Gardening with Herbs

Herbs in the garden are magical to me. They certainly give more than they take because they’re so very easy to grow. They attract pollinators, which increases the bounty in your veggie garden. Their aromas and oils attract beneficial bugs to the garden, repel the damaging insects, and can even add flavor to vegetables that are planted next to them, like basil to tomatoes.  Here are just two – Chamomile and Lavender 

Chamomile

German Chamomile Flowers

Many of us know Camomile (Chamomile) as an herbal tea sold in abundance nearly everywhere but actually coming from some imagined far away place. It’s so ridiculously easy to grow the far away place can be just a few steps out your door.

There are two types of camomile, both members of the daisy family, but the German, or wild, camomile, (Matricaria chamomilla) is stems ahead of the Roman (C. nobile). It is sweeter in taste and scent. It can grow anywhere, from 6 to 24 inches tall, with soft little feathery leaves and bright little flowers. The Roman looks similar but is shorter, is bitter and less soothing to your body. Chamomile has been grown for its medicinal properties for centuries, mentioned as far back 1652 in Culpepers’ English Physician. It is used to soothe any number of aches and pains, including stomach aches and cramps. Chamomile tea can help ease you into sweet slumber. For a bit more info on what Chamomile tea can do for your body, I recommend visiting https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, where you can see what modern 3research has found that Chamomile can do for your body.

In the Garden

Chamomile likes light sandy loam with good drainage. It grows very quickly by seed, making it a very affordable quick reward for your labor. These perky dairylike flowers enjoy a crowded space and it easily self-sows everywhere. Which explains why it pops up in every crack in the patio, the driveway, between stepping stones, and every open space in the garden. It likes a party and if it can’t find one it will start one. Start it from seed in the early spring, in a pot or in a garden bed. It grows taller faster in cooler temps. The heat can stunt it’s growth. It does not require fertilization, nor does it need a lot of water.

Chamomile is an excellent companion plant to cabbages and onions, contributing to their flavor and growth. Ours decided every plant was a worthy companion. You can see in these photos that our Chamomile grew in and along every bed, getting particularly up close and personal with the zucchini. It also tried to make friends with the pots of flowers by our front door, growing in the smallest of cracks. The flowers are beautiful and they are one of the first to bloom in Spring. I let these beauties roam around until I need the space for something else.

Harvest your Chamomile in the peak of their bloom, every 7-10 days. I recommend harvesting early in the day when it is cooler as the blooms will degrade quickly piled on top of each other in the heat. Just like us, plants generally do not like to be messed with in the heat. The various methods for drying your freshly harvested herbs are the same for all of them, so I have dedicated the last paragraph of this post for the instructions.

Lavender

I grow Lavender for it’s beautiful color and scent. It adds structure to my flower garden with the added benefit of a flower I can harvest for my kitchen. I use it for tea and bakery. It adds a lovely subtle flavor to cakes. It’s sold in sachets to use under your pillow for sweet slumber or to add scent to your closet. Lavender steeped as a tea has a very calming effect. Chamomile soothes your muscles, and Lavender soothes your mind, creating a mellow mood. Its medicinal uses too have been widely known for centuries, also mentioned in Culpepers’ English Physician.

In the Garden

Lavender grows in nearly every climate, from the hot dry Mediterranean to cold damp British Isles and even colder Norway. The key is of course to grow the right type of Lavender for your climate. Here in Zone 5 in USA, we grow a hybrid of the hearty Lavadula angustifolia which can withstand frost. I find that my Lavender will come back in a pot as well as long as it is protected from the wind. The English Lavender variety is hearty in cold temps and does much better than the other varieties in a pot. English Lavender varieties that do well in our zone include Munstead and Hidcote. Growing Lavender by seed is certainly possible, but it will take a few seasons for it to grow to a small to medium bush. If you have the patience, go for it. Otherwise you can by a one quart size for immediate, but affordable, gratification.

The plant itself looks like a small 2×2 softly rounded bush with blue-green leaves/stems. Lavender is an excellent size for a pot in a sunny spot and for a perennial garden. If you like harmony in your color scheme, plant Lavender with pinks for soft relaxing vibe. If you like contrast, plant it with yellows for eye catching boldness.

Harvest your Lavender early in it’s bloom cycle. Pick a bouquet first thing in the morning, if possible. Later in the day the heat will dissipate some of the oils and fragrance with it. Harvesting your Lavender early in it’s bloom cycle encourages the plant to produce more shoots and then more flowers. To dry your Lavender, tie the stems together and hang it upside down in a cool dry area.

Plant these herbs and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view and scent.

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