The Beginnings of a Medicinal Herb Garden

I’ve been using herbs medicinally in varying forms for several years now. I primarily rely on medicinal tinctures and teas, though I occasionally use a few other forms of herbal remedies. If you’ve ever looked into buying these things, you likely know they can put a dent in your wallet in a hurry. Ergo, my husband and I decided to install a new garden bed solely for medicinal herbs.

We use a no-till method for all of our gardening with great success, so we have approached this new expansion the same way. We picked out a spot to the side of our yard, and covered the ground at the edge of the woods with a thick layer of straw to choke out weeds and other unwanted plants. Next we used various forms of organic material to build up a 5″ layer of shredded plant material, compost and composted manure. This gives an immediate layer of “soil” to plant in, but it also begins the process of improving the soil beneath it.

Slowly but surely, the added material will soften the thick clay beneath it, and earthworms will move in. Those beautiful wriggly worms will work that rich compost and humus into the underlying clay like nature’s tiny little roto-tillers, and ultimately I will have deep, rich beds where my plants will thrive. Not only will it be loose, crumbly, and nutrient-rich but it will also hold moisture beautifully.

The new no-till medicinal herb garden bed. In a few months, this will be alive with beautiful plants and tons of happy pollinators. a caption

It’s an amazing thing to watch a well amended and mulched garden. It can take heavy rains without washing out, because it’s so well aerated that the water doesn’t run into any obstacles as it washes through. It doesn’t become waterlogged, because all of the organic matter absorbs the water and holds it like little sponges. Then, as it dries and warms back up, all of those natural little sponges slowly release the stored moisture back to the roots of your plants. They stay just moist enough to rarely need to be watered – just constantly, perfectly attended by nature.

Once we finished building the new bed, I got to work choosing which plants to start first, and where to plant them. Not only do I want to grow the things I use most, but I’d like to grow what other people use most, and eventually I hope to start a small apothecary business. My final list for this year is as follows:

BergamotYarrowSt Johns WortLemon Mint
LobeliaAnise HyssopEchinaceaLavender
BorageMarshmallowPeppermintCalendula
CatnipChamomileSpearmintLemon Balm

 

Additionally, I have a small culinary herb garden in a different location which contains a number of herbs which can also be used medicinally.

RosemaryOreganoParsleyBasil
ThymeSageCilantroOlive

 

I’m also fortunate enough to live in a place where I have a copious amount of wild plants on my property that I can wildcraft.

UsneaDandelionCloverBlackberry Leaf
Plantain


Aloe


Goldenrod


Various tree
barks, leaves
and needles

 

The full no-till garden bed. Spring veggie garden in front, with the new medicinal herb garden extension in the back.
The full no-till bed. It may not be an image out of a magazine, but its bounty is amazing!

This new bed is also an extension to one side of a vegetable garden bed, so I needed to make sure that I didn’t put plants that don’t play well together right next to each other. For instance, hyssop shouldn’t be planted near radishes and peppermint shouldn’t be placed near chamomile. With only about 100 square feet to work with currently, I need to be very intentional with my choices and my placement.

I’ve ordered my seeds, and have them started in large seed flats, on heat mats and under plant lights. If all goes well, most will be ready to transplant in 6-10 weeks. A few herbs were available as live plants locally, and those have been planted and watered well. I’m optimistic.

I love to watch things grow. But even more, I love to produce things my self that nourish and heal myself and my family. There’s just such a deep appreciation for things you’ve worked for. Things you’ve watched and cared for for months – or sometimes years – on end. To finally see that end product is so amazing and fulfilling… I’ll keep you updated on the progress!

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