13 Easy Herbs to Grow

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When I planted my garden in 2014, I included a space for herbs. I called this section of my backyard paradise the Apothecary Garden. In Medieval times, the person who sold herbs for medicinal purposes were called apothecaries.

At that time, I had no idea the role herbs would play in my future life. I just knew I loved the way herbs smelled. My desire for an herbal garden stemmed from my intention to cook with fresh herbs and to dry them, creating my own potpourri, teas and skin products. (Read about the birth of my Apothecary Garden.)

Six growing seasons later, the Apothecary Garden thrives. It provides fresh herbs and brings me much joy. This year I am expanding the herb garden, adding more plants and new varieties of existing herbs.

Most herbs are very easy to grow, tucking them into the ground or in containers. Apartment dwellers can grow herbs as easily as homeowners with big yards. They simply require 4 – 6 hours of direct sun, good soil, and proper drainage.

To get you started, here are 13 easy to grow herbs.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

 

Basil

Considered an annual, basil that is allowed to flower and go to seed produces volunteer plants the following summer. There are many varieties to choose from including one with dark purple leaves. Fragrant basil grows best in a sunny location.

Dill

Pungent and flavorful, use the leaves, yellow flowers and seeds in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Leave some plants with seeds, as they too will produce volunteer plants the next year. Grow dill in a sunny spot or tuck into a container that receives adequate sunlight.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Mint

One of the easiest herbs to grow, peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint flourish and return each year. The plants made great ground cover in the garden. Mint does spread  rapidly, so place it in an area where its growth can be controlled. Or plant in large containers. Mint grows well in partial shade to full sun.

Thyme

Another low growing herb, thyme is a perennial, returning year after year. It too makes a wonderful ground cover and can tolerate being walked on. In a container, thyme trails over the edge, partnering well with other herbs in a display. Grow thyme in full sun.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Chives

With their pretty pink blossoms, chives are attractive enough to add to a border garden. Harvest the flowers or the tubular stems to add a subtle onion flavor to dishes. Grow chives in a sunny location in well drained soil, or plant in containers. This plant is perennial.

Lavender

Among the many varieties, English lavender is the most popular form of this wonderfully fragrant herb. It is a perennial that prefers full sun and well drained soil. Include lavender in the herb garden, flower border or in containers.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Chamomile

This well known herb thrives in full sun to partial shade. Sow chamomile seeds, which can be ordered here, in late spring directly on the ground or in a container. Use the flowers fresh or dried to create a soothing tea.

Lemon Balm

This extremely easy to grow herb offers a strong lemony scent and flavor with a hint of mint. A perennial, lemon balm is another plant that can take over the garden, if not controlled. Grow in a full sun to partial shade or tuck into a container.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Bee Balm

A perennial, bee balm, like mint and lemon balm, is simple to grow. And it too likes to spread. Bee balm’s gorgeous pink, white or purple flowers do indeed attract bees and butterflies. Use the flowers or the leaves to brew a fragrant cup of tea. Bee balm prefers full sun but moist soil, so surround the plants with a layer of mulch.

Lemongrass

Resembling ornamental grasses, the tall flavorful leaves and tender bulbs of lemongrass are used in soups or teas. An annual in most regions of the US, lemongrass must be replanted each spring. Place in full sun and keep the soil well watered.

Sage

Sage’s grayish green or variegated leaves add rich flavor to foods and teas. The flowers are edible as well. Grow in full sun in well drained soil or in container combos. Low growing sage makes a great border plant also.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Fennel

Fennel’s leaves resemble dill leaves. Very easy to grow, fennel provides a subtle licorice flavor to dishes. The dried seeds make a fragrant tea. Grow in a sunny location.

Rosemary

This shrubby herb can grow tall enough to resemble a small tree or train it to climb a wall or trellis. Rosemary requires a hot, dry, sunny location or it thrives in a container placed in direct sunlight. Bring rosemary indoors in the winter and replant in the spring.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Beneficial Herbs

Herbal plants add flavor to foods. I love walking into my garden and pinching off sprigs of fresh herbs to cook with. Actually, I enjoy walking through my herbal garden each evening, as the plants release their amazing scents as I brush the leaves.

Fresh or dried herbs are perfect for brewing health boosting cups of tea. And, as I intended, I create my own potpourri each fall, from the dried leaves and flowers.

When I planted my Apothecary Garden I did not know that in two years my life would shift drastically as I adopted a plant based lifestyle. Herbs play a huge role in keeping me healthy. As I realized the importance of these medicinal plants, I looked in amazement at my hardy and mature Apothecary Garden. What I needed for my health was already here, waiting for me to recognize the significance of my earlier actions.

How magical and enchanted life is. And how beautiful these life giving plants are.

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

Backyard Garden Series

Check out the other posts in this gardening series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

Grow an enchanting herbal tea garden, with this package of seeds. Click photo for link to Amazon.

 


 

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Journey 220: Thistle Seeds

Early in the spring, as I planted in containers and filled in spots in the garden, I visited a variety of garden centers in Missouri and Arkansas. I found lots of amazing plants. However, although I searched every botany shop that I stopped at, I never found thistle plants. Because of my Scottish heritage, and as memorials of my visit to Scotland last year and my cousin Mindy, who traveled with me to our homeland and then journeyed on into eternity in January, I wanted thistle plants.

seeds Debbie

I gave up the search for this year. And then, my beautiful younger sister, Debbie, surprised me with seeds. She found them online and ordered them for me. She attended Bob Moore’s funeral this past week and she arrived bearing gifts for me, precious seeds. Not only did she purchase Scottish Thistle for me…she also gave me Milk Thistle, Safflower, and English Lavender seeds.

seeds handful of thistle

It is late in the year to be sowing seeds, but I couldn’t resist. On this warm but very beautiful evening, I was out in the backyard garden, scattering seeds. I planted half of them and saved the rest to sow next spring. There is time for these seeds to sprout and thrive. I can pot them in containers and bring them indoors for the winter, if I so choose. I’ve had a large metal box, with handles, that I have saved. I didn’t know what I was saving it for, but it has remained empty all summer….until tonight. Filling it with potting soil, I divided the surface into four zones and scattered seeds in each area.

seeds metal box

English Lavender went into the first section. Lavender is a herbaceous plant that has fragrant stems, leaves and flowers, in pinks, purples or whites. It is a great addition to any garden, whether in the herbal section or a cottage or border garden. Uses are many and include dried flowers, teas, sachets, potpourri, beauty products and herbal remedies.

seeds english lavender

Milk Thistle is another type of thistle, as its name implies, with red to purple flowers. As a herbal remedy, milk thistle is excellent for liver health and to promote bile flow. It is considered effective in cleansing the body of toxins and even in combating cancer. I have never had this plant before either, so I am excited to add it to my apothecary garden. Thistles are considered invasive, so I will be growing them in containers as I study their habits.

seeds milk thistle

Safflowers are considered one of humanity’s oldest cultivated plants. It too is a thistle like plant with red, orange or yellow flowers. Commercially, the safflower plant is grown for the oil that is extracted from the seeds. The oil can be used for cooking and also has medicinal properties for heart health, and can be used to treat fevers, coughs and breathing problems. This plant is new to me as well.

seeds safflower

Scottish Thistle, the national flower of Scotland, has grayish green stems and leaves and flowers that range from pink to purple. It is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character and has been the national emblem of Scotland since the reign of Alexander III, 1249-1286. According to legend, an invading Norse army, attempting to sneak up at night on a Scottish encampment, inadvertently stepped on thistle plants, which caused them to cry out in pain. Those cries alerted the Scots, who routed the Norse army. The lowly thistle, which grows everywhere in Scotland, was elevated to their national symbol as a result. I am so thrilled to have seeds to grow my own thistle, symbol of Scotland and my roots, beauty and travel. I will think of Mindy as well, any time I look at Scottish Thistle in my garden.

seeds scottish thistle

I wanted a fun way to identify which sections contained which seeds, in my metal box. I wrote the flower names on wooden clothes pins and attached them to sticks I found in the yard. This was a simple and effective choice for markers, and it has a rustic charm. I like it. I’ll mist the soil every day, maybe twice a day, in this heat, and watch for the little sprouts to appear. Thank you, Debbie, for not only buying me the seeds, but for knowing my heart so well. I’m smiling ear to ear, old gardening clothes on, hair pulled back in a ponytail, the cloying scent of bug spray clinging to me, and feeling wonderfully content. I love your surprise….and you!

seeds completed box

Journey 195: Bee Balm

Today I added a plant to my herb garden. I have a mental list of plants that I am on the lookout for, primarily herbs that can be dried and used in all kinds of helpful and interesting concoctions. Earlier this year I found Calendula seeds and now have that herb with its dark yellow blooms growing in the large black kettle. Recently I found the Bee Balm plant and I am so excited to include it in the garden.

bee balm

Bee Balm is a member of the mint family, along with lavender and basil. All three are beneficial for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. They produce richly scented blooms and leaves, which can be used for teas when dried. I have basil and lavender in the herb, or apothecary, garden. But I had not found the Bee Balm plant yet.

Also known as wild bergamot and horsemint, Bee Balm is a perennial, native to North American. It typically has wonderfully scented pink, red or light purple blooms on a compact, bushy plant. As my plant doesn’t have blooms yet, I’ll be delightfully surprised by the color.

bee balm 2

Here are some of the uses for Bee Balm:

  • The scent is a natural mosquito repellent, especially when the leaves are crushed to release the oils.
  • It is a soothing skin tonic for dry, itching or sunburned skin. (Boil 1 C of leaves and blooms in 4 C of water for 10 minutes. Let cool and strain. Used on skin or add to bath)
  • Brew as a tea. Bee Balm has a flavor reminiscent of bergamot oranges. The tea has antiseptic qualities, and contains vitamins A and C, making it an excellent soother of sore throats and cold symptoms. The tea is also great for digestive problems, headache and fever. (Brew ¼ C of fresh leaves or 2 t of dried leaves in 1 C of hot water)
  • The antiseptic action of Bee Balm also makes it great for poultices, and as a wash for skin infections and minor wounds. Rinsing the mouth with the tea combats gingivitis, mouth sores and throat infections.
  • The blooms are edible, and somewhat spicy. Add to salads or sandwiches.
  • And, planted near tomatoes, Bee Balm improves the growth and flavor of the tomatoes.

I am excited to include this versatile plant to my collection. I’m looking forward to harvesting and drying leaves and blooms, and creating teas and tinctures. In the meantime, it will grace the herb garden with its beauty and fragrance, while attracting butterflies, bees and other helpful insect allies. The unique bloom reminds me of the thistle plant, which may be the reason I was initially attracted to it. All the more reason to cultivate this amazing herb.

bee balm bloom

Day 281: Transplant Herbs on Bakers Rack to Garden

Fall garden 2

It was 80 degrees on this overcast day, yet there is no doubt that fall is here and cooler temperatures are coming. My backyard garden is in full splendor, alive with colors and textures, insects and frogs. I spend much time here, my heart and soul soothed and at the same time, expanded, by the peace and beauty in this space. I know with the first hard frost, the landscape of the garden will change. It is almost time to put my garden to sleep for the winter months. For my first today, I transplanted the herbs on the cheery yellow bakers rack, on the porch, to the garden.

Fall garden herb rack

This is my second year to have pots of fragrant herbs on the front porch. While waiting for the yard to be remediated last year, having the bakers rack full of green growing plants appeased my desire to be gardening. I enjoyed the rack so much that I repeated the experience this year, even though I planted an apothecary garden in the backyard. Last year, I wintered some of the herbs inside, and some I let die and tossed out after they became very leggy. This year, for the first time, I was able to move those potted herbs to a new home in the backyard, in the hopes they will reappear next spring.

Fall garden 4

I lugged back containers of rosemary, lavender, common sage and pineapple sage, basil and cinnamon basil, Italian oregano and lemon balm. Keeping to the apothecary section, the plants were lovingly placed into the ground, tucked among the mature plants stirring in the light breeze. As I worked, the heady scent of the herbs filled the air around me. I am so pleased with the way the garden filled in this year and look forward to seeing what it does next year!

Fall garden 3

A couple of weeks ago the big black kettle arrived from Arkansas and was placed in the herb garden as well. For fall, I’ve planted yellow mums in it. Next spring, I hope to find calendula plants to fill it. The kettle belonged to Greg’s grandmother and was given to Greg’s parents years ago. Dad Moore passed it on to me recently. There was an azalea bush in the kettle that I estimate to be at least 16 years old. I transplanted that bush into a partially shaded spot on the east side of the house, where it will get morning sun.

Fall garden black kettle 2

After I finished my planting, I walked around the garden snapping pics. The grasses have put up their plumes. I love ornamental grasses and the interest they add to the garden. I sat for a time, the breeze cooling me off. Dark clouds were massing to the west. We have three days of rain in the upcoming forecast. The newly transplanted herbs should thrive with the cloudy, rainy days. There is nothing else to add to the garden this year. Phase One has surpassed my dream. Next year, I will begin Phase Two. For now, I am simply enjoying. And that is enough.

Fall garden 6

Fall garden 5

Day 274: Drying Herbs From My Garden

Drying herbs in window e

My herb garden has matured so much since it was planted in the spring. The plants are lush and aromatic. I love walking through the garden and catching the scent of lemon balm, basil and lavender as the breeze stirs the plants. As fall brings the promise of cooler weather, it is time to begin harvesting the leaves. Today, for my first, I made a simple drying rack and began gathering herbs into bouquets to dry.

I love using herbs for occasional cooking. I don’t cook much except during the holidays and in the cooler months when I enjoy making chili and an assortment of soups. I especially enjoy dried herbs in making my own teas, potpourri and beauty products. I wanted an Apothecary garden to be a central part of the backyard garden. With such an abundance of healthy herbs, I intend to learn more uses for these versatile plants.

Drying herbs garden e

Today I gathered lemon balm, oregano, lavender, globe basil and regular basil, mint, thyme, lemon grass and Russian sage, fresh from the garden. I loved inhaling in the amazing scents as I snipped sprigs. Using a heavy string, I tied the herbs into bunches. In the spring, I had saved a couple of small bamboo trellises that two of my clematises came with. I knew I would find a use for them. This evening I repurposed them into a simple drying rack, tying the two together with more string. Greg secured four cup hooks above the kitchen sink for me and attached the makeshift drying rack to them, looping string around the rack and creating slipknots. I was impressed with the knots! He was a boyscout….I was a campfire girl. I focused more on making fire, I suppose!

After the rack was suspended above the sink, in front of the window, I attached each bunch of herbs, upside down. The air can circulate freely and dry the plants. After the herbs are thoroughly dried, I’ll crumble them up and store them in airtight containers. The herbs will preserve their flavor and aroma for a year. I’ll hang a thin curtain over the window tomorrow so the plants won’t get direct sun while they dry.

I stepped back and observed my work. What a thrill, to tuck those young plants into the ground last spring, nurture them and watch them grow, and now begin the drying process. In the past, I’ve bought dried herbs from a favorite health food store. Now I’ll have my own. I love that I have a relationship with these plants! As I use the herbs this fall and winter I’ll reflect back on their time in my sunny garden and the joy they have given to me. Next spring they will push up through the earth once more to grace me again with their presence. One lovely gift they offer now is that I won’t mind standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, with the fragrant herbs drying there. I might even start cooking early this fall so I’ll have an excuse to be in the kitchen!

Drying herbs named 2

Day 159: Apothecary Garden

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When a window of opportunity opened this morning, meaning my area was in between storm fronts, I leapt through it. According to the weather app on my phone, I had 2-3 hours before the next rain shower arrived. My first for today was to plant an apothecary garden.

This section of my garden evolved over the past few months. I had intentions of creating an herb garden. As I read about apothecary gardens, that intention morphed. Essentially, they are herb gardens, with a few additional plants that are useful for healing. As with the other sections in my backyard, this will be a garden in process that will continue to grow and adapt over the next few years.

The quiet and fragrant beauty of an apothecary garden and the peaceful activity of caring for it can be healing in itself. The purpose of such a garden is to deliver a healing harvest useful for teas, decoctions, salves and tinctures. I also use dried herbs and flowers to make my own potpourri and bath products. I am very interested in continuing to learn to use herbs and flowers to create other health and beauty products.

The first healers were herbalists and the first medicines plants. The apothecary garden is steeped in history. These gardens were first grown in the Middle Ages and cared for by monks who studied plants and their therapeutic uses. In later centuries, physicians maintained their own healing gardens and stillrooms for growing and preparing botanical medicines.

Today, I planted an assortment of herbs in my apothecary garden. I included Platinum Blonde Lavender and Silver Anouk Lavender, East Friesland Sage, Russian Sage, and Garden Sage, Peppermint, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm, and the Basils: Cinnamon, Purple, Spicy Globe, Sweet and Thai. There are several other plants I’m searching for, including calendula, feverfew, German Chamomile, comfrey, Apothecary rose and sweet violet. I’ll add a container of aloe. It can’t survive the cold, so must winter indoors. There is an empty space between the purple sage and the silver lavender that is saved for a large black cast iron kettle that Greg’s dad is giving me. I’m excited to bring that home and plant more herbs and flowers within it.

I loved creating this space today. The rain arrived before I finished and I spent the last two hours in a gentle shower. That was okay. The rain and I are friends, after all. Greg was a tremendous help, using his truck to bring in two loads of mulch. He removed grass from the section I was planting in and spread the mulch after carting it into the backyard with a wheelbarrow. Until the rain started, the cats cavorted about, checking out each new plant.

I left my contact lenses out this morning, which meant I could see well close up, but not at distances. That had the beautiful effect of bringing my vision to what was immediately before me. The world beyond my fences blurred out and could not claim my attention. What I focused on was digging in the rich moist dirt and setting the plants into the earth, envisioning what they would become, but willing to journey with them over the next months and years as they mature and fill in their allotted space. With water and sunshine, these herbs and flowers will become what they are so wonderfully created to be, offering their beauty, scent, leaves and blooms freely to me. What an amazing shared journey it will be.

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