Welcome Spring! You’ve been dreaming all winter about starting a medicinal herb garden, but now that the ground has thawed you realize you have no idea where to begin. Fear not, and read on for a simple medicinal herb garden plan that incorporates a pharmacy of herbs for self-care that are easy to grow in your backyard.
Before you jump in bring home a trunk-full of herbs you got at the spring fair, take a moment to consider the land that you have. What are the characteristics you have to work with? Do you have full sun? Full or part shade? What hardiness zone do you live in? What type of soil do you have and how about the drainage? Is your land flat or hilly? Check out the AskTheHerbalists blog, including my most recent post, for several topics that discuss these considerations.
In general, keep in mind that most common, medicinal herbs are not fussy (at least the ones I’m going to suggest below!). Give them reasonable soil, sun, and water, go easy on the fertilizer, and you should do just fine. Now for the herbs!
Backyard First Aid:
1. Plantain (Plantago major) – a common lawn weed but great for treating bee stings, bug bites, and small cuts. Make a ‘spit poultice’ by chewing the leaves and apply to the affected area
2. Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) – use the crushed leaves and root as a poultice to treat bruises – UNBROKEN skin. CAUTION: Use internally only under care of a professional.
3. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – often used in mouthwashes, make a strong tea out of it and gargle
4. Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) – use lavender tea as an antiseptic wash or compress
5. (German) chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – tea from the flowers calms and relieves nausea
6. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – tea from the leaves provides anti-spasmodic action to calm cramping, gas, and indigestion.
7. Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) – make a cold infusion of the root to soothe red and irritated mucus membranes
8. Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) – tea from the dried leaves provides anti-histamine relief to calm allergic reactions. CAUTION: only handle stinging nettle plants while wearing gloves!!!
9. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) – harvest the root at the end of summer, clean and chop before drying. Tea consumed every day will strengthen the immune system
10. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – tea from the flowers is a mild lymphatic, moving immune cells to where they need to be as well as removing cellular waste
11. Holy basil/tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) – a cousin of mint (and grows like one), holy basil nourishes the hormonal stress axis, modulating release of stress hormones for a more moderate response to stressors
12. Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) – also in the mint family, tea made from scullcap leaves calms the nerves
Medicinal herb garden plans:
The wagon wheel, shown above, is one way to showcase your herbs in an elegant manner. Plan for the diameter of the circle to be at least 8-10 feet in diameter, with narrow mulch strips dividing the sections. For a more angular look, try rectangular beds with walking paths in between, such as the layout shown below. Each bed should be 2’x3′ or 3’x4′. Raised beds would work well here.
If you prefer a more ‘free-form’, natural look, you can plant the herbs in the space you have and see what happens!
This is what happens in nature, after all. Happy Medicinal Herb Gardening!