Every good garden starts with a little planning. Medicinal herb gardens can be especially well planned, since much of what you use may be growing wild in your area. For me, this means the tonic herbs: nettles and red raspberry leaf. I use too much of these throughout the year to rely on what I can find growing naturally. Part of my garden planning is to prepare a place on my land where I can seed these particular herbs right into the landscape.
These days, I am in my greenhouse as much as possible, busy taking stock of what herbs lived through the winter months, and what I need to replant or repot before the flush of growth in spring. From my time as a greenhouse grower and wildcrafter, I have some tips that may help you stay organized and keep cost down while you grow your own medicinal herb garden.
- Seeds are inexpensive. Start your herbs from seed whenever possible, and start more than you hope to use. That way, you will be fierce when thinning the seedlings, and will end up with replacement plants when needed.
- Start your seeds at the proper time by counting back from the time you plan on putting them into the garden. There is a delicate balance of starting them early enough to be ready as soon as the ground is ready, and starting so early that your herbs end up leggy and weak.
- Once your days start to lengthen appreciably, water your plants and seedlings with a weak fish emulsion. Water more often at this time as well. Your plants will be coming out of dormancy, due to the hours of sunlight, and have increased fertilizer and moisture needs.
A natural fungicide that helps you avoid dampening your seeds is a triple-strength chamomile tea spritzed across the top of the soil before the seedlings break through.
Amy Jeanroy is a garden writer living off the Bay of Fundy in Northern Maine. She harvests herbs from the forest and seaside whenever possible, and grows the rest in her gardens.