Whether you are shoveling three feet of snow right now or, like us, just enjoying some pleasantly cool weather with seasonal showers, winter is as good a time as any to start an herb garden (or plan to expand the one you already have). If you live in a warm climate, you can grow herbs outdoors perennially. If you are more weather-challenged, you can keep your herbs in pots indoors, and transfer them outside in spring.
My herb garden is my favorite, most useful, most versatile and easiest to maintain green patch. Once herbs get going, they’re extremely easy to grow and only require minimal care. They don’t need a lot of space or water, and can be tucked into nooks where you can’t grow much else. Many herbs boast of wonderful medicinal properties and a whole array of culinary uses. In fact, for someone just establishing a garden, I’d recommend to get started with herbs. Here is what we currently grow:
Rosemary – Grows as a spiky green arborescent bush. Rosemary has antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties, and is great in enhancing the flavor of roast meat and fish. Can be propagated by placing cuttings (without blossoms) in a jar of water in a sunny space.
Sage – Sage tea is great for both colds and coughs, and digestive complaints including gas and stomach pain. Leaves can also be used in a variety of meat, fish and pasta dishes. We got our sage as a seedling from a nursery, and it took months to really get going, but now it’s a mighty bush.
Hyssop – I love this Mediterranean herb in cooking, and use it in pasta sauce similarly to how I would use basil. Hyssop sprawls once it gets going, and soon you’ll have it in abundance.
Mint – Mint has a wonderful fresh smell and is great in teas. Our personal favorite get-well tea for colds is a sage-mint combo with a sprig of rosemary. Mint is also thought to aid stomach pain and indigestion, and can offset nausea. There are several varieties of mint with subtle differences in flavor – we currently grow two. Mint, like rosemary, can be grown from cuttings placed in a jar of water until they take root.
Lavender – Lavender is a new addition to our herb garden. Many proponents of natural medicine are familiar with lavender essential oil, but the fresh leaves, too, have antiseptic, antibacterial properties, and lavender tea is considered to be a soothing, calming infusion, great for treating insomnia. I personally don’t need any reason to grow lavender other than its delightful smell. If you grow lavender from cuttings, those need to be placed directly in moist potting soil, rather than in water, to take root.
A flowering herb patch will attract bees and other useful pollinators to your garden. If you have an excess of herbs, you can always dry them by hanging them up in bunches, in or out of doors, and store them in airtight containers for later use. You can make herb-infused olive oil by putting sprigs of fresh or dried herbs in the bottle. You can give away bunches of fresh herbs, or pretty containers of dried herbs, as gifts. You can make satchels of dried herbs, particularly lavender, to scent your closets or other confined spaces. Herbs can also be used to scent homemade soaps, body scrubs, lotions and other artisan body care products. Finally, if you’re daring and adventurous and have a lot of herbs, you can try your hand at making essential oils. The possibilities are endless!
So take a leap and start an herb garden today. Whether you end up with a full-blown patch, or just a few pots on the windowsill, I can guarantee you will enjoy it.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here.
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