Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to Start a Medicinal Herb Garden

Herbal medicine has always been with us; in fact, humanity has survived for thousands and thousands of years — even prior to the advent of modern technologies and conventional medicine — because of it. Today, the art and science of learning to heal with the use of plants is definitely gaining in popularity in large part due to it’s ease of use and affordability.

It’s no wonder that we all are eager to learn about these healing plants!
Many of you have asked if:
  • herbal remedies are safe?
  • what plants heal what?
  • are they really effective?
  • how should the plant material be used? 
And then you wonder if they can be grown at home.
There are so many things we could talk about today (and many of these questions will be addressed in the coming weeks), but let’s begin with how to grow medicinal plants.

Remaining Connected

In days gone by gardens full of vegetables, herbs, and flowers were common place and existed as part of the landscape of the home. Many of these gardens were designed to include a section dedicated to medicinal herbs and healing plants of all kinds.

Tending the garden meant producing one’s own food and medicine — it meant learning the rhythms of the seasons. It was a link between humanity and nature.

Digging up a small area in the yard – or filling a few pots on the patio – and planting medicinal herbs can be revolutionary in helping us to remain connected.

Start Simple

When starting a medicinal herb garden for the first time it is wise to keep things simple and manageable. If you do this, and experience success, you’ll more than likely be inspired and energized to continue!


The design for your garden can include a simple raised bed devoted to medicinal herbs or feel free to add them directly to your landscape. For example, yarrow, echinacea, and Valerian are just beautiful when included in an existing flower bed.

Many medicinal plants make excellent companions to veggies and can be added to the corners of the vegetable garden. Plants such as thyme, basil, and calendula are perfect for this purpose.
Another great idea for garden design comes from Rosemary Gladstar and involves the use of a ladder or wagon wheel. She says to “lay an old wooden ladder or wagon wheel over well-prepared soil…plant a single type of herb in each rung. This simple and popular design is lovely, makes weeding easy, and allows the plants to grow fully.”


Herbs don’t require super rich soil; however, as any gardener knows, good soil is prized. Remember your soil is what nourishes your plants and the plants your body…so be good to it. Feel free to amend the soil of your medicinal herb garden with compost and aged manure. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s organic. Read more here…


When planning your medicinal garden deciding whether to start plants form seeds or seedling comes down to cost and availability. Seeds are definitely the most economic way to go. I’ve only purchased highly medicinal seeds from Horizon Herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs. They are generally $2-$3 per pack and can produce several vibrant plants. However, the cons to starting herbs from seed is the slow germination rate. It can often take herbs 2-3 weeks just to start emerging from the ground. As for seedlings, they do cost more up front, but this means your herbs will be ready to harvest sooner. The downside is good, organic medicinal seedlings are often hard to find. Tip: Keeping a garden binder is tremendously helpful when it come to planting. Click here to learn how to make your own garden binder.
And when considering what to grow healing plants in, the following tolerate pot culture and should grow well in a variety of containers:
  • basil
  • calendula
  • cayenne pepper
  • ginger
  • lavender
  • lemon balm
  • horehound
  • any type of mint
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • St. John’s wort
  • thyme
These plants are perfect for raised beds or the ladder/wagon wheel design:
  • all the plants listed above
  • chickweed
  • chamomile
  • garlic
  • feverfew
  • echinacea
  • licorice
  • plantain
And these plants get pretty big, so they need a bit more space:
  • yarrow
  • valerian
  • mullein
  • burdock
  • marshmallow
By starting your own medicinal herb garden this growing season you are taking one more step toward empowering yourself to treat symptoms of the common cold, little skin irritations, a few chronic conditions, and minor bumps and bruises. Imagine your friends’ and family’s surprise when you tell them you grew it and made it yourself!

What medicinal herbs and plants will you grow this year? Share your tips for growing healing plants!

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