How to Grow Your Own Herbs for Herbology

Overview

Herbs have been an integral part of medicine since ancient times, and many of the herbal remedies prescribed today have long and storied histories of use. Herbal remedies are efficient against minor ailments and injuries, such as headache, cold symptoms, stomach problems and minor cuts and scrapes. While many medicinal herbs grow in and can be gathered from the wild, other species grow well in herb gardens or containers. Furthermore, some herbs with culinary uses, such as sage or celery seed, or planted in flower gardens, such as calendula or echinacea, also have medicinal properties.

Step 1

Identify any growing conditions or challenges in your area. For example, some areas may have a short growing season or tendencies toward damaging weather, such as violent storms or high winds. You should also learn your hardiness zone and the last frost date, as this information will be important when selecting and planting your herbs.

Step 2

Write a list of the herbs with healing properties that you would like to grow. Include as many as you want, as you'll be narrowing the list later.

Step 3

Research the growing conditions for each herb and identify how well it will grow in your region. Also identify which herbs grow wild in your area. You may want to avoid planting them to start if you have other sources to find them fresh.

Step 4

Choose a location for your herb garden. Most herbs prefer full sun or partial shade, although a few species will tolerate full shade and some require it. Check how well the herbs left on your list fit your chosen site. You may want to start simple by planting only those species that will thrive in a particular area, adding others requiring different conditions later. You may also incorporate herbs into vegetable and flower gardens or grow them in containers.

Step 5

Obtain young plants or seeds. Most nurseries carry a selection of culinary herbs and a few of the more popular healing herbs, such as St. John's wort. Some of the rarer healing varieties you may need to order from a catalog or request from a nursery.

Step 6

Follow the planting instructions on the plant tags or seed packets to place your herbs at an appropriate distance from each other. Even though they start small, many herbs will grow fast.

Step 7

Note what part and how each herb is used, and monitor your garden accordingly. For example, the useful part of chamomile is the flower, so you will need to wait for the plant to flower, then gather the heads.

Step 8

Continue adding new herbs as time, space and need permit.

Tips and Warnings

  • Remember that not all plants are benign, and herbal medicines affect the body physiologically, just like regular medicine. Be sure you follow collection and preparation instructions carefully, and always check with a doctor before beginning a herbal treatment program, especially if you are taking other medications.

Things You'll Need

  • Herb plants or seeds
  • Garden plot or container

References

  • "Living with Herbs"; Jo Ann Gardner; 1997
  • "The New Healing Herbs"; Michael Castleman; 1991
  • Colorado State University Extension: Planning a Vegetable Garden
  • "Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening"; Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, and Ellen Phillips, editors; 2009

Who Can Help

  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Complementary Medicine
Keywords: growing medicinal herbs, growing healing herbs, planning herb gardens

About this Author

First published in 2000, Dawn Walls-Thumma has served as an editor for Bartleby and Antithesis Common literary magazines. Her work has been published academically and in creative journals. Walls-Thumma writes about education, gardening, and sustainable living. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and writing from University of Maryland, and is a graduate student in education at American Public University.