While I love gathering wild native herbs (and weeds that immigrated with our ancestors from Europe), there is a very special place in my heart for the herbs who live on the same land as me and welcome me with new growth each Spring. These herbs hold a special place in my home as well as they are incorporated into meals, teas, tinctures, and topical medicines. You too can enjoy a full and robust relationship with your plant medicine.
A note on choosing herbs to plant vs harvest:
Having all your favorite herbs close at hand can be very convenient and comforting, but not all herbs take well to gardens, and some will take over your garden if you aren’t careful.
Some plants that are better to harvest wild include burdock, nettles, chickweed, and dandelion. Although if you find a particularly delicious patch, no one will blame you for transplanting some to a pot or unused corner of your garden. Planting your herbal garden can also be a way of encouraging the growth of native species that have declined like camas and trillium if you have the right environment in your yard.
Mint family plants are easy to grow and clone and can be an encouraging first place to start with herbal gardens. Be careful though, because if allowed, they will overrun your garden. Regular trimming is a great way to keep them well managed and you will have plenty of dried herbs to maintain you through the winter.
Ways to start planting:
The easiest way to start planting is with purchased starts. Be sure to purchase Organic crops so you can collect seeds that will be fertile and grow new plants.
The next easiest way is to transplant a whole or partial plant from another garden or from the wild. If you do this, be sure to take no more than 1/2 of the plant and transplant a good rootball to ensure you are also getting some of the mycorrhizal network of beneficial fungus with the soil to help your new plant thrive.
Next, we can clone plants from cuttings. To do this, you will use clean and sharp shears to cut a plant stem just above one of it’s branching nodes and set in water. You can use new green willow twigs to brew a tea that acts as a rooting hormone and set your cuttings in a mix of 1/2 willow tea and 1/2 water to speed the rooting process. You can then transplant into the soil once roots are well established.
Finally, you can start from seeds. This is the most difficult way to start plants but is very rewarding when you can collect seeds to plant in the coming year.
Herbs I recommend starting with if you are new to gardening:
- Lemon balm
These herbs are easy to grow and tend to stick around from year to year. A few of my favorite culinary herbs like basil and cilantro are a bit more finicky and tend to bolt as soon as we get sunnier weather.
When it comes to planting your herbs, I like to start in biodegradable newspaper pots so I can plant the seedlings straight into the ground without disturbing their roots. You can view a tutorial on creating these pots below.