There is a countless list of plants you can grow in your herb garden (and just as many reasons why you should be growing herbs!) But narrowing the list down and figuring out what to put in the herb garden doesn’t have to be confusing and frustrating!
When I first started planning what herbs I wanted to plant in my garden years ago, I admit I totally went overboard. I bought all the things!
And ended up regretting it, big time!
It turned out to be such a waste of my time and money. (Unless you count the lessons I learned. Then it’s never a waste.) But these herbs were persnickety and managing all their specific needs made starting them from seed a real challenge.
As I read through The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion by Amy Fewell I was impressed with her strategy for planning the beginner’s herb garden! It was just plain good common sense!
The easiest way to begin your herb garden is to choose five herbs that best suit your homestead needs. My initial list looked something like this:
- seasonal allergies
- common cold and flue
- pretty things
Yes, “pretty things was definitely on my list. I wanted some herbs just for their aromatic benefits, like lavender, and to be pretty too…. As our homesteading journey went on, so did my needs. –The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion
Isn’t that a great approach?
Beginner’s Herb Garden: What to Plant
Expanding on that herb garden planning idea from The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, here are 5 things to consider as you decide what herbs to plant in your garden. Begin by prioritizing your list. Amy suggests choosing your top 5 herbs to master this year.
But save that list, because it will help you decide how to expand next year. (This is just one of the ways the principles we used when starting our homestead help us to stay sane even now. They can continue to be practiced so we can avoid burnout and become masters of our homestead!)
Make sure you keep good homesteading records to reinforce what you’re learning about these herbs so you know them inside and out. Snag yourself a set of The Homestead Management Printables to help you know what information to record. (There’s also a handy Seed Sowing Calculator in there you can customize to your specific frost dates and know exactly when you should plant your herbs!)
What Types of Herbs Should You Grow
Do you want to grow culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, or (like me) BOTH! Thankfully, some culinary herbs are also beneficial in the kitchen as well as the medicine cabinet.
Thyme is amazing on chicken but is also wonderful for making Lemon Honey Thyme Cough Syrup.
Sage is my favorite herb for flavoring pork, but it also does double duty as a tea for sore throats, coughs, and laryngitis.
Cayenne pepper gives our food some kick. And it works great in pain relieving salve. I use it for sore muscles or back pain.
We use garlic honey “pills” to boost our immune system when we get sick, but most of the time our homegrown garlic is used for mealtime prep.
Check Your Spice Cabinet
What herbs do you use most frequently in the kitchen when preparing homemade meals? Are there some that have been sitting in your cupboard longer than you can remember? (Don’t grow those.)
In my kitchen, it’s parsley, sage, oregano, and thyme. Thankfully, these herbs are all really easy to grow and self-sow abundantly so I only have to start them once. (That’s just one of the many reasons I never cook with essential oils.)
What is Your Family’s Health Needs?
Does your family come down with the same type of illness each winter? Does someone suffer from chronic headaches? Grow feverfew. Eczema? Maybe try growing calendula. Insomnia? Plant some chamomile for homemade Sleepytime Herbal Tea Mix. Think about your family’s specific health needs and choose to grow herbs that will support their well-being.
Consider Your Garden Site
Every garden site has specific needs and some garden sites may be limiting. Thankfully there are several culinary and medicinal herbs that grow well in part shade or shade gardens.
Companion planting herbs in your vegetable garden is one of the ways to increase your yields and invite pollinators to visit.
But many herbs also have symbiotic relationships with the vegetables in your garden. It will be worth your while to learn what to plant together in the herb garden. Amy recommends planting chives to enhance the flavor of your vegetables. Or mint to repel cabbage moths. (You can bet I’ll be giving that tip a try! I’ve all but given up on cabbage!) According to The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, basil will deter pests. And garlic will keep the bunnies away.
The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion is a beautiful resource to supplement your herbal library! It was a delight just to flip through the pages and admire the photography. (But then again, I’m like a kid and I like books with pictures.)
The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion includes chapters on:
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- The Basics of Herbalism
- The Homesteader’s Herb List
- How to Grow Herbs
- Wild Herbs in Your Backyard
- Seed Saving; Drying and Storing Herbs
- Herbal Teas and Tinctures
- Medicinal Syrups and Other Herbal Home Remedies
- Infused Oil, Salves, and Poultices
- Everyday Herbal Care and Beauty Products
- Homestead Essential Oils
- Cooking with Herbs on the Homestead
- Herbs for the Home and Barn
- Herbs for Our Four-Legged Friends
- Herbs for Chickens and Other Poultry
- Herbs for the Homestead Pollinators
- My Herbal Medicine Cabinet and Pantry
- Resources for Further Learning
It has an extensive Materia Medica tailored for the homesteader and is LOADED with lots of recipes for you to try. Several recipes are “basic” so you can get creative and customize them to your needs. There are recipes for salves, syrups, cleaners, tinctures, delicious sounding meals enhanced with herbs, Spice Mixes, body lotions and other beauty products, soap, ways to use herbs for the coop and livestock. (I love her idea of using Hot Cocoa as a carrier for medicinal herbs to soothe sore throats and coughs with the Respiratory Marshmallow Hot Cocoa!)
The information in Amy’s book is easy to read and thoughtfully presented. There is something in it for everyone! When readers are through, beginners will have a thorough understanding and the confidence to get started without feeling overwhelmed. And more experienced herb-lovers will have their knowledge challenged. The beauty of the pages and variety of recipes are truly inspirational!
What herbs do you want to grow in your garden?