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Starting your herb garden

Resources

Starting your herb garden

fireweed farmer

Growing your own herb garden can be a rewarding and connecting experience that you can enjoy for many years to come.

When starting your herb garden try starting small. Choose herbs that you will find useful and that require minimal care. Add to your garden as you gain experience and begin introducing the more challenging herbs over time.

The right plant for the right spot. Consider sun, soil and water requirements before planting. Try to find an area of your garden that naturally meets these requirements...

 Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) blooming at Fireweed Farm.

Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) blooming at Fireweed Farm.

Drought tolerant herbs. Once established, after the first year, these herbs do fine with very little extra watering during the growing season. They enjoy full sun and do fine in all soil types except heavy clay. The harsher summer growing conditions of hot and dry, encourage the plant to produce more medicinal constituents. Herbs for the drought tolerant garden include wormwood, mugwort, feverfew, rosemary, yarrow, lavender, thyme, oregano, licorice, baical skullcap, california poppy, opium poppy, cardoon, rose campion, roman chamomile, ephedra, epazote, and horehound, st. John’s wort, and sage.

Moisture loving herbs. These herbs do best when planted in a moist spot, or if given consistent watering during the growing season. Though many will do well in part-shade, planting them in full sun will encourage medicinal potency. Herbs that enjoy moist soil include pennyroyal, burdock, nettle, blue vervain, valerian, poke root, plantain, meadowsweet, blue skullcap, marshmallow, lobelia, goldenrod, figwort, elecampane, echinacea, chickweed, and wood betony.

Herbs for average garden soil and average water. These herbs prefer the same environment as most of your veggie crops. They need irrigation but do not like it overly moist. These herbs include anise hyssop, german chamomile, calendula, borage, arnica, wild bergamot, dandelion, alfalfa, red clover, oat straw, motherwort, and tobacco. Also included in this category are the annual or biennial culinary herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley.

Tropical and warm climate herbs for the West Coast. Many herbs that are native to warmer climate zones can be grown on the coast. They can be grown as annuals, or overwintered inside or with protection. These herbs include ashwagandha, wild dagga, lemongrass, holy basil, white sage, passionflower, sweet licorice, lemon verbena, spilanthes, gotu kola, turmeric, and ginger.

Other growing tips: 

  • Try to plant herbs with similar needs together. Many herbs thrive on neglect, others love to be pampered.
  • Potent medicinals and enhanced flavours. Many herbs have more concentrated volatile oils and medicinal properties when grown in the full sun, in poor soil, and with minimal interference.
  • Try growing from seed. Many herbs don’t do well transplanted, such as dill and cilantro, and many others herbs that have long taproots.
  • Don’t over water. In the garden let at least an inch of the topsoil dry out between waterings. Some herbs may need to be watered only a small handful of times during a season. Research the water needs of each herb.
  • Improve your soil with mulching. For the herbs that enjoy more fertility and moisture, mulching is an efficient and natural way to build soil and reduce the need for water. Use materials such as leaves, seaweed, re-used burlap coffee sacks, ink free cardboard, spoiled hay, straw, and alfalfa.
  • Observe nature and have fun!
 A sea of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) in the garden at Fireweed Farm.

A sea of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) in the garden at Fireweed Farm.