Here’s how to become a budding herbalist.
So you’d like to grow a herb garden, but don’t know where to begin? It doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a few false starts that ended in droopy dill or sad-looking sage. Now is the time to start over.
The truth is that most herbs are resilient little things, and you don’t need to be born with a green thumb to master the basics of growing healthy herbs.
As long as you’ve got a spot of soil with good drainage, decent sunlight, and access to regular water, then you’ve got what you need to get started.
One of the biggest advantages of growing herbs is their natural healing properties and can be used to manage minor ailments, naturally.
Here, I’ve selected some of the most versatile medicinal herbs you can plant now that spring is on the way, ready to pluck from the garden when ever you need them.
Peppermint: Great for digestion
When to plant it: If you live in a temperate climate, August is the best time to plant seedlings.
How to care for it: Find a spot in the garden that is in part shade and where the soil will stay a little damp.
How to use it: Peppermint tea has long been used as a digestive after meals. Crush up some fresh leaves and steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Lemon Balm: To manage stress
When to plant it: Plant directly into the garden where they are to grow from October.
How to care for it: Lemon balm is related to mint, and in fact it looks not dissimilar to common mint but has a crisp, citrus-like scent. As such, it can take over if left to its own devices so may be more suited to a pot. Partial sun is great, but it can also handle full sun if you live somewhere that doesn’t get too hot.
How to use it: As a tea, lemon balm is traditionally used to relieve stress as well as ease digestion. Pick a few leaves and infuse for 3-5 minutes, then add a slice of lemon and enjoy.
Calendula: For healthy skin
When to plant it: Calendulas can be grown all year round and flourish in full sun or half-sun.
How to care for it: Place your calendulas somewhere they will receive full sun, but mulch well so the roots stay cool. You can harvest the flower heads as they open, and it won’t take long for the plant to sprout a new one.
How to use it: Dry the petals out in a cool, dry place and then fill a jar. Pour over sweet almond oil, infuse in the pantry for two weeks, then strain and discard the solids. You’ll be left with a beautiful, moisturising skin oil.
Thyme: To treat infections
When to plant it: Plant undercover in seed trays from August or plant out (transplant) seedlings from October.
How to care for it: Thyme is a sun lover and will also appreciate a slightly sandier soil than the others we’ve discussed here. Water sparingly, and it will even forgive you if you neglect it completely for a while.
How to use it: If you find yourself with a scratchy throat, make a tea from fresh thyme leaves. It won’t taste great, but it has good antibacterial properties.