Herb gardens are among the easiest, most fulfilling types of gardens to grow. Plant them in raised beds, window boxes, in pots or along walkways. Whether you'll be using them for cooking, as alternative medicine or just planting them for their fragrance, herbs offer something for virtually every gardener.
Turn your garden or window box into a natural medicine cabinet by planting some of these popular and easy-to-grow perennial herbs. Echinacea is widely used in the alternative-medicine community for its immunity-boosting and antiviral properties. It is best used by steeping 1 or 2 oz. of dried leaves in hot water to make tea.
Peppermint is an aid to combat indigestion and an upset stomach. Its calming properties can be released by chewing on a leaf, or by adding some to water to make hot tea. Arnica used externally can help heal bruises and reduce inflammation. Make your own poultice out of mashed, dried flower heads mixed with vegetable oil, to soothe wounds and body aches. While herbs can be used to treat many ailments, the University of Maryland Medical Center warns that you should always consult a practitioner with expertise in the area of botanical medicine to understand any precautions.
Most recipes call for the use of herbs to add spice or flavor to a dish. Snip some of these fast growing perennial herbs directly from your backdoor kitchen garden to use in a variety of ways. Two of the most popular culinary herbs are basil and chives. Basil has a slightly peppery taste that works well in pasta dishes and salads. Chives are a member of the onion family, and their tangy flavor compliments potato dishes, soups and quiches.
Cilantro is a pungent herb popular in Mexican and Asian cooking. Its leaves can be added to salsa, guacamole, tacos and meat dishes, or mixed in many Thai and Chinese noodle dishes.
There's nothing quite like the surprise of brushing against an herb plant and being greeted with a delightful aroma. Scented herbs can be grown together, or mixed in with other types of plants to add a subtle scent. They can also be dried and turned into potpourri or aromatic oils. Lavender is one of the most-loved scented herbs known for creating a relaxing environment. Mint and lemon balm are both popular for their fresh scents, but can be invasive; they're better suited to a container herb garden.
While spearmint and peppermint are the most widely known mint plants, try one of the more exotic herbal mints, such as orange or chocolate. Scented geranium herb plants come in a wide variety of tantalizing scents, such as ginger, cinnamon, apple, strawberry and rose. When planting scented herbs, consider the location in your garden. Plant them near a walkway, at the corner of a porch or just outside your door--anyplace where they're likely to get brushed against or touched to release their aromas.