Almost every home has a standard spice rack, a small shelf or structure designed to house the basic herbs and spices used in cooking. But did you know that herbs have a variety of uses besides seasoning food? Herbs can be used for medicinal purposes, as well as for spiritual use and pest control around the house. In this article, you will learn about herbs and how to grow them yourself in a variety of ways.
First, let’s explore the various growing cycles of herbs. Many herbs are known as perennials, meaning they typically have a lifespan longer than a few years. Examples of such perennial herbs that can be used in food preparation are bay laurel (used often in stews and soups), chives (great as a garnish for baked potatoes and other vegetables) and lemongrass (often used in Asian dishes and other Eastern World cuisine.) Some other perennials that are used for medicinal and healing purposes include aloe (used in many skincare remedies and products), feverfew (used as a digestive aid and for stings and bruises) and St. John’s Wort (often used as a holistic remedy for mild depression.)
Other herbs are known as annuals, meaning a new plant must be planted each year. Several annual herbs are commonly found in the kitchen. Arugula, which is often thought of as a type of lettuce, is actually an herb. Basil is used in many Italian dishes and a variety of sauces across the globe. Dill is an herb that pairs well with fish, particularly salmon and white fish. Other annuals are used for medicinal purposes: chamomile is used as a relaxing agent, often found in teas; garlic aids in both digestion and cleansing; and calendula is found in salves and ointments to soothe burns and rashes.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about common herbs and their growing cycles and uses, you must determine what growing situation is best. Anyone can have an herb garden, from a city dweller in a cramped high rise to a farmer with acres of land. First, determine what herbs you’d like to grow, and then figure out whether your garden situation would match the needs of the herb. For example, herbs like lavender, marjoram, oregano and rosemary are native to Mediterranean region of the world, so they will need bright sunlight, moderately warm temperatures and a good drainage area to flourish and thrive.
Next, group herbs according to the following factors: irrigation needs, lighting requirements and ideal soil conditions. Here are some tips:
Cluster groups of herbs that only need watering every few days away from groups of herbs that need daily watering so as not to over-expose them to damp soil.
If your garden is partially shaded, learn which herbs can stand to be planted in the shadier areas, since most herbs require at least 6 hours of full sunlight a day to grow to their potential.
Be aware that ideal soil conditions vary from herb to herb; some herbs should be planted with organic matter soil to improve texture.
Some herbs need to be directly grown from seeds (or “direct seeded”) because they do not grow well if they are transplanted from another soil source. Others still should be planted from a cutting or fully plant in order to maximize production.
All herbs need to be planted in a place where standing ground or rainwater does not occur.
Apply fertilizer in more concentrated amounts to smaller, denser plants. The leafy variety need sparing amounts in order to keep up their growth.
Finally, herb garden starter kits are available to purchase for the beginner. Happy herb gardening!