of its pot for root examination.
5) Make a habit of reading herb labels to know the required growing conditions before making a purchase.
Once you have selected the plants you desire for your herb garden, you will need to dig holes for your seedlings or plants, allowing sufficient room for them to grow. Also, don’t forget to read the planting instructions that come with your herb purchases.
Planting Seeds: Annual herbs are known to grow better when a gardener plants their own seeds. Paying a visit to your local garden center will provide you with the seeds you need to grow an herb garden. Hard-to locate seeds may reside at special herb nurseries. You may also obtain your seeds from mail order or Internet resources.
Annual seeds should be sown during the spring, directly in the area where you expect them to grow. The sowing of perennial seeds respond better during late summer, kept safe throughout the winter, and then planted in the garden when spring arrives. Annual medicinal herbs to consider purchasing include German chamomile; pot marigold; and borage. Fennel, skullcap; and lady’s mantle represent perennial herb favorites.
How to Sow a Seed
When planting your own herb seeds, you will need a seed tray; pot; potting mix; sheet of glass; plastic bag; and widger (a potted-plant tool that lifts seedlings). Below you will find one way to sow your own herb seeds:
1) Pour an ample amount of well-watered potting mix into a seed tray.
2) Sprinkle herb seeds on top. (Larger seeds are covered with a thin layer of mix, while smaller seeds remain uncovered).
3) Cover the seed tray with glass, then placing the tray within a plastic bag, set in a warm place.
4) As seedlings start to grow, fill a pot with potting mix, followed by poking a few holes into the mix.
5) With care, gently lift a seedling using a widger.
6) Insert the seedling into one of the holes, packing soil about the plant.
7) Continue the process, but do not overload pots. Once seedlings showcase further growth, you may transfer to your outdoor herb garden or continue to cultivate your herbs indoors.
Common Garden Herb Selections
If this is your first herb garden, there is a wide-range of options that provide a satisfying foundation for a beginner. In regards to usefulness, pot marigold (great astringent); St. John’s wort (good for inflammations and burns); thyme (one of the best antiseptics); purple sage (makes a great mouthwash); fennel (seeds treat digestive woes); and chamomile (satisfying sleep aid) are well-worth the try.
But I Live In An Apartment?
Many apartment dwellers feel they are unable to enjoy the possibilities of an herb garden. Actually, creating a medicinal window box is a great way to place natural healing at your fingertips. Window boxes can be outfitted for a window, fire escape, or balcony. When creating your herb box, you should select variations with slow growth patterns. Taller-growing herbs should be planted at the back, while trailing plants should be situated close to the edge.
Through a variety of mixing and matching, in no time, you will have an attractive window display. A few herbs to consider for a window box include peppermint (treats indigestion, nausea, and headaches), purple sage (great for sore throat gargles), Roman chamomile (soothing tea ingredient), ground ivy (cold and flu decongestant), and wood betony (makes a stress relieving tea).
Taking Care of Your Herb Garden
As your herb garden begins to take shape, you may notice some varieties grow quicker than others, prompting attentive garden maintenance. Taking care of an herb garden may call for pruning, which involves cutting back dead flower stalks or leaves. Keep in mind that self-seeding herb plants can take over an entire garden. Controlling these varieties is a must to ensure the proper growth of all herbs.
Harvesting Your Herbs
Most herb garden treasures are best harvested during the summer season (before or during flowering). Depending on the type of herbs selected, you might collect seeds and bark in early autumn; pluck roots in early spring or autumn; and gather leaves at any time (except during the threat of a frost). The types of herbs you select for your garden also determine the parts of the plant that are safe to use for medicinal purposes, such as the flowers, leaves, seeds, berries, bulbs, roots, bark, sap, or gel.
After a harvest, the medicinal preparation required of your herbs will determine the next course of action. This may include keeping the herbs fresh, dried, frozen, or simply stored in an airtight, dry container; dark glass; or pottery vessel. After a harvest, the fun of owning an herb garden continues as you discover the ins and outs of making your own herbal creams, infusions, teas, tinctures, and more.