herbs in pots ready for planting

Should You Grow Herbs in Your Backyard Garden?

Many civilizations have been interested in growing herbs and using them in a variety of different ways. The ancient Greeks and Romans used dill and laurel to crown heroes and in the Middle Ages mint was important as a cleansing agent. The early Chinese used others in medicine and still do so today, to prevent and even cure disease.

The Benefits of Growing Herbs

Many of the early settlers in America had a sunny corner of the garden set aside for growing herbs. These had many uses including remedies for illnesses, flavoring, strewing on floors and storing with linen. Others were used to improve the taste of meat before preservatives and some used for dying.

Increase the Productivity of Your Garden

Today, growing herbs add fragrance and color to the home garden and they are often attractive to look at. If you wish to have bees visit your garden to help with the fertilization of fruit and vegetable flowers, then growing herbs will do this for you.

bright purple lavender growing in the field with bees
Lavender attracts bees and other beneficial insects in the garden.

Growing herbs in your garden helps repel some pests and insects thus reducing the amount of insecticide that is required, this practice is known as companion planting. For example, garlic planted near roses keeps aphids away and basil repels flies and mosquitoes.

Treat Common Ailments

Herbal medicine is very popular in many cultures. But you don’t need to be a medicine man or holistic practitioner to enjoy the health benefits of garden herbs. Start small with some of the more common herbal remedies.

  • Grow lavender to promote good sleep
  • Chamomile tea is used to calm the mind
  • Peppermint makes a great digestive aid
fresh peppermint next to a cup of tea
Peppermint is easy to grow in the garden and has many uses from calming teas to refreshing deserts.

Add Flavor to Your Cooking

Growing herbs to use in the kitchen will also add a whole new dimension to cooking, giving you the flavor and aroma of exotic places. Show off your plants with this solid brass growing herb marker.

Growing herbs will provide fresh or dried leaves, or occasionally flowers, from the plants and generally have a mild flavor. They differ from spices, which are seeds, flowers, fruits, bark or roots which have a more pungent and stronger flavor. By growing herbs yourself you will find the fresh leaves contain more flavor than the dried ones that are available in the market.

Where Can You Buy Common Garden Herbs?

Plants can be purchased from a garden center to put straight in the ground but most can also be grown from seed. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Most are small plants and don’t take up much room, in fact, many people like growing herbs in containers or even in pots as a houseplant on a sunny windowsill.

herbs in pots ready for planting
In the spring, most garden centers carry the most common herbs.

The Four Categories of Herbs

While you may be growing herbs just for cooking or for fragrance there are 4 categories and the plants may fall into one or more of these:

Culinary Herbs

These have a range of uses in cooking e.g. parsley, sage, chives, thyme, savory, marjoram, mint, basil, dill.

Aromatic Herbs

Pleasant smelling and can be used for perfume and scents e.g mint, marjoram, rosemary, basil, lavender.

Ornamental Herbs

Bright colored flowers and foliage and can be used for dried arrangements e.g. chicory, thyme, mint, lavender.

Medicinal Herbs

Thought to have curative powers but should be used with caution e.g. chamomile, garlic, peppermint.

white daisy like flowers of the chamomile plant
Chamomile is a pretty and functional herb to grow in the garden.

Growing Herb Basics

The best time to harvest leaves of the growing herbs is in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets too hot. Use a sharp knife and cut just above a pair of leaves leaving 4 to 6 inches of stem, never pull leaves off the plant. For annuals harvest the growing tips but with perennials make sure the pruning does not misshape the plant.

Although fresh leaves have the most essential oil (which is what gives all the flavor) growing herbs also enables you to dry or freeze your own for when fresh ones are not available.

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