Grow Your Own Healing Herbs and Spices
Healing herbs have lots of health benefits, but sometimes they are difficult to find and not always the most cost effective. I try to check out my local farmers market for some, but I found was pleased to find that growing your own healing herbs and spices is easier than I thought! Here’s a simple guide to help you get started. Get ready… get set… plant!
Planning Your Medicinal Herb Garden
Here are three herb growing tips to keep in mind, during the planning stage of your garden:
- Pay close attention to the light and water requirements of each plant you want to grow. The healthier they are, the faster they’ll produce leaves and/or flowers.
- Research each plant you grow to decide the best way to process and consume it is. Some are best brewed into teas, while others are only meant to be used topically.
- If you need to create shade for an herb that doesn’t do well in direct sunlight, consider growing a bush or vines along a fence in order to block out the heat for part of the day.
3 Medicinal Herbs You Can Easily Grow At Home
One of the most well-known (commonly grown) medicinal plants, Aloe Vera thrives in sunny environments. It’s famous for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it very useful when applied to the skin.
Aloe Vera requires no cooking or processing in order to use it. Simply break off a small piece of this plant and apply the gel-like pulp directly to minor cuts or damaged skin.
How To Grow Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is typically a tropical succulent plant, so it must be grown outdoors in warmer climate areas. They are extremely “frost tender,” and must be planted in either full sun or light shade. In terms of the soil you plant in, look for soil that is moderately fertile and fast draining.
3 things you’ll need to get started:
- Aloe Plants (Already mature and just needs replanting), Amazon
- Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, Amazon
- Terra Cotta Planter Pots, Amazon
Peppermint is often found in herb gardens due to its refreshing flavor. But, this tasty plant also has healing properties that make it an essential addition to any medicinal herb garden. Sipping on mint tea calms the stomach and a poultice made from the peppermint leaves can be used to soothe itching and inflammation of the skin.
How to grow Peppermint
Peppermint tends to spread in a garden, so most gardeners suggest planting them in containers. It will grow in almost any soil, but you’ll want to select the moisture retaining, boggy sort of soil to resemble swamp lands. If growing in the home, make sure your plant receives some sunlight and receives 1-2 inches of water per week.
Lavender is a common ingredient in DIY cleaning supplies. This is because of its pleasant fragrance and its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. The plant is the perfect ingredient to add to lotions or face cleansers to maximize their ability to fight acne and repair damaged skin.
How to grow lavender
Again, the tricky part of growing your own lavender is choosing the right soil. It should be a loose, sandy and rocky mixture that allows for excellent water drainage -It’s not the same rich soil we’d typically use in a vegetable garden. Additionally, it should have a pH between 7.0 and 8.0 so that it’s most similar to natural growing conditions. For best results, try this potting soil specifically for lavender plants.
For a step by step guide to planing lavender seeds, check out this article.
Growing a Castor Oil Plant
Castor Oil plant or Castor bean has lobed shaped leaves with red foliage and fruit. This plant can be propagated through seeds. Follow these steps to propagate a Castor Oil plant from seeds.
Find Castor Oil Seeds
Gather the seeds from a mature Castor Oil Plant or purchase seeds from a nursery. Clean the seeds off with warm tap water and plant immediately. Collect the seeds in the spring.
Plant the Seeds in a Container
Plant the damp seeds 1 inch below the surface in a small container such as a Styrofoam or plastic cup with a mixture of 1 part moist peat moss and 1 part perlite. Poke three or four holes with a sharp object in the bottom of the container for drainage.
Cover the Seeds
Place a small, clear plastic bag over the pot and the plant and secure with a rubber band to increase moisture intake and to create a greenhouse effect.
Place the Container Indoors
Set the plant in a warm location of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in indirect sunlight or use a fluorescent light meant for growing plants indoors. Look for the plant to develop sprouts in three to four weeks. Check on the plant every few days and if the soil is dry give it a little water.
Caring for a Castor Oil Bean Plant
Move the plant to a more permanent location after it has grown 5 to 6 inches tall. Either plant indoors in a large pot or outside in well-drained, nutrient-heavy soil. Plant in a location that faces any direction but north because this will not allow the plant to get enough sunlight. Water regularly, but do not let the soil get soggy or allow standing water on the soil.
Use a pH testing kit to make sure the soil pH or acidic level is between 6 and 6.5. If the area needs to be raised, use lime sand to bring the ground up. If the area needs to be lowered use aluminum sulfate. Use a water-soluble fertilizer monthly or a slow release fertilizer that is annually applied in the spring. Add 3 or 4 cups of sand or perlite to the soil in the plant’s permanent location, if it is packed to tightly so that it can drain properly. The plant needs well-drained soil in order to grow properly. These plants do the best in climates from 60 to 85 degrees F.
*Warning- Castor Oil Plants are Poisonous*
One of the main toxic proteins in the Castor plant is ricin and is known to be poisonous in people and animals. Keep away from plants and small children so they do not accidentally eat the leaves. Remove the seeds once the plant has grown if you have small children or pets.
Growing Chives Indoors
Chives are a common sight in gardens or along walkways; they are cultivated for both their ornamental and culinary properties. These herbs can be grown indoors, too. Chives are members of the onion family. Most people recognize them as those little, jade-green sprinkles on their baked potatoes in restaurants. These perennials, when grown outdoors, die back in the winter only to reemerge each spring.
Chives can also be readily grown indoors during the winter, when a splotch of green on a sill can lift the spirits of humans confined by dreary weather.
Techniques for Propagating Indoor Chives
Chives and garlic chives are easily propagated from existing clumps. Even in midwinter, one can brush the snow away from a dormant clump (if you can remember where it is) and cut or pull away a division of roots.
Tuck the division into a pot filled with soil, water it, and place it in a warm, bright location. Within a few days, new growth will appear, and soon the chives will be ready to harvest.
Chives can be grown indoors from seed, too. A single chive seed will give rise to a clump of grass-like foliage that grows up to 12 inches high and six or more inches wide (garlic chives stems are flat, as opposed to the hollow stems of chives, and the bloom stalks of garlic chives are taller, growing up to 30 inches tall).
Chive seeds are relatively short-lived, so they might be difficult to purchase during the winter. Garlic chive seed must be planted immediately after it is collected, so winter seed propagation is usually not an option for garlic chives.
Chive seed is tiny and black. It can be sown in a pot that has been filled with starter soil to within a quarter-inch from the top. Sprinkle the seeds over the soil’s surface, press in lightly, and water gently. Keep the soil moist, and within a few days the grass-like seedlings will appear.
Harvesting Indoor Chives
Chives can be harvested when they are six to twelve inches tall. Simply use a pair of scissors to trim the foliage down to a height of two to three inches. Old stems become coarse, so even when they’re not being used for cooking, chives should be trimmed from time to time.
Chives and garlic chives can be dried, but much of their flavor will be lost. So potting them up for winter, when they can be fresh-harvested, is a great idea. Chives will add interest to any recipe that would benefit from a mild onion flavor (or a garlic flavor, in the case of garlic chives).
Once winter has passed, chives can be moved outside. They prefer sunny sites and good drainage; while regular watering and an occasional application of fertilizer will promote vigorous growth, chives will thrive with little attention.
Summertime brings an eruption of edible lavender flowers from chives and a profusion of striking white blossoms from garlic chives. If left alone, chives and garlic chives will readily self-sow. Their propensity for reseeding should be kept in mind when chives are placed outdoors. Trimming the flowers before they mature will keep chives from spreading happily through a garden or flower bed.
Wherever chives are planted—whether indoors on a windowsill, in an herb garden, or tucked conveniently into a nook beside a kitchen door—their cheerful presence, hardy constitution, and productive habit will make them favorites for gardeners and chefs alike.
Still thinking of growing your own herbs and spices?
This is just a very brief overview of growing our own healing herbs and spices. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t start out small and include additional plants as you see fit. The choice is up to you!