Herbs have been used since the beginning of humankind. Cultivation of herbs has occurred for millennia. Herbs are grown for flavoring, preserving, and medicinal uses. They are used as dyes and for ritual and worship. Herb gardens are grown for nostalgia, lifestyle values, and to empower one’s own health and body. They provide simple pleasures, economy, spiritual benefits, and connection with the natural cycles of the earth.
Herb gardens are increasing in popularity as consumers become more and more concerned about the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the risk of superbugs developing. Increased information is available about the benefits that herbs provide in maintaining healthy lifestyles. The desire to grow organic medicines and foods is becoming more mainstream. Savvy consumers are interested in excellent quality vs. quantity. Obtaining food and herbs locally and the growth of the slow food movement are prompting a surge in the popularity of backyard or windowsill herb gardens.
Health experts recognize that herbs promote longevity. People are realizing the limits that conventional medicine has, especially in the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses. Mass media and society have increased interest in living long healthy lives, and herbs can be a central aspect of reduced fat, sugar, and salt diets.
Fortunately, herbs are among the easiest plants to grow. Anyone can successfully grow herbs.
Considerations when Planting your Herb Garden
Herb Gardening Basics
Herbs are generally not fussy plants. They can be grown in every climate. Many of the most common herbs hail from Mediterranean climates. Annual, biennial, and perennial herbs are available. Annuals complete their life cycle in one year. Biennials require two years. Perennials live for several years. Herbs also grow in many forms. Sizes range from tiny creeping annuals to trees.
Types of Herb Gardens
Herb gardens can be formal or informal in design. They can be part of a flower or vegetable garden. You may choose to grow a medicinal, culinary, or tea garden. Your garden may be designed with a color theme or for fragrance. Perhaps you would like a garden for crafting herbs that can be used to make potpourri, wreaths, and dyes. Victorian, Biblical, aphrodisiac, and wild gardens are also popular. Herbs flourish when grown indoors or hydroponically as well as in garden beds and pots. Herbs grow very well in containers.
When deciding what type of herb garden that you would like to grow, consider the following: Is your garden going to be in the sun or shade? Is it a dry or moist climate and site? How much do you want to spend? How much effort do you want to exert?
Design your garden. Is it part of a larger garden? Is it part of your general landscaping? How do you want to arrange it? Would you like a heart shaped herb garden? Have you considered planting it as a medicine wheel? Some herb gardens are planted with respect to body systems or in a circle.
Consider plant characteristics – some plants that are annuals in the warm south are perennials in the north and vice versa. Seed packet instructions that recommend a sunny location may work in Vermont, while that same herb planted in a hot Florida climate might need some shade.
Perennials generally need more room than annuals. I place plants closer together than frequently recommended. I like to plant in wide rows as opposed to single rows so that I get the maximum amount of plants in the least amount of space. Planting close together reduces weeds in gardens.
Mulch conserves moisture, reduces the growth of weeds and can decompose to nourish your garden. Use plenty of mulch.
Consider the type of roots of your plants. Are they invasive, such as mint? Is there a big single taproot that will need deep soil? Many medicinal plants are weeds. Plant in appropriate places or they may take over your garden. I once planted a fine stand of nettles. My husband came in one day; he was quite pleased with himself. He said. “Your garden was full of nettles. I just weeded them out for you.” I had failed to tell him that nettles are one of the most useful herbs that grow and that I had planted the nettles.
Herbs are beneficial in any garden. Some have insect repellant qualities. Many attract butterflies. Others can help nearby plants to grow better.
Commercially grown plants often have chemical fertilizers used. Growing organic herbs benefits you, the plants, and the environment. Commercial plants are sometimes bigger but not necessarily healthier. Nutrients are highest in fresh plants.
Just like fresh veggies taste best, fresh herbs taste best. Homegrown herbs are inexpensive. You will have a great variety of flavors and medicine at your fingertips if you grow your own herbs. If you grow a culinary herb garden, you are automatically growing medicinal herbs. All gardens are healing intrinsically. If you are growing a medicinal garden, think about the types of medicines that you will need. Do some research or ask experts.
By growing an herb garden you will reduce your carbon footprint and have more connections with seasonal cycles. You will have beauty, fragrance, and flavor in your life. Herb gardens are an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle.