Revitalizing – Taking The Natural Path Using Herbs and Flowers – by Eliza
Did you know that the practice of using herbs and flowers for specific physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances has been used by professionals and ancient healers for many, many years. The powers of plants for healing has been studied by many cultures all around the world.
I’m sure you are familiar or have heard of people who practice the shamanic traditions that originated in the Amazon. There are also many people who practice Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese medicine. AND I can’t forget to mention the wisdom of the ancient Himalayan cultures.
Today, we are so fortunate to be able to benefit from these wise ancient natural practices. This is a natural path that is open for us to take anytime we choose.
It’s almost Spring here where I live in Alberta, Canada. This is the time of year that I start thinking about what plants I can start growing inside. Today I also want to look at how to plant a herbal garden in hopes that I can use some of the wisdom of these ancient cultures.
This is my first time planting a herb garden. I love cooking with herbs and I want to have my own fresh ones instead of having to rely on the farmer’s market or grocery store.
I have so many questions:
- Do I have to start planting herbs inside or can they be started in the ground?
- Should I plant herbs in a garden bed or is it okay to use pots or planters?
- What’s the easiest herbs to start with?
- Are there a few flowers that I want to include? Are they Edible?
Let’s take a look at what I found out
How do Herbs Heal and Make Us Feel Better?
Plants produce chemical compounds known as metabolites. There are two types primary and secondary produced during the plant’s metabolism process. Secondary metabolites are usually not needed for plant growth but help the plant survive in its environment according to Wikipedia. These secondary metabolites protect the herbs from insects and disease. It is theses secondary metabolites that tend to have the medicinal properties.
What is a herb?
A herb is a plant that doesn’t have a woody stem. The cool part and I didn’t know this is that when the plant dies each fall / winter it can leave its root system alive – these perennial herbal plant roots if kept protected can sometime survive the winter… depending on temperatures in you area.
What’s the difference between a herb and a spice?
Herbs are usually fresh or dried leaves of the plant. Spices on the other hand are the seeds, roots, fruits, flowers or bark of the plant. In general herbs tend to have a milder flavor, while spices tend to be stronger and more pungent.
SO HOW DO YOU START GROWING YOUR OWN HERBS
Indoors or Out?
For you gardeners out there this has an easy answer – BOTH.
You can start a herb garden indoors or out without having too many problems. The advantage of planting indoors is that you can have herbs all year long and do not have to worry about weeds. I don’t know about you, but I hate weeding!
The disadvantage of growing herbs indoors is that they are generally less flavorful and may not produce as much as being outdoors.
Turns out whether you choose to plant you herbs inside or out – their needs will be the same – plenty of sun & good, and well-draining soil. This is sounding rather exciting as I think I can do this – how about you?
I forgot to mention earlier that I really do not have a green thumb and I need to find plants to grow that are hearty and can ‘sort of look after themselves’. Well let’s keep going…I think I’m on the right track LOL
Where Should You Grow Your Indoor Herbs
A south or west facing windowsill is ideal for growing you herbs during the Spring, Summer and Fall. However, in the winter you may need to add some artificial light – like grow lights. Herbs will typically need 6 to 8 hours of light each day.
You may want to plant in containers with a mixture of peat, vermiculite and perlite. Adding a teaspoon of dolomite lime per 5 inch pot to keep the soil non- acidic is recommended by many gardeners. Remember to water your soil well and keep it moderately moist – not sopping wet (Don’t forget to be sure your pots have drainage holes)
Some people water their plants with a bit of diluted balanced soluble houseplant fertilizer so they don’t have to remember when to fertilize. I really like this idea! Keep in mind that herbs do grow as much in the winter months so they do not need as much fertilizer.
Important thing to remember with any type of container you choose to use is it needs holes for drainage. If you are using clay pots you will need to do more frequent watering than plastic pots as clay pots will allow moisture to escape. Remember to place a saucer under you pot as you need to collect the water that will escape through the drainage holes.
When you water you plants will depend on temperature of you room, amount of light and how actively the plant is growing. A good ‘rule of thumb’ – couldn’t resist…I’ll get my green thumb yet…is to allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out between waterings. You can use the finger method to test the soil by poking you finger into the soil up to you second knuckle. If the soil is dry you will need to water.
A second option you can try is to lift the pot. As you do this before and after watering, you learn how light the pot should feel when it is ready for watering. (I think I’ll stick with the finger/knuckle method.)
We have established that most herbs like at least 6 hours of light more is often better in the winter months. A few herbs…. Mint, parsley, and chives can often do okay with four to five hours.
Another tip for you if you choose to use artificial light is to keep the lights on 14 hours a day and have the light bulbs about 6-8 inches above the tops of you plants
Keeping you house temperature at about 65 to 70 degrees F. will work best for most herbs. It is okay if you night temperature drops up to about 10 degrees lower.
Herbs That Do Well Inside:
Herbs that you can try growing indoors are chives, mint, parsley, Vietnamese coriander, oregano (the Greek variety is easiest), thyme, rosemary, dwarf sage, and dill.
Basil is a little harder to grow indoors, but is one of my favorites for flavoring. You will have better results with basil if it is kept away from cold windows, but in a location with plenty of sun. It likes day and night temperatures in the 70s.
Rosemary will grow inside as well. It does like a bit cooler temperature over the winter (60-65 degree is ideal). Be sure that it also gets plenty of direct sun.
Mint is a good herb to plant indoors. If you plant it outdoors be careful as it can spread and get out of control. It has been know to take over you garden.
As for flavors peppermint has more flavor that spearmint. Peppermint also needs less light. There are lots of varieties of mint to try…
I plan of growing a few as I love adding mint to my water and teas!
If you are going to plant you herb garden outside you will need to search out a spot that gets a fair amount of sunlight. The amount of sunlight will depend on what pants you are using, but typically you are looking for a spot that gets at least 6 hours daily of direct sunlight.
Most herbs enjoy sunlight, however, there are some like Angelica, Woodruff and Sweet Cicely that prefer partial shade.
It’s always a good idea to draw out a plan of how and where you want you plants to go. Once you have mapped out your spot you have to decide if you want to plant straight into the ground or if you want to frame in you garden bed. Remember to look for a place that has good drainage. You can also buy a commercial bed.
Before you start planting check the drainage in you soil. If it needs to be improved you can add some organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Once you have dug down about 10 -12 inches, you can mix you peat moss in the soil with a garden fork or shovel as you turn over the soil.
Some people also use raised bed. You can make you own or purchase a wide variety of them. I’ve included one that I think would look great on my deck.
Herbs like soil that is close to neutral with a pH of somewhere between 6.5 and 7.0. Just as you need to be careful with fertilizer and indoor plants you do not need a lot of fertilizer with outdoor herbs either. Over-fertilizing will make you herb tall and ‘leggy’ and less flavorful. Ideally you want you herb plant to be compact and bushy to get the best results.
OKAY, Your Ground’s ready.. Now what do I plant?
Here are some plants that do well outdoors. It is recommended you plant herbs in groups according to their needs.
Types of Herbs
Annuals: these need to be planted from seed each year: basil
Biennials: these require 2 growing seasons before they produce fully: parsley
Perennials: these grow back year after year: chives
Here’s some ideas:
Basil: Annual; Repels flies and mosquitoes and grows well by tomatoes; Use: fresh, dry, frozen
Chives: Perennial (will reseed); Grows well planted by carrots; Use: fresh, dry, frozen
Dill: Annual (reseeds, seeds can also be harvested); Safe to plant by cabbage but keep it away from carrots; Use: fresh or dried
Marjoram: Annual; Grows well next to most plants; Use: fresh, dry, frozen
Mint: Perennial (watch as it is an aggressively spreads); Plant near cabbage or tomatoes…it will keep the cabbage moth away; Use: fresh, dried
Oregano: Perennial; Works well next to most other plants; Use: fresh, or dried
Parsley: Biennial often treated as an annual; Suggested to plant near you asparagus, corn or tomatoes; Use: fresh, dried
Rosemary: Perennial (bring indoors in winter); Plant near cabbage, beans, carrots or sage…keeps cabbage moth, bean beetle and carrot fly away from you veggies; Use: fresh, dried
Sage: Perennial; Grows well next to rosemary, cabbage, and carrots; does not do well near cucumbers. (will keep cabbage moth and carrot fly away); Use: fresh, dried
Thyme: Perennial – can also use the flowers.; Planting near cabbage will keep cabbage worms away; Use: fresh, dried, frozen
Garlic: Perennial, but can be planted as an annual.; Plant near roses and raspberries – will keep the Japanese beetle away; Use: fresh, dried, frozen
Are you interested in adding a few Edible Flowers to you garden? Even if you are like me and not sure about eating them they definitely add a sense of beauty and a variety of smells to you garden.
I’m really new to the idea of Edible Flowers… and I’m not sure how I feel about ingesting them. Yes, I’ve tried dandelion tea, but that’s really about the extent of my flower experience when it comes to drinking or eating them.
Many people also use flowers in lots of different products like infusing cooking oils, shampoos, soaps and skin products.
Since Edible Flowers have become very popular lately, I wanted to add a little information of some of the flowers I’m going to add to my garden this year.
(At this time while I’m writing this I am sitting on the fence as to whether I will be ingesting them. For now, I am looking at growing them for their ability to attract bees to my garden and their beauty, color, smell and aesthetics… I am leaving it up to you as to whether you want to add them to you garden. Hopefully this information will help you make you own educated decision.)
Tips For Those Who Want to Try Edible flowers:
Most people suggest you pick, rinse with water and use flowers raw or fresh. People usually eat the petals after removing the stems, pistils and stamens.
Edible Flowers will taste and look their best right after picking them.
Once you have picked and rinsed them they can be stored in damp paper towel in the fridge or you can leave them with stem on in a jar or water.
PLEASE NOTE: NOT ALL FLOWERS ARE EDIBLE!!!
DO NOT EAT flowers from florists, nurseries or roadsides.
So you may want to try a few of the flowers on the list below, or
YOU MAY WANT TO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH TO ENSURE YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY.
BE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR FLOWERS COME FROM – avoid flowers that may have been sprayed with an insecticide, fungicide or herbicide.
When you first start experimenting with edible flowers go slowly and try one at a time to watch for allergies and stomach upset.
Here are some flowers that taste as good as they look: (There are lots of Edible flowers – I’ve just listed a few of the more popular ones)
Alliums. Chives, leeks and garlic – remove the stem from the flower cluster; this will release the individual florets.
Nasturtiums. Blossoms have a peppery flavor similar to watercress
Pansies: flowers have a wintergreen flavor
Anise hyssop: flowers taste like hyssop
Chamomile: daisy-like flowers with an apple-like flavor; those allergic to ragweed, might want to avoid chamomile as they are in the same family
Mint: flowers of the mint plants are edible and taste similar to their leaves
Squash blossoms: have a citrus taste.
According to the Salisbury Green House, you should start pansies inside because they need to germinate in the dark. They “suggest you cover the seed trays with clear plastic domes and a layer of newspaper, removing only to keep watered, until they germinate”.
Let’s Wrap this up…
Growing herbs and flowers will not only make you deck, veranda or landscape look great, it will also provide you with a variety of fresh and flavorful favorite herbs for you recipes. Whether you choose to plant in pots or in the garden you are sure to have a great harvest of wonderful herbs and flowers to use not only for you culinary recipes but can also be used for a few other projects as well.
Be creative and use you homegrown herbs in lotions, soaps, body oils; make into hair rinses, shampoos; candles, dryer sheets; and more….
Garden herbs and flowers can be cut fresh and brought inside to enhance you air quality and to add to you emotional and spiritual mindful practice or pleasure.
My final thoughts as you start ‘taking the natural path’ to using herbs and flowers….
I hope you enjoy using some of my ideas and tips in helping you to revitalize – enriching you health and wellness lifestyle. My next step is growing my herbal and flower garden.
If you are looking for more information on Revitalizing you health, community and the world through Nature… check out the Plant Medicine Summit s March 18-22, 2019 hosted by David Crowe.
This summit will feature more than three dozen leading botanical medicine experts, health practitioners and inspiring educators — including people like David Crow, K.P. Khalsa, Lupo Passero, Pam Fischer, Sara Crow, Nicholas Schnell, and others.
RSVP here for The Plant Medicine Summit — at no charge – the Summit is free.
If you found my article helpful I would be honored if you shared it with you friends, family and on social media.
Quote: “When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight.” ~ William Shakespeare, 1595.
Affirmation: I am grateful for taking the ‘natural path’.
Until next time,
(PLEASE NOTE: I want to remind you that the information on my blog and website are my thoughts and opinions on the information I found while researching herbs and flowers to put in my herbal garden. This information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for you own use.
I am not, nor am I holding myself out to be a doctor/physician, or any other medical professional (“Medical Provider”).
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