by Aisling Badger
If you are looking to spend more time outside connecting to nature--growing herbs is a great place to start, and the benefits of gardening are plenty! The health of our bodies not only come from what we put into them, but also from what we experience around us.
Healing gardens are gaining in popularity, as the advantage of growing your own herbs is that you will know exactly where they come from and you get your hands into the earth, experiencing a diversity of microbes, which our microbiome thrives on. Good dirt is healthy, and in return may help support our immune system and gut. You also get to know these herbs on a more intimate level when they grow around you, deepening the practice of herbalism and your health journey, making it all that more meaningful.
Whether you grow an entire garden or just a few herbs in containers on a city porch, there's a simple sort of magic that comes from the promise of fresh herbs for morning tea, salads, or smoothies, and harvesting them throughout the season to fill your home apothecary.
Here are a few of our staples that are easy to grow in garden beds or containers:
Lemon Balm: We could never imagine an herbal garden without lemon balm. Vibrant, lemony, and easy to grow, this herb is a faithful mood ally. We love lemon balm for its gentle uplift to the spirit, and for support during times of occasional stress, sadness, and worry.* Fresh lemon balm is lovely to have on hand for tea, syrups, tinctures, cocktails, and mocktails, or can be dried and stored in the apothecary for later use. This plant is easy to grow and will continue to produce after multiple harvests.
Tulsi: In traditional Indian culture, tulsi is revered as a holy plant; everything about it is considered sacred, and one you always want growing in your home. This plant is a fantastic adaptogen, supporting our nervous system during periods of occasional stress and burn out.* And it's one of the few adaptogens that come in a green leafy form. Fresh holy basil makes a fantastic glycerite or a tincture and can be used in teas or cocktails. Experiment a little and add an herbal twist to dishes by throwing a few leaves into salads or pestos! Tulsi truly grows like a weed, and you can cut tulsi back two, three, sometimes four times a season, for ample yields.
Peppermint:Prolific, and easy to grow, peppermints cooling medicinal properties are great to have on hand throughout the summer months. Traditionally used to relieve indigestion, it's perfect for tea, floral waters, and any summer desserts--like peppermint granitas or ice cream!*
It's good to think about growing this herb in a small garden bed or container, as it spreads rapidly and will take over an entire bed if you aren't careful!
Chamomile:Well-known and beloved by herbalists, chamomile has been used for thousands of years. Best known for its gentle, soft and buttery flavor, chamomile eases occasional tension and stress, emotional upset, occasional nervousness, and symptoms that accompany a nervous stomach.* Chamomile’s abundant and useful actions make it an excellent herb choice for every member of the family.
A plant that does well with frequent harvests, fresh chamomile makes a lovely tincture or tea or can be dried throughout the summer for later use.
Calendula: This plant is as vibrant and bright as the sun, and for such a simple plant to grow, it brings a lot of joy. One of our favorite edible flowers for salads, summertime dishes, and cocktails--it makes an ordinary dish into something special. You can also dry it for tea, oils and herbal baths as calendula has a traditional use to support healthy and vibrant skin.*
Calendula can be direct seeded in the garden in spring or can be grown in pots as well. Pluck the flower heads once they bloom, and more will grow back.
Lemon Verbena: The scent alone makes you smile! Lemon verbena offers a sweet lemon flavor that’s refreshing in tea or desserts making this herb a favorite for summertime! We make syrups to use in cocktails like spritzers, or gin and tonics or desserts and popsicles, and it's almost always in our daily summer tea.
This plant is easy to grow, and continual harvests lead to more growth.
Thyme: An easy herb to grow, Thyme is a staple in every herbalist's apothecary. We use it in tea or tincture form to support upper respiratory health, seasoning and spicing dishes, or medicinal broths throughout the year.* Another great one to dry for the season ahead.
Harvest this plant throughout the summer, as it will continue to produce after being cut.
A few considerations:
If you start your herbs from seed, start them indoors and then transplant them once there is no risk of frost. But as it gets later into May, it's best to direct seed or to buy individual starts. You can often find inexpensive starts at local coops, nurseries, hardware stores, and even apothecaries- which will often host plant swaps!Healthy soil is an essential element of your garden. Make sure to add compost each year and avoid the use of harsh chemicals or pesticides in your growing area- especially since you will be using these plants to fill the home apothecary.Keep an eye on the soil throughout the summer, water when dry, and weed as needed.Harvest throughout the season as most herbs will continue to produce after you harvest, giving you more than one offering.If drying, make sure herbs are thoroughly dried, in baskets, or a dehydrator and then store them in airtight containers.
With a little tender loving care, your plants will soon be thriving, and your summer apothecary brimming with fresh herbal medicine.
If you are looking for more resources, here are a few of our favorite books on growing herbs:
The Medicinal Herb Grower by Richo Cech
A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by Rosemary Gladstar
Growing 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung