Grow Herbs to Know Herbs

I admit it. I am an herb nerd. More specifically, I am a grower-of-herbs nerd. Just say to me, “I don’t think [insert name of herb] grows here” and I will attempt to grow it in the medicinal herbs garden… in my yard if it tends to be invasive… in amended soil if necessary… or perhaps in a pot if it needs some pampering. I have always enjoyed the challenge of growing new and interesting plants, as well as at-risk species.

I strongly believe the best way to know an herb is to grow that herb: watch it germinate, nurture it through its seedling stage, introduce it to the outside world bit by bit (gardeners call this hardening-off), care for it as the roots push down and the stems shoot up, see it flower and finally reproduce by producing seeds or spreading roots. You observe how it responds to the changing seasons and varying weather challenges. In learning an herb well, you also get a deeper understanding — some call it intuition — of its healing properties and how we live reciprocally with plants.

I realize many herbalists don’t have a splendid spot of land for growing herbs like I do. No worries: most herbs are very resilient and do well alongside plants in your landscaping or among vegetables in your garden. Many herbs also thrive in pots on a deck, porch, or sidewalk. At my local library, I found one of my favorite books for growing in pots: Edible Spots & Pots - Small Space Gardens for Growing Vegetables & Herbs in Containers, Raised Beds and More, by Stacey Hirvela.

If you are interested in learning more about growing medicinal plants in our area, I have videos on my Classes page: “Growing a Backyard Pharmacy,” “Planting for Pollinators and People,” and “Growing a Pandemic Herb Garden.”

If you are in need of some transplants for your garden, I have a list of plants available through May, or as long as there are extras. Just go to the You-Pick Medicinal Herbs Garden page, scroll down to “What’s Ready” and click on the “What’s Ready Now” button.

If it is not possible for you to grow your own herbs, consider finding someone who does (like me) and volunteer time caring for the plants there, watching them grow as you tend them. You, the plants, and the caretaker of the garden will all benefit — a win-win-win!

If hands-in-the-dirt options don’t work for you, I encourage you to find an herb garden or organic farm in your area where you can simply gather your own herbs. Please remember to contribute to the farmer or gardener, either financially or with some sort of generous barter.

These are the musings of an herb nerd, germinated while tending the You-Pick Medicinal Herbs Garden this spring. I am blessed to have been given this space, along with the use of a greenhouse for starting many old favorites as well as several new ones. Let me know if you would like to join me here, and perhaps I’ll turn you into an herb nerd, too!