Planting an Herb Garden

Reader Contribution by Kirsten Lie-Nelson and Days Ferry Organics
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Whether you are a lifelong gardener or just starting out, planting a herb garden is an easy way to get the most out of your space and plants. A herb garden can be any size, from a couple of potted plants on your kitchen window to an acre of rambling bushes. Many varieties of herbs are known to be especially hardy, and can thrive in conditions where other plants might fail.

One of the best reasons to start a herb garden is the innumerable benefits of so many of these plants. While the species’ common in herb gardens often do not bear fruit or vegetables, their leaves and flowers can be included in recipes to add spice and flavor or can be turned into tinctures and salves to help stave off illness and injury.

A few of the common culinary herbs with surprising medicinal benefits include:

Basil – the essential oil in basil can be used to clear up acne, and a few leafs of basil in your tea will help reduce stress. Crushed leaves can be applied topically to ease muscle tension and pain.

Oregano – as a dietary supplement oregano will help ease intestinal and menstrual cramps. Mixed into a salve or crushed and rubbed onto your skin, it will reduce acne and dandruff issues.

Tarragon – can be applied in a compress to ease symptoms of a toothache. As part of your regular diet, tarragon will reduce digestive issues such as constipation and cramping.

Parsley – rub onto insect bites or dry skin for relief. Parsley as part of your diet is said to be an aphrodisiac.

Rosemary – used in a salve, rosemary will reduce muscle aches and pain, and can help to increase memory.

The above plants are all known to be hardy and easy to grow, and are all common staples in a variety of recipes. Other plants that grow like weeds include catnip, chives, and mint, all of which can be left without attention and will still thrive. Many herbs such as chamomile and calendula will offer you beautiful flowers that can provide decoration as well as tasty teas and helpful salves.

If you have only limited space, consider any of the above as part of a small container garden. With consistent watering they will flourish, and even a small container of basil or oregano can produce enough greenery to help your recipes. Sprigs of these plants can be dried and used later, or they can be plucked fresh off the plant and used.

Herbs are an excellent way to introduce yourself to gardening, or to expand your current gardening experiences.

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