Common medicinal herbs grow eagerly with little care and maintenance. Growing conditions and requirements vary, depending on the type of herb. Some basics, however, apply to growing any medicinal herb garden. People have grown medicinal herbs throughout recorded human history. Medicinal herbs are plants that form flowers and seeds and contain healing or preventative properties. For example, peppermint (Mentha x piperita) has antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) relieves pain because of its sedative properties. Many medicinal plants also provide striking flowers and foliage, attract beneficial insects, flavor foods and perfume the yard.
Select which herbs you want to add to your garden. Check your USDA zone and choose herbs that perform well where you live. Native medicinal plants make the best choices because they require the least water and maintenance.
Prepare the bed or garden area where you want the plants. Most medicinal herbs perform well with partial to full sun and well-drained soil. Remove any weeds and dig in a 3-inch layer of compost to improve soil drainage and fertility. Check for any specific needs for each variety and adjust the soil accordingly.
Acquire seeds, plants, root cuttings or divisions. Contact local nurseries, garden clubs and farmer's markets and ask about selections they have available. Or you could set up an exchange with local gardeners. If none of these sources yields plants, check herb suppliers on the Internet.
Plant the herbs in the prepared beds following recommended spacing for each variety. Make the planting hole twice the width of the root ball for plants and divisions. Root cuttings usually need to be planted about 3 inches deep. Plant seeds to a depth twice their size and cover with fine soil.
Water the medicinal herbs. Keep the bed moist until seeds grow and plants form new leaves. After that, supplement to reach 1 inch of water per week.
Spread mulch around the herbs. A 3- to 4-inch layer will aid in preventing weeds and conserving moisture. The mulch also conditions the soil as it breaks down. Hardwood mulch and pine straw make long-lasting choices and look attractive.
Prune, deadhead and trim the plants as needed. Many herbs benefit from occasionally trimmings. Deadheading flowers promotes additional blooms, and pruning keeps plants healthy.