Good seasonings take your cooking up a notch – go one step further and season with homegrown herbs!
Check out part three of USHEALTH Group’s blog series on gardening and learn how growing your own herbs allows you to use ingredients like fresh basil leaves without having to visit the grocery store first. You can even dry your own herbs to use when your plants are out of season. Not to mention, it tastes better when you know you grew it.
Herbs can also be brewed into delicious herbal teas. Some herbs can even be used as health supplements (just make sure you check in with your doctor first). This makes herbs some of the most versatile plants you can choose to grow in your backyard.
Making Your Own Outdoor Herb Garden
Ready to start your very own herb garden? Then you’re in luck – an herb garden requires much less care and maintenance than a vegetable or fruit garden. This is a great place for beginner gardeners to start. If you’re more experienced or keep a garden already, herbs are very easy to add to any plans or plots you already have. Most just need healthy soil and six hours of sunlight.
Part of the ease is that herb plants are small by garden standards, with many staying in the 12 to 30-inch range. They can be kept smaller with regular trimming. This gives gardeners more room to grow many different kinds of herbs and make full use of their garden beds.
Additionally, the smaller nature of herbs makes them especially well-suited to vertical gardens.
Transform Your Balcony with Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening is any kind of gardening where planters are stacked, hung, or wall-mounted to utilize vertical space.
How you build your vertical garden is as simple or as complicated a venture as you want it to be. For a quick project, you can hang recycled containers from a mounted pole (just make sure to include holes in the bottom for water drainage). If you’re willing to put in more time and energy, you can build a wooden shelf complete with staining and sealant to hold pots painted any color of your choice. And that’s just two ideas out of dozens!
If you want to plant in pots or boxes, just make sure to use potting medium, not garden soil. Potting medium will give your plants plenty of room to grow and absorb water, whereas soil will compact and harden in a pot.
Planting Your Outdoor Herb Garden
Once you have a general idea of how you’d like to build your herb garden, you’re ready to start picking plants to grow. Make sure you pick your herbs before you prepare your soil or a potting mix – some herbs grow better under certain conditions, such as in slightly acidic soil. Consider planting some of these backyard favorites:
- Basil: This herb is easy to grow and incredibly flavorful. Just make sure to wait to plant it until temperatures are regularly above 50°F. Basil prefers “full sun”, but can still grow given partial sun. Grow a tomato plant too for the tastiest results!
- Sage: Or more specifically, kitchen sage, as opposed to clary sage or other sage species. This herb needs well-draining soil, full sun, and regular watering. Sage starter plants (and other common kitchen herbs) can frequently be purchased at grocery stores, so keep your eyes peeled.
- Rosemary: This herb is another member of the sage family, and you can see the relationship if you compare their flowers. It has the same needs as kitchen sage. The big difference between the two, other than flavor, is size – rosemary can grow to be up to four feet tall and four feet wide. Make sure to give it plenty of room.
- Cilantro: If you’re gardening on a balcony or in a shady backyard, Cilantro is a great choice. It can grow in part sun and full sun. Here’s the kicker: the seeds of Cilantro are coriander so that you can get two kinds of seasonings from one plant.
- Mint: Spearmint, peppermint, or pennyroyal, it doesn’t matter – they all have about the same growing requirements, which is hardly anything at all. Mint is so easy to grow, it can quickly get out of control. Just make sure it’s watered!
- Chamomile: This is one you’re probably not going to be needing for a dinner recipe anytime soon, but it makes a fantastic tea. There are two plants with this name: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. The big difference between them is that Roman chamomile spreads on the ground while German chamomile grows upward.
- Lemon Balm: This herb earned its name due to its distinctly lemony taste. Like chamomile, it is primarily used for tea. It’s also quite aromatic and will leave your garden smelling fresh. It has the same needs as mint plants.
Health Benefits of Tending an Herb Garden
Just as with vegetable and fruit gardens, caring for an herb garden can be a boon for your personal health. This is because gardening requires you to spend time in the sun exercising, boosting vitamin D, and burning calories.
However, the benefit of eating your plants is a little bit different. They certainly taste delicious as a seasoning – but as we mentioned, they can also be brewed into teas. Here are some examples:
- Mint tea, specifically peppermint, is a traditional remedy for stomach upset. It can also relieve headaches. Additionally, the menthol in peppermint can ease nasal congestion if you breathe in the tea steam.
- Like mint, chamomile tea is used to treat stomach upset. It is also a very mild sedative and can be used to reduce anxiety or as a treatment for insomnia. Rinsing your mouth with chamomile can also ease sores resulting from cancer treatments.
- Lemon balm tea is also used for stomach upset, anxiety, and insomnia. Research is still being conducted, but some have reported that ingesting lemon balm has helped Alzheimer’s patients by improving cognition and reducing agitation.
While many think of natural remedies as inherently safe, the truth is that herbs can interact with medications in harmful ways. Be sure to consult with your doctor before using any herbs as a health supplement to make sure there won’t be unintended or dangerous side effects.
Final Thoughts From USHEALTH Group
Herbs are a great addition to any backyard and can even be grown on balconies. You are sure to find many uses for them, whether that’s as seasonings, herbal teas, or as a natural perfume for your outdoor space. Improve your personal health this spring by starting an herb garden of your own.
Interested in learning more about the health benefits of herbs? Start by reading our blog about peppermint!