One of the benefits of having a large piece of property is the ability to grow many kinds of herbs for homestead abundance. Acres upon acres is not needed though. You can create an herb garden with the space you have available. Even if you only have a few herb pots on a back deck you can create abundance by growing herbs.
Herbs are an important part of our life here on Joybilee Farm. We use them to attract pollinators to our food crops and orchard, as remedies for herbal healing, and above all, herbs are used for enjoyment and to enrich the homestead. Over the years we have continually added and divided new herbs each year.
Herbs enable our farm and family to be productive and healthy. These are some of the ways we do it.
Planning and Planting a Herb Garden
Some thought needs to go into planning and planting a productive herb garden. There are many things to consider – will the garden become overwhelming once it reaches maturity? How do specialty gardens fit into the plan?
Over the years we’ve learned that companion planting with herbs helps to increase biodiversity and improve yields. By intentionally and strategically planting herbs near vegetables you can make your vegetable garden grow better and increase your yields.
Plus just planting some of these herbs near your garden can increase the biodiversity of your garden. You don’t need to plant a lot of companion herbs to make a big difference either. Just a few strategically placed companion plants can make a meaningful difference in the health of your plants and the yields from your garden.
Choosing the right plants for your growing conditions is the key to creating a successful medicinal herb garden that is easy to maintain without undue toil. After all who wants to work when they play in the dirt!
Growing your own tea in an herbal tea garden is smart for your health and smart for your garden. You don’t have to buy herbal tea in those expensive packages where the tea costs more than $35 per pound. Instead, when you grow your own herbs, you can have a limitless supply for free. Plus the herbs you grow yourself are more potent and health promoting than any herbs that come from afar.
This year, put aside a portion of your garden, that you normally dedicate to flowers and herbs, to plant a rainbow of natural dye plants. Many common medicinal herbs are also traditional dye plants. Wean yourself from chemical colors and imported cookie-cutter fashion, and plan your wardrobe around nature’s palette.
How to Grow Specific Herbs
Mostly, herbs are easy to grow. They require little in the way of fertilizer or even special soil. Learn the specifics about how to grow some of my favorite herbs on the homestead in these articles.
My elderberry plants have been a boon to wild pollinators, flowering all season long from May right into September, with berries ripening even as new flowers continue to bloom. If you don’t already have elders growing nearby consider this plant that was once considered an apothecary all by itself.
No country herb garden would be complete without marshmallow. It is beneficial for so many ailments from stomach upset, constipation, sore throat, bronchial spasms, and even bruises, cuts, and scrapes. You’ll want to find a spot on your homestead for this amazing herb.
Just brushing past a lemon verbena makes you smile. The scent is like lemon popsicles on a hot, sticky July day, cool, refreshing, sweet, and invigorating. Although lemon verbena grows in zone 8 to 10, I successfully overwinter it in zone 3, where I currently garden. It is grown as a container plant that spends the summers inside a pot in the greenhouse and comes indoors for the winter.
Peppermint is crazy easy to grow. In fact, it grows so aggressively that most garden books advise you to enclose the roots of peppermint in a pot to prevent it from taking over your garden bed. This is good advice if you garden on a small lot with minimal garden space, or if you live in a zone where mint thrives, with lots of water. Here on the mountain, in zone 3, with summer frosts, mint is one of the few herbs that will actually grow and overwinter
Rosemary is a perennial in zone 8 to 10. Those of us in colder climates can still enjoy growing rosemary in our gardens. While rosemary is difficult to grow from seed, it is easy to propagate from cuttings. With a little effort, you can have a year-round supply to flavor your meals and stock your herbal apothecary, even if you live in zone 3, as I do.
Anise hyssop is attractive to butterflies, wild bees, and hummingbirds because of the rich nectar in the flower spikes. It is lovely planted in a mass planting along with Echinacea, Monarda, and bee balm, all hardy perennials that encourage pollinators. It offers substantial nectar to honeybees when planted in mass plantings, resulting in lightly fragrant honey.
Lavender is the herb I most love to grow. I love the smell. I love walking past a plant in the garden and brushing the leaves. I love that it’s practically carefree. That is it’s carefree unless you live in zone 3. Learning how to grow lavender is tricky if you live on a mountain in zone 3. I’ve been growing lavender in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada for a while now and if I can grow lavender you can grow lavender. In fact, you probably can grow phenomenal lavender.
How do you fit medicinal herbs into your home garden plans? You don’t need hundreds of acres to grow enough medicinal herbs for your family’s wellness. Here are 5 ways to fit medicinal herbs into your organic garden and 70 plants that you might not recognize as medicinal herbs. You probably have many of them growing naturally in your yard right now.
By studying one herb at a time we make friends with a small number of plant allies, building trust. It’s better to have a few close friends to rely on every day, than a crowd of allies that you hardly know. As we grow in our intimacy with our plant allies we are able to introduce them to our friends, confidently, because we know how they will behave.
You probably think that with unpredictable summer frost and such a short growing season it’s too hard to depend on your garden in zone 3. But zone 3 has an abundance that you can tap into with the right garden design, the right seed varieties, and a little strategy. If weeds can grow abundantly so can food.
Taking a pill isn’t the same as using whole herbs. While pills are isolated “active” ingredients, herbs work in synergy with all the different parts of a plant adding to the holistic healing properties. So grow your own and learn to use them before a complaint gets serious. Of course, call your own doctor or naturopath for serious complaints. This list isn’t a substitute for an expert medical opinion. But for a little bit of independence and self-reliance check out this list and plan your garden accordingly.
Now that you’ve taken the time to grow terrific herbs, full of properties that will benefit your family, it’s time to harvest them properly. How and when you harvest your herbs directly effects how they can be used in herbal preparations.
Do you become overwhelmed with getting your herb harvest in? The time of year when the wild herbs and the garden herbs demand as much attention as the vegetables can be taxing. It’s easy to tell when the vegetables need harvesting but what about the herbs? Here are a few tips to help you make the most of the herb harvest before you miss their optimal harvest time.
Knowing the right time to harvest herbs can be a little tricky. Different parts of the plant are harvested at different times. Herbalists made general rules to help them remember when the right time for harvesting each herb occurred. However, individual herbs have idiosyncrasies that can overrule the rule. Use the following guidelines as a starting point, and as you learn each herb that you are growing you’ll be able to master their optimal harvest time.
With its minty, anise flavor Anise Hyssop is unrelated to both anise and hyssop. Its sweet licorice scent and flavor is used as a carminative digestive for gas, upset tummy, and colic pains in much the same way that fennel and anise seed are used. The leaves and flowers are harvested for herbal tea and all parts of the plant are edible. These can also be used as an accent in salads or as a garnish and the sweet flavor of the leaves is mild and attractive to children.
These medicinal herbs grow from zone 2 to zone 10 and can be found all over the world. In fact, many of them were brought to North America by moms and grandmas because these were their herbal allies and they knew how to use them to heal their families. Always make a positive identification of any new medicinal herb, using at least 3 references, before foraging for an herb for the first time. Obey all laws and ask the permission of landowners before foraging on private property. Always forage safely.
Many fresh garden herbs need to be dried to keep the active constituents potent. The way they are dried has a bearing on the potency of the herb and how long the herb will last in storage. Herbs should retain their color and their fragrance in storage. Find out 3 ways to dry herbs.
Garden herbs and wild herbs provide food, teas, and medicine. To get the most benefit from them they need to be harvested at the peak of ripeness — when the volatile oils peak and before the oils in the plant diminish. Different herbs are harvested at different times.
Planning and Planting an Herb Garden
You’ll find that these ideas for planning and planting an herb garden, then growing specific herbs that meet your needs are one of the most rewarding things you can do on your homestead. No matter the size of your property, you can make room for herbs. Growing herbs for homestead abundance makes sense for self-reliance and health.
Homegrown Healing From Seed to Apothecary
My book Homegrown Healing From Seed to Apothecary will help you choose which herbs to grow and show you many ways to use these herbs for your health and wellness. You can find out more about this useful guide to growing more herbs and using them strategically here.
Which herbs will you add to your garden this year? Leave a comment and let me know.