Let’s Plant Some Herbs – Propagation

Seeding is our favorite form of propagation. A seed is a repository for all the genetic diversity of the ancient wildness of these potent medicinals. When you are looking for medicine in a herb, you want to use the purest, strongest strain of the species you can get; in other words, you want the original, unchanged, wildest form available. So you will not, in most cases, choose a hybrid, which is indicated by a multiplication sign between a plant’s genus and species name or by a proper name within single quotes, like ‘Jenny’. And you won’t choose varieties developed for a wide array of flower colors or disease resistance. Seeds of unselected, wilder species will give you the full range of biodiversity possible for the herb – which makes it perfect for use as herbal medicine.

Most of the herbs featured in this website can be easily sown from seed. You will find instructions for the propagation methods {stem cuttings, root cuttings, root division, and layering} within this article. Our favorite seed sources are listed in the page ‘Buying and Ordering Plants’. We recommend that you seek out certified organic sources or get to know the seed company’s practices personally. We support small, local seed exchanges and regional seed houses whose activities are transparent, and we avoid those that trade in genetically modified or engineered seeds or plants.

Starting Seeds:

There are a few herbs that germinate best when they are seeded directly in the garden. However, most get a better start when sown indoors or in a greenhouse. You can start seeds in purchased seed trays or flats, recycled plastic nursery pots, or just about anything you have available that’s an appropriate size and shape: egg cartons, half clamshells, or paper cups, for example. If you can, start seeds in containers with individual cells. That way, when it’s time to transplant, you won’t have to disturb the seedlings’ roots as much as you would while separating seedlings started in a large container.

Seed-Starting Mix Recipes:

You can purchase an organic seed-starting mix at most hardware or garden stores, or you can make your own. Here are a few sample recipes.

Seed-Starting Mix 1

1 part organic potting soil

1 part perlite or vermiculite

Seed-Starting Mix 2

1 part garden soil

1 part well-sifted organic compost

2 parts horticultural sand or a combination of sand, perlite, vermiculite, and coir

Seed-Starting Mix 3

1 part well-sifted organic compost

1 part perlite or vermiculite

1 part coir

How to Plant Seeds:

Follow these instructions for sowing and nurturing your newly planted seeds.

  1. Make sure your mixture is moist but not soggy. Fill your clean, disinfected containers with the mix, and lightly tamp it down to settle and firm it.
  2. Make a shallow indentation with your finger or a pencil or chopstick and drop several seeds. Unless you’re planning a huge garden, do not sow all of the seeds in a packet; save some for a second sowing or the next season. In most cases, the average individual or family will only need 5 to 20 plants of a particular herb.
  3. Cover the seeds lightly with the seed-starting mix to a depth of two to three times the diameter of the seed. Very small seeds will get just the barest cover or will be pressed into the soil surface.
  4. Water or mist the flat or container gently, label it with the name of the herb and the date and place it in a warm location. If you are starting seeds early in the spring and the seeds need warm soil to germinate, you may want to purchase heating cables or pads {available online} or place the containers near a radiator or heater. A bright east- or west- facing windowsill with indirect light can suffice for germination. Most seeds germinate best between 60 and 80 degrees F.
  5. Label each herb container or tray with the herb name and the date. Keep the seedlings gently watered or misted so they remain moist but not soggy. {And if you will be gone for the better part of each day, cover the containers or trays with sheets of plastic wrap or plastic bags to keep in warmth and moisture. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the covering.} Make sure new emerging seedlings get 6 hours of sunlight daily. If they do not, you will need to supplement with fluorescent, LED, or grow lights. Germination times vary from several days to several weeks.
  6. The first leaves that emerge with germination {called the cotyledons} will be followed by the “true leaves,” which will look more like the mature leaves of the herb. You can transplant a plant to its own container or an outdoor bed after the true leaves have appeared, but it’s best to wait until there are several sets of true leaves and the plant looks healthy and strong.

Transplanting Outdoors:

If you are starting seeds indoors, sow them 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your area. Once the frost date has passed, you can safely transplant seedlings into outdoor pots or beds.

As you notice that the young plants are ready, take them outdoors in their seed-starting trays or containers for a few days, and bring them back inside before nightfall. This process is called “hardening off,” and it helps the plants become used to the temperatures and conditions outside. After several days of hardening off, leave the plants outside overnight. Then transplant them into beds or containers, preferably in the late afternoon or on a cool day. If they are going into the ground, dig a hole bigger than the seedling and place a handful of compost or aged manure at the bottom. Place the seedling into the depression and firm the soil around it, burying the main stem slightly deeper than it had been growing in the seed-starting medium. Water it gently.

Stem Cutting:

If you have access to a mature plant of the species you would like to grow, in many cases, you can propagate by stem cuttings. Cuttings will result in a new plant in a matter of weeks, and you’ll have a success rate of 50 to 90 percent, depending on the herb. Cuttings are best taken in spring or early summer.

Here is how to propagate from stem cuttings.

  1. Make a mixture of 1 part sand and 1 part perlite, or 1 part sand and 1 part moistened coir, with an optional smattering of compost tossed into the mix, and moisten it until it is wet but not soggy. This will be your rooting medium.
  2. Fill clean, sterilized pots with the mixture, leaving an inch or so at the rim of the pot. Use your little finger, a pencil, or a chopstick to poke a 2-inch-deep hole in the mix for each cutting you will be starting.
  3. Snip a 4- to 6- inch section of a healthy stem, and remove all leaves from the bottom one-third to one-half of the cutting, leaving the only naked stem on that portion. You may also pinch off the tiny tip of the cutting.
  4. As an option, you can dip the lower half of the stem cutting into rooting hormone or a strong tea made from willow bark or twigs. Insert the cutting into the hole you have poked in the rooting medium. Make sure the area you stripped of leaves is below the soil.
  5. Check the moisture level of the rooting medium once or twice daily. You can also place a plastic bag over the stem cutting, making sure it doesn’t touch the leaves. {Insert a bent coat hanger, chopstick, or another support around and above the cutting.} Then cut slits in the bag to allow fresh air to reach the plant.
  6. Place the cutting in the bright but indirect light. If the air temperature is going to fall below 65 degrees F, consider adding bottom heat {in the form of heating coils or pads} for greater success.
  7. Stem cuttings will form roots in 2 to 4 weeks. After 2 weeks, check to see if the cutting has rooted by gently tugging on its top leaves to see if there is resistance, which is a sign that roots have formed.
  8. As soon as possible after you verify that the cutting has rooted, transplant the seedling into a pot or its permanent location in the ground.

In the fall, you can take hardwood cuttings from woody plants during their dormant period. Mid-autumn id often the best time to collect and plant cuttings, because the plants will have time to form roots before buds begin to grow.

  1. Make a mixture of 1 part sand and 1 part perlite, or 1 part sand and 1 part moistened coir, with an optional smattering of compost tossed into the mix, and moisten it until it is wet but not soggy. This will be your rooting medium.
  2. Fill clean, sterilized pots with the mixture, leaving an inch or so at the rim of the pot.
  3. Collect 4- to 8- inch cuttings from vigorous, 1-year-old wood, a few inches below the tip of the branch or stem. Make a sloping cut at each tip, slightly above a bud, and a straight cut at each base, slightly below the bud.
  4. Place the cuttings 2 to 4 inches apart in the medium, with the top bud of each about 1 inch above the rooting medium’s surface. Be sure the cuttings point upward, and double-check that you have stuck the ends with straight cuts into the medium.
  5. Place the cuttings {along with their rooting medium mixture} in a “nursery” trench that you have dug in the ground soon after you harvest them from the mother plant. This trench will allow them to overwinter before they are planted individually in the ground. Cover the cuttings with 6 to 8 inches of mulch.
  6. Keep the cuttings moist over the winter. Remove the mulch and move your rooted cuttings to their new homes in the spring.

Root Cuttings:

Plants that have taproots {like carrots} are best divided by actually taking slices from the root of the mature plant. This method also works well for plants that have long, creeping roots, rhizomes {underground stems with a root-like appearance} or runners.

  1. Dig the root carefully and gently brush off any excess soil.
  2. If the plant has a taproot, cut off 1-inch slices. If you have a thin creeping rhizome, notice the growing nodes {bumps or lines on the root} and divide the rhizome into sections that each has at least two of these nodes.
  3. Using the same potting mix that you would for stem cuttings, fill a pot one-half to two-thirds full. Lay the taproot or thin root sections on the surface and cover it with more potting mix, to just below the rim of the pot. Do not compress the soil.
  4. Label your new starts and water them well.
  5. When you notice a new plant emerging from the soil surface, you can transplant it into its permanent home.

Root Division:

Sometimes the best way to gain a new plant is to take advantage of someone else’s excess! There are quite a few plants that expand and spread by runners {underground stems} and others that self-seed profusely and form massive plantings. These can be lifted out of the soil and divided, and the resulting sections can be replanted. The same process can renew an older plant that has died out in the center. It’s done with perennial herbs that have fibrous roots {as distinguished from taproots} anytime during the growing season, but is perhaps best done in the fall, when the plants are beginning to die back, or in the early spring, when growth is starting to explode. Of course, check the individual herb to make sure that the herb you are working with is suited to this technique.

  1. Carefully dig and lift up the whole plant, making sure to get as much of the rootball as you possibly can. If the plant is large or unwieldy, you may want to prune it to a manageable size first.
  2. Shake off any excess soil and gently tease the root mass apart, sensing where it most easily wants to separate.
  3. If the root is large, hard to separate, or very dense, you can use a weeding tool, a digging fork, or even clippers or scissors to separate the roots.
  4. Replant all sections immediately, either into pots or in the garden. If the herb likes a richer soil, fill the new holes with compost to give the divisions some nutrition for the journey to maturity.
  5. If you haven’t already, prune the above-ground portions by at least half so that the newly disturbed roots won’t have to feed as much plant matter.
  6. Water thoroughly.

You can also use the same technique to separate offsets and side shoots from parent plants. Remove younger, smaller shoots from the outer edges of a rootball by breaking or cutting them off, making sure that each piece you remove has its own root system. Replant the offshoots immediately to the same depth as the original plant, and water it thoroughly.

Layering:

This is the oldest method of propagation, and it’s one that happens naturally as certain herbs age. The long, leggy stems of some plants droop down and rest on the soil, and when they touch at a node {a raised area on the stem where the leaf attaches}, roots will form. You can mimic this process by layering selected plants to create offspring.

  1. Choose a strong, healthy stem, and notice where it will easily dip to the earth. Remove all the side shoots and leaves from a 6- to 12- inch section at the point of soil contact.
  2. If you wish, you may use a knife to gently scrape the underside and outer woody portion of the stem for 1 to 2 inches at the point of soil contact.
  3. Fluff or rough up the soil where you plan to bring the stem into contact with it, mixing in a thin layer of compost or watering with liquid fertilizer.
  4. Press the stem to the earth. Anchor the stem with a stake, a U-shaped piece of wire, a stone, or something similar. Mound a layer of soil over the anchored section of the stem.
  5. Keep the area moist. Layering is a long process, but if you start in the spring, you should be able to separate your new plant in the fall.
  6. When roots form, snip off the portion that connects the new plant to the mother plant. Pot up the new plant immediately. If it’s going into the ground, transplant it in the fall, or keep it in a sheltered spot and wait until the following spring.

You can use this same technique to layer potted plants, too. Pull a runner or a long stem from the mother plant, and set it on top of the soil of a new pot. Make sure it is secure, as directed above. When it roots, you have a new potted herb already nestled in.

Let’s Plant Some Herbs – Explaining Propagation Terminology

Seed-starting is one of the easiest and enjoyable parts of herbal gardening, but some seeds require special consideration and procedures to ensure germination.

Cotyledon: The first leaf or one of the first pair of leaves to unfold as a seed germinates. Cotyledons generally do not resemble the plant’s actual leaves.

Damping Off: A fungal disease that causes seedling stems from shriveling and collapsing at the soil level.

Dark-dependent germination: Seeds that need a light barrier in order to germinate. Most times, if there’s not quite enough darkness, the germination level may be reduced, but many seeds will still germinate.

Germination: The initial growth of a seed.

Inoculant: A bacterial microbe, usually found in powder or liquid form, that is applied directly to seeds in the Fabaceae {legume} family to improve germination.

Light-dependent germination: Seeds that require light to germinate. These seeds are pressed onto the surface of the soil and kept moist until germination occurs.

Multi-cycle germination: Seeds that require a warm cycle, a cold cycle, and another warm cycle before they germinate. This can sometimes require more than a year for germination.

Rooting hormone: A synthetic version of a natural plant hormone that can encourage root formation on stem cuttings. Commercial rooting hormones are available in garden centers and online in powder form, but they are not approved for organic use.

Scarification: The process of abrading the seed surface to make it more permeable. Some seeds have hard seed coats that need to be broken down so that they can germinate. In nature, this happens when they pass through the digestive tract of an animal or are exposed to rough, changeable weather conditions. You can mimic this process by gently rubbing the seeds with sandpaper, nicking them with a sharp knife {if they are large enough} or dropping them in boiling water and then letting them cool to room temperature.

Seed: A plant embryo and its supply of nutrients, often surrounded by a protective seed coat.

Seedling: A young plant grown from a seed.

Stratification: Exposing seeds to a period of cold to break dormancy. Cold stratification helps germinate seeds that would naturally go through freezing temperatures in the winter. You can either sow in the fall and leave the flat outdoors, where it will experience the natural rise and fall of the seasonal temperatures, or, if your winter is not frigid, you can artificially create those cool conditions: In a plastic bag, mix the seed with moist sand or vermiculite, label the bag, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 weeks. You can also place the bag in the freezer occasionally to simulate winter weather.

Growing An Aromatic Herb Garden

The first or original aromatic herb gardens were developed by the Persians sometimes over 2,000 years back in the courtyards of their residences. Generally, these herb gardens were of square or rectangular shape and usually they were separated into four by streams that originated from a centrally located fountain. These enclosed scented herb gardens were called pairidaeza, which was derived from the word ‘paradise’. The Persians are known to be outstanding gardeners and their ‘paradise’ essentially included three major features – running water, aroma, and shade.

In fact, the Byzantine church was mainly instrumental in making the concept of such scented herb garden popular in the western regions of Europe, earlier in the structure of cloister gardens, which were soon found in all monasteries in the region. The concept of a walled, scented garden was readily accepted by the traditional Christianity during the medieval times. In effect, it was something familiar to observing the entire creation in a representational term. By now, the references in the Bible, since the Garden of Eden to the Song of Songs, had corroborated gardens like these in the form of illustrations of the Paradise itself.

Way back in 1260, a Dominican monk Albertus Magnus spelled out the prerequisites for developing ideal pleasure gardens. He specified that the scented herb gardens ought to have a fountain plus a lawn, comprising all perfumed herbs, for instance, sage, rue and basil and similarly, include every type of flowers, counting lily, violet, rose, columbine, iris and those similar to these blooms. In addition, Albertus also recommended that there ought to be a vast assortment of aromatic and therapeutic herbs at the back of the lawn. At the same time, he emphasized that the flowers should not be there just to please the sense of smell by their fragrance, but also to enliven the sense of sight by their color and beauty.

The crusaders had already introduced the rose into the western regions of Europe. Actually, the original connotation of the term rosary is said to be an encircling rose garden that is devoted to the Virgin Mary. While the initial rosaries were developed on the sacred or hallowed ground, paintings from the 16th century depict that the pattern was espoused in gardens owned privately, wherein the rose gardens, as well as arbors (retreats), were developed by the rich and royals.

Lilium candidum (Madonna lily), attractive and extremely perfumed, was among the other blessed flowers that were grown by the Christian church in the earliest times. On the other hand, in the gardens of the monastery, lilies and roses were grown in concert along with particularly fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender. Historians who specialized on gardens are of the view that the medieval romance garden, as well as the Renaissance love garden, were mainly rose plus herb gardens, which were held in high esteem both for their visual features as well as their efficacy.

The era of Queen Elizabeth I’s sovereignty is considered to be the prime of such scented herb gardens. During this period, people took delight in pleasantly aromatic food, clothes, and rooms. It is documented that the mistress of one manor house during the Elizabethan reign cultivated aromatic flowers as well as fragrant plants in a private formal garden generally fenced by rose briers plus fruit trees for enjoying a walk as well as sitting in the garden. In addition, the aromatic herb garden was also utilized to supply the ingredients for the mistress’ still room. In her still room, the mistress made ‘sweet waters’ using rose petals and flowers of rosemary as well as curative lotions using the stems of the spikes of lavender and the Madonna lily. Scented herbs, such as rue and hyssop, were cultivated to cover the floors of rooms with a view to disinfect the air, while they’re dried up flowers were packed into pillows and cushions to support sound sleep.

A contemporary herb garden also comprises herbal plants, which are esteemed for their fragrant attributes. In fact, a scented herb garden is a place which you may possibly want to visit to relax yourself following a hectic day. Such a garden may perhaps be made up of a small number of pleasingly aromatic herbs grown in containers and placed in one corner of the porch, a vast garden having sitting area, or simply comprise numerous aromatic herbs grown along a preferred pathway in your courtyard.

It may be noted that the majority of the aromatic herbs usually emit their fragrance more when someone brushes against them or touches them. In addition, a pleasant waft will also transport the fragrant scent of the herb throughout the yard and to you. Remember this aspect when you are deciding on the place where you desire to have your scented herb garden. It would surely be an excellent idea to have it close to your home.

When we are talking about aromatic herbs, you may choose from a wide variety of them. Take into account that simply for the reason that a herb is aromatic, it does not imply that you will alone take delight in its fragrance. Prior to selecting as well as planting your desired scented herb garden, you need to take the aroma of every plant with a view to ensure that its scent gives you pleasure.

Fragrant Herbs for the Garden

As mentioned above, there are assortments of aromatic herbs from which you may choose for your scented herb garden. Below is a list of such scented herbs which most people believe have a delightful fragrance. However, this list should never be considered to be a complete or final catalog of scented herbs, as there are a great many amazingly aromatic herbs which may be compiled in a list in this article. It is advisable that before you purchase any herb, you should personally examine every herb by rubbing a leaf of the plant and inhaling its aroma to ensure that it releases an aroma that you may find to be delightful. The fact remains that the same aroma is not preferred by everyone and this is something which makes the world revolve.

Generally, people consider basil to be a herb that is mostly used for cooking. However, the irrefutable fragrance of this herb is pleasing as well as comforting. Catnip is another herb which emits a pleasant aroma, you ought to be conscious that the kitties in your neighborhood would also get pleasure from this plant and may perhaps result in some kind of a untidiness in your desired scented herb garden.

Cultivating catmint has a special reward and that is the loaded scent of cinnamon. This herb is really an attractive addition to any scented garden. While Nepeta Grandiflora comes to flower first and is generally incorporated in early collections, Nepeta siberica flowers during the later part of summer and is generally incorporated in the later classifications. Following the blooming of both these herbs, cut them to a height of a couple of inches, as this will encourage fresh growth as well as flowering for a second time. Several beneficial butterflies and insects visit these plants, which are frequently used in the form of an under planting for white as well as pink roses.

While most people usually think that the herb chamomile is used for preparing tea, it may be noted that this herb is also attractive and the flowers, as well as foliage, have a marvelous scent enlivening your garden.

Special mention needs to be made regarding Roman chamomile, which is among the small plants that are loaded with the aroma. Having the aroma that has a resemblance to a Jolly Rancher bitter apple candy, Roman chamomile makes a fragrant vivid green cover for the ground in places having cool summer climatic conditions. In England, this herb is frequently used to jam the fissures between the blocks of the pavement. In addition, Roman chamomile, which is also known as the English chamomile, is also used in the form of a path cover or maybe in the form of a soft cover for a bench.

In addition, you may also use Roman Chamomile to prepare an aromatic alleyway or a pleasant scented amaze grown among other plants in the garden. In case the herb is able to push its way against other plants in its vicinity, Roman Chamomile may even grow up to a height of a foot when it is in bloom.

Feverfew is another herb that has gorgeous flowers, but the majority of the plant’s aroma is released by means of its foliage and making it a pleasant inclusion in any scented herb garden. On the other hand, lavender has always been a preferred herb for gardeners growing scented herbs. The leaves, as well as the flowers of lavender, give off a potent, but comforting aroma.

The herb lemon balm derives its name from the plant’s leaves, which possess an aroma similar to that of lemons. Numerous herbal gardeners actually admire the fresh fragrance of this plant. Recognize the value of the fact that lemon balm multiplies very fast and has the aptitude to invade your garden rapidly provided its growth is not kept under control.

Mint is also an aromatic herb which may be somewhat invasive, but still, it is favored for its fresh fragrance. There are various species of mint and you may choose from spearmint, peppermint, orange mint or chocolate peppermint for growing in your scented herbal garden. Provided you restrict the growth of the different species of mint in different areas of your herbal garden, each species will be capable of releasing its distinct aroma.

Scented geraniums do not blossom very frequently nor are they eye-catching like their cousins, which are just known as geraniums. However, they emit an amazing fragrance which makes this species among the most excellent plants to be grown in any scented herbal garden. In fact, there is an assortment of scented geraniums for you to choose from for your garden. The wide variety of scented geraniums comprises cinnamon, apricot, lemon, apple, ginger, orange, nutmeg, rose, strawberry, and peppermint are only among a few of them. One needs to touch the leaves of this plant for them to emit their rich fragrance, therefore ensure that you grow these scented plants close to the boundary of your scented herbal garden. It may be noted that scented geraniums are subtle plants and in most places, they would require moving indoors during the winter months.

Anise hyssop is neither a mint nor a genuine licorice, but this herb certainly enhances the fragrance of licorice candy to your scented herbal garden. In addition, licorice mint (anise hyssop) is a wonderful culinary herb and may be used for cooking or dried up to prepare a tea. You may try to infuse some amount of this herb in milk and freeze it to prepare an ice cream. Usually, shear licorice mint returns to the ground following flowering during mid spring and again appears in the form of a small green hedge for the remaining growing season. Alternately, you may allow the plant to provide for little birds and disperse the seeds of the plant for a crop of seedlings to appear voluntarily during the subsequent spring. Whatever you may do, this plant will keep on enhancing the aroma of the herbal garden till frosting. Generally, the plants wither away and return to the ground when it frosts. Ensure that you mark the place where you are growing this plant so that it is not removed prior to its re-emergence during the next spring.

This list is likely to help you to start work on your scented herbal garden. However, always bear in mind to spend some time to personally inhale the smell of the entire herbs that are obtainable from your neighborhood gardening center prior to deciding on the specific herbs you would like to grow in your personal scented herbal garden. In fact, it will not be a very easy task choosing the herbs you would prefer to grow because there are far too many varieties available.

Let’s Plant Some Herbs – Ideas for Space

Maybe you already know which herbs you’d like to grow. First, you need to look at the individual herb and make sure the ones you’re interested in growing are suitable for your region. {The USDA Plant Data Base in the pages section can prove to be quite resourceful}. Even if you’re unsure about a particular herb, it’s often worth a try. In some cases, you may be able to adjust your environment and provide comfortable growing conditions for a variety of herbs, by amending your soil and by carefully choosing planting locations for their different light and exposure conditions, their preference for shady or sunny spots in the garden, water needs, and soil preferences.

After you make your plant selections, you’ll need to decide whether to buy plants or start them from seed.

Preparing the Bed or Row:

Before you plant anything, you will want to prepare {and possibly amend, or feed} the planting area. The best time to do this is in the fall because it allows the winter snow, rain, and the wind to work their magical alchemy, along with the soil microbes and the tunneling creatures. But spring can be just as good a time for preparations, particularly if you live in a colder region.

First, clear all “weeds.” {In the process see if any of them are “medicinal weeds,” if they are, harvest them!} Using a shovel or digging fork, break up the soil in the bed or row to a spade’s depth. Next, armed with your analysis of the nutritional or textural needs of your garden, spread several inches of compost, aged manure, or fine mulch on the surface. If you know that your soil needs to be adjusted for pH level or a plant’s nutritional needs, now is the time to add your organic, slow-release fertilizers. Work them into the soil. If you know you will be growing herbs that achieve their best medicinal potency in lean soil, omit or go easy on amendments.

If you need to loosen heavy clay soil, add compost, perlite, vermiculite, coir {shredded coconut hulls}, or sand. To firm and enrich sandy, poor soil, add sterilized topsoil, compost, or aged manure.

Raised Beds:

There are advantages to growing herbs in raised beds. If your drainage is poor, a raised bed will give you a lot of room for excess water to drain away from plant roots. If you have a tired back or use a wheelchair or are otherwise differently-abled, you will find the extra height provided by a raised bed helpful. In addition, raised beds to allow you to vary the soil mixes and fertilizers used for different plants, and you can even add rodent netting under raised beds to block tunneling animals.

A framed raised bed keeps soil from eroding and creates a tidy area for growing. Many growers make wood frames from 2 x 4’s, wooden boards, concrete blocks, or recycled materials such as bricks, broken up concrete, and rocks. After you have set your framing, line the bottom with a few inches of gravel for drainage, if needed, and fill the bed to within several inches of the top of the frame using the soil you’ve collected, a purchased planter’s mix, or a mix of compost and soil. Raised beds are easiest to care for when their maximum width is between 4 and 5 feet so that you can comfortably reach the middle of the bed without having to stand or walk on the soil.

Vertical Gardening:

If your outdoor space is limited, grow up! There are many ways to grow vertically, from living wall installations to free-standing columns, arbors, suspensions, and trellises. Vines, such as honeysuckle and hops, are ideal for vertical gardening. Living walls allow you to set non-vining, clumping plants along the length of your support, resulting in a lovely cascading effect.

Cold Frames:

A cold frame is like a mini-greenhouse that can be used to protect tender plants from the biting cold or a possible frost or can protect seedlings in the early spring. Portable cold frames are generally low, bottomless boxes, with sides made of wood and a glass or plastic top that allows light to enter and warmth to collect inside. You can further insulate the sides with hay bales or other thick materials when temperatures drop. The back of the cold frame should be 4 to 6 inches higher than the front, so the lid sloes forward and maximizes the amount of light that reaches the plants inside. Face the cold frame toward the south for the greatest sun exposure and thus the greatest amounts of heat and light. It can be moved around your garden and can be as large or small as you find useful. As the weather warms, you can prop open the lid, swing it open fully, and eventually remove the frame. A cold frame can often add a month or more to each end of the growing season, and in warmer climates, it can enable gardeners to grow plants outdoors throughout the winter.

The Potted Garden, Indoors or Out:

If you have a rooftop corner, a sunny breakfast room, a warm sun porch, an attached greenhouse or atrium, a deck, a porch, or a kitchen windowsill, you can grow herbs successfully. There are a number of medicinal herbs that do remarkably well in pots and planters. In fact, growing this way can allow you to cultivate botanicals that you couldn’t otherwise grow in your climate and can dramatically extend your season.

Choose Your Space:

Naturally, your type of residence may determine the type of potted garden you can create. But don’t limit yourself; think creatively when designing spaces to incorporate herb growing into your daily care routine.

Windowsills:

herbs on a windowsill, Gardenista Houseplants Photo GalleryAs long as you have enough sun streaming in through your window or can provide artificial light suspended directly over your plants {for when the sun’s angle is low, in winter, or if the window is on a northern wall}, you can successfully grow herbs. You’ll have to pay attention to the sun-pattern, noticing when the light is direct and indirect. More than 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight on the herbs daily will mean that you’ll need to water and feed the plant more often. Without enough light, however, your herbs will become leggy and their growth will be soft and lax. Believe it or not, the biggest mistake people make with windowsill growing is neglect.

In a very sunny window, you can experiment with setting pots of herbs in a tray filled with stones and adding water to the tray. {The stones prevent the water from soaking directly into the pots, so take care that the water level doesn’t reach the pots themselves.} This technique provides some humidity, which cuts down the dramatic effects of direct sunlight. Check your pots morning and evening, and let them dry out before watering, but don’t allow the plants to wilt.

Decks and Porches:

Lucky you – you have the closest thing to a land-based garden and can style it any way you wish with containers. You might want to place a potting bench in one corner of the space, so you have somewhere to work on your plants.

Decks and porches have sun and shade patterns that can be stark and change rapidly, which can create a challenge for plants until they adjust to the new space. Reflections from walls, glass, and water features can add to the effect of sun and shade, so spend some time closely observing the changing patterns to determine where on your deck or porch the shade-loving herbs should go and where to place the sun lovers.

If you work outside the home or are gone for long periods of time, you’ll have to pay special attention to your plant’s watering requirements. Some people set up drip irrigation tubes with timers to allow for consistent moisture and lessen plant maintenance time.

Greenhouses, Atrium’s, Sun Porches, and Four-Season Rooms:

dee2e-winter-garden-1These indoor growing areas are full-service rooms, where you can grow in containers or make use of beds, benches, tables, or boxes. Having a true greenhouse is a luxury. If you are blessed with enough space to construct a greenhouse {or can purchase a ready-to-assemble kit online}, you’ll have flexibility and variety in your gardening activities. You’ll be able to start seed in very early spring, long before you would be able to plant outside, and you’ll be able to house tender perennials over the winter months. Greenhouses do have ongoing costs – such as heating, ventilation, and lighting – that should be factored into your buying decision. But if you live in a warm climate, you may be able to make use of an unheated greenhouse. For enthusiastic gardeners, greenhouses are indispensable, but the costs of building and maintaining one can be considerable. If you’re considering a greenhouse, you could start with a temporary or “pop-up” model; they’re available as lightweight kits that snap together, and they can be assembled and disassembled easily.

A more practical approach to indoor growing may be an atrium, or attached greenhouse, built onto an outside wall of your home. It will allow you to heat and light the growing area separately from the rest of the house, and it will bring in extra solar heat in the winter as an added benefit. It’s ideally positioned on the south wall, and it may be less expensive to build and maintain than a traditional greenhouse.

The next best indoor option is a roomy sun porch or glass-walled room, as long as you can provide supplemental heat and light when needed. Light is the only limitation to indoor growing; without enough light, your herbs will become leggy and start to topple. The most ideal setting will be a south-, east-, or west-facing window, although you need to factor in shade from outdoor trees and neighboring buildings.

Rooftop Growing:

If you’re living in a high-rise, you’ll find an enthusiastic club to join – a whole set of rooftop gardeners enjoying the benefits of vegetables and herbs in planter boxes, wine barrels, old bathtubs, and even plastic kiddie pools. The possibilities are endless. Before attempting a rooftop garden, you’ll need to research any local restrictions your building or town may have in place, and you should check with an expert who can advise you about structural issues that may arise from the extra weight you’ll be adding to the roof. So proceed cautiously. Once those steps have been taken, you’ll need to make decisions about water sources, bed and container design and placement, and drainage, as well as determine how to deal with weather extremes your plants may face {such as high winds or intense heat} and how to bring your supplies to the rooftop.

Growing Herbs In Containers

Having a garden where herbs are grown in containers simply appears very pleasant and is also extremely expedient. In addition, a container herb garden also possesses the immense charisma of being formed all of a sudden. When you have successfully put the containers as well as your choice of herbs together, it is simple and also pleasurable to pot the most companionable partners.

The awareness regarding growing herbs has actually persuaded nurseries, garden centers as well as potters to make their assortment of attractive pots and containers available. Hence, in case your finances do not permit you to establish a garden comprising gorgeous and traditional jardinières, still reasonably priced tubs made of wood and terracotta are extensively available in the market. You may also procure inexpensive plastic containers which may be made to look more attractive by including a shallow layer of mortar or domestic filler painted green or gray.

A number of gardeners who deal with herbs have a preference for limited formalism of plant being pruned to give them a decorative appearance, for instance, growing concise bay trees in containers and placed near the entrance of their townhouse. It is also possible to prepare as well as prune additional timbered herbs like lavender and rosemary into the form of a mop-head. If the location is very breezy, it is advisable to envelop the growing means using heavy pebbles or gravel with a view to load down the tub or pot. If you use harmonizing pots that have been properly planted and craftily placed may help to attain a spectacular as well as eye-catching impact. In addition, containers having herbs that grow tall may be used in as a nice-looking and casual partition in your garden.

Herbs grown in pots thrive well when they are planted in compost as well as a sterile medium comprising peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite along with a fertilizer that is quick as well as slow releasing. It may be noted here that compost is sluggishly releasing. In the case of every pot, add sufficient compost to permit space to add a sterile medium of additional six inches depth. The medium should be carefully blended with polymers that soak up water since they reduce the requirement for watering by making the optimum use of the moisture available.

It may be noted that majority of the herbs, whether grown in pots or in an outdoor garden, require total sunlight – a minimum of six hours every day. Having said this, it needs to be mentioned that on a very hot day, containers can actually swelter. Hence, if you are living at any place where the temperatures rise rapidly, it may be necessary to place your herb garden in a shady place when the temperature is hottest during the day.

It is advised that you should exercise caution to ensure that you do not use excessive fertilizers while growing herbs in containers. A majority of the herbs loathe growing in too much fertilizer, while a number of herbs are likely to be susceptible to squawk provided they are bothered and fed with excessive fertilizers. Applying fertilizers in profuse amounts is also likely to make the plants have out-sized growth, while their essential oils that are responsible for their essence and fragrance would also be lessened significantly. A number of herbs, such as thyme and oregano subsist on inattention and they would not be as flavored if excessive attention, food or water is provided to these plants.

Interestingly enough, nearly all things may be used as containers for growing herbs. However, while choosing anything to serve as a herb container, you ought to ensure that it has a suitable drainage. Since a majority of the herbs do not have huge roots, you may do well even with little containers. This is all the more true in the case of herbs which do not have problems even if they dry up between two watering. Moreover, when you are using a smaller container, you require a lesser amount of soil and, therefore the error margin while watering the plants is also relatively small.

On the other hand, a number of herbs flourish well in containers that are self-watering, as they prefer a steady moisture level. In fact, herbs, such as parsley, chives, marjoram as well mint would do well provided they are grown in self-watering containers. Other different herbs, such as thyme, oregano, basil, and rosemary have a preference to shrivel up between watering and, hence, it would not be good for them to be grown in self-watering containers.

It is possible for you to grow several different varieties of herbs in a single container as you may wish, provided you ensure that all the herbs are grown in one pot share the same amount of sunlight, water as well as soil inclination. For instance, rosemary has a preference for a hot and dry environment, while parsley requires constant moisture. Growing these two plants having a diverse preference in one pot would never be a good idea.

In case you are using a large container to grow herbs, it is advisable that you place vertically some length of punctured hose pipe in the middle of the container to enable to water the plants using this hose pipe. You should use the growing medium in a way that it encircles the pipe and then plant the herbs. You may use a strawberry tub or pot that appears delightful when planted with dissimilar selections of thyme. In this case, it is best to plant the herbs once you have filled the pot with a soil blend. Prepare a stratum of rock at the bottom of the container and fix in place a length of punctured hose pipe in a vertical position and subsequently coat the rocks using soil till it comes to same the plane as that of the first opening at the side of the container. Put the herb on the soil and subsequently push out the plant’s leaves gently through the opening. Subsequently, outstretch the herb’s roots and cover them with soil, pushing them downwards gently to keep the herb in the correct position. Following this, put in more soil using a trowel till it is on the same plane with the next opening and then plant a new herb following the same procedure.

If you are growing herbs in hanging baskets, it is best if you line them using sphagnum moss with a view to making drainage easier as well as to reduce the weight of the baskets. In order to pack up, a basket made from wire, put some pieces of damp moss together with their greenish tufts leveled against the wire. Subsequently, fill up half of the basket with the growing medium, put the herbs in the desired position and bed the plants properly using additional growing medium. In case the soil planted in a container newly appears to be too uncovered, you may try to cover it using gravel or chippings of bark. Alternately you may also sow some cress and mustard that germinates rapidly and supplies a green fit to be eaten grass that may be harvested, while the primary herbs develop and increase.

It is essential to water the herbs as per their requirement keeping in mind that all flesh and leafy herbs, for instance, basil, have a preference for moist soil, while the herbs having their origin in the Mediterranean region like rosemary prefer somewhat dry conditions. Remember to give the herbs a good dousing each time you water them. In effect, hanging baskets have a propensity to lose humidity faster compared to the herbs grown in other containers. It is advisable that you provide the fast-growing herbs with liquid organic nourishments sometimes during the hot summer months. The woody or timbered herbs, such as rosemary, hyssop, and lavender, ought to be clipped following their flowering season with a view to making certain that they have a healthier growth during the next year. Also, spruce the herbs grown in containers on a regular basis with a view to maintaining their shape and, if required, you also need to winter or provide warmth to the gentle herbs that grow perennially, for instance, chives and tarragon, below the cover in a place that has light and is frost-free.

You should never feel reticent as far as using the herbs as ornamental components in any container garden are concerned. You should know that the herbs in a container garden may appear to be out of this world as well as offer an immense quality and aroma when they are blended with perennials or annuals. Then again, always remember to grow the herbs having similar water and light requirements in the same pot or container.

You may grow various types of herbs in a container garden – what you consume or what you believe is good-looking/ attractive. Several people have been growing plenty of basil for culinary purposes. In addition, they like growing enough of the herb to enable them to prepare sufficient pesto that they can freeze and make use of all through the winter months. Remember, the common practice is that the more you harvest, you will get more. In addition, you ought to tweak back a majority of the herbs to help them to turn bushier as well as properly shaped.

Before concluding, it needs to be mentioned that it is possible for you to grow nearly all herbs in a container garden and growing majority of them is extremely trouble-free. Nevertheless, different herbs may have dissimilar requirements for water and a number of them are additionally fussy compared to others. Hence, ensure that you place the herbs requiring comparable concern in the same container.

Improving Garden Soils For Herbs

Improving the quality of soil makes you feel deeply satisfied and there are definitely several reasons for such a fulfilling feeling. In fact, the soil is among the most valuable resources we have. As the soil preferences of different herbs are so varied, it is perhaps impossible to provide any guideline on ways to develop a soil that will be excellent for growing all types of herbs.

How do you describe a good soil? Well, a soil having outstanding texture, constitution and permeability are considered to be a good soil. In addition, a good soil will also have a wonderful smell. It will also be absorbent, brittle, aerated and finely textured. A good soil is complete with valuable soil life and its health works to put off all toxic organisms from populating it – something very similar to a fit and fine human body naturally fending off all pathogens that are responsible for various diseases. A nourishing or beneficial soil is vigorously inhabited by earthworms as well as microscopic organisms like bacteria. In addition, it also contains certain growths like algae, actinomycetes, protozoa and fungi, which have a complicated interrelationship among them. When all these organisms are present in a soil, it is not only healthy and living but becomes an altogether different world by itself. Each of the organisms mentioned here and some more play a vital role in decaying organic substances present in the soil and thereby, makes it richer.

It is worth mentioning here that clay, as well as sandy soils, are not considered to be the most excellent soil types, as they characterize a disparity of the perfect soil ecology. In fact, not many gardeners get a good soil when they start gardening on a small plot for the first time. Thus, they need to work with the different not so good soil types – either clay or sandy soils and enhance their quality. It has been found that in nearly all instances, clay soils enclose a remarkable range as well as the quantity of mineral nutrients. However, it becomes problematic for the plants to make use of the nutrients present in a clay soil, as the structure of the soil is extremely dense.

You may adopt various organic methods to lighten the structure of a clay soil. Among these, gardening experts recommend that you put rice hull into clay soil and work them down up to roughly three feet in depth. There are other experts who suggest that you use adequate rice hulls making the soil look like rice hulls with bits of clay sticking on them. Subsequently, they recommend that you continue to change the soil by adding organic substances till the soil contains 50 percent original modified clay and 50 percent organic material.

You can speed up the decomposition of the soil by means of scattering the modified soil along with a tea prepared from stinging nettles and manure soaked in unpolluted water for roughly a week or little more over the soil. Before scattering the tea, you should ensure that it has been watered down such that its color turns pale. Alternatively, you may also use bacterial cultures that are prepared commercially for the purpose. Till the land once more in the subsequent year and plant a leguminous cover crop with a view to improving the soil by nitrogen fixation. In case, the cover crop you have planted is deep-rooted, it will bring up nutrients from the subsoil by means of its elongated roots.

On the other hand, unlike clay soil, sandy soil does not contain nutrients. While a clay soil contains nutrients in large variety and amount, it is not permeable and hence, the plants are unable to assimilate those. In contrast, sandy soils do not contain much nutriment but are extremely pervious. You can only use one method to improve the quality of sandy soils. What you need to do is continuously add organic substances like leaves, kitchen wastes, manure, and green manure to the sandy soil. If you continue doing this for about two to three years, these organic substances will work wonders. Well, it is definitely plenty of hard work, but if a gardener is committed, he will agree that the end product is worth undertaking the labor. After three years, when he collects a handful of soil from his garden, he will notice that the soil that was once just sand, has turned out to be alive, sweet-smelling, and spongy making it a good soil.

Cultivation

Like there are several perceptions regarding the different gardening systems, the notions about soil cultivation are also varied. While numerous gardeners employ farm machinery for cultivation, biodynamic gardeners are of the view that machines are extremely heavy and make the soil more compact. Therefore, they like to plow using their hand with a view to maintaining the aeration of the soil.

In fact, a biodynamic gardener will usually engage in ‘double-digging’ his garden’s soil and during the process, separate the subsoil from the topsoil carefully. The concept of double-digging is not a new one. About 2,000 years back, the primeval Greeks were aware of the fact that plants thrive excellently in the earth that has been moved due to landslides. It has been found that these types of soils are loose, excellently aerated, and can also absorb moisture, warmth, and nutrients without any difficulty.

If you are following the biodynamic method of cultivation, the ability to breathe is vital. In fact, when you engage in ‘double-digging’ your purpose is to undertake deep cultivation – for instance, digging up to two spades or roughly 24 inches is believed to be fine. Double-digging also aims to split the hard layers below the soil and enable the moisture as well as the gasses underneath the ground to come upwards, while facilitating the movement of gasses and moisture from the atmosphere downward.

Testing your soil for nutrients and pH

You can save plenty of money if you test the soil of your garden for its nitrogen, phosphorus and potash content with a view to determining the pH level of the soil.

In case you find that the pH level of the soil in your garden is very elevated, you may add a stratum of decayed pine needles, acid peat moss or oak leaf mold. On the other hand, if you want to increase the pH level of the soil you need to include some dolomitic lime in the soil. Properly prepared compost is considered to be the best-balanced material that can be incorporated into the soil. In fact, methodically aged compost naturally aids in rectifying alkaline as well as acidic soil conditions. When you add enough organic substances to the soil, the plants generally have a propensity to endure a wider assortment of alkaline or acidic soil conditions and yet be in excellent health.

Trace elements and soil deficiencies

Humus naturally contains trace elements and they are also necessary for any good soil, which is healthy too. Today, there are many soils that are dangerously imbalanced owing to excessive use of chemical and artificially manufactured fertilizers as well as the use of various other inappropriate farming methods. In addition, some types of soils naturally contain very less amount of specific trace elements. Hence, it would be a fine ‘health insurance’ for your garden’s soil if you ensure that the soil in your garden is loaded with all trace elements, which are vital for the plants to flourish.

Organic gardeners usually employ various techniques, for instance, mulching, composting and adding soil amendments such as fish fertilizers and seaweed. All these techniques aid in sustaining the vital trace elements in your soil. In addition, there are certain plants that work to accumulate the trace elements. When gardeners grow these ‘weeds’ between cultivating different crops, compost them or utilize them in the form of green manure, they are particularly helpful in redeveloping or renewing the soil. For example, stinging nettle is one plant that helps to accumulate trace elements like calcium, potassium, sulfur and iron. Similarly, chamomile helps to concentrate sulfur, calcium, nd potash inside the plant’s tissues. Another plant that concentrates trace elements zinc and potash is dandelion. Similarly, valerian improves the content of potash in the soil as well as the adjoining areas where it grows. Gardeners in China grow these plants on the soil directly for fertilizing their crops organically.

Composting

Omitting compost from this article would leave the discussion on soil regeneration or redevelopment incomplete. Precisely speaking, compost is garbage that gets a rebirth in the form of humus. Several organic materials, including weeds, grass cuttings, kitchen scraps (excluding bones and meat), garden residues like stalks and vines, nut shells, leaves, hay, saw dust, manure, sewage sludge form excellent compost. In addition, various organic waste materials like vegetable pulp discarded by juice companies, coffee wastes, leather dust, and wastes from breweries are also good for being used as compost.

Basically, there are two major compost types – aerobic compost (with air) and anaerobic compost (devoid of air). Among the two, aerobic composting is used more often, as it is faster. Below, we will briefly discuss three different aerobic methods.

Indore compost: This aerobic method was developed by Sir Albert Howard, who undertook valuable agricultural research in Indore, a central Indian town. In fact, Sir Howard’s findings laid the foundation for the movement of organic gardening. This compost method is also considered to be the most traditional aerobic practice. This compost method entails making compost in open piles or inside bins. The piles are made such that they usually measure anything between 10 to 30 feet in length, 6 feet in width and about 3 feet to 5 feet in height. The foundation of the pile is made by laying a plant waste layer measuring 6 inches in height and covering the total area on which the pile is supposed to be built. The plant waste layer may comprise several organic matters like saw dust, leaves, straw, hay, garden residue or wood chips. Subsequently, this method involves adding two layers of manure as well as animal bedding to the pile.

Then, you add a thin layer of topsoil measuring about 1/8 inch in thickness to the pile. After that, you may spread phosphate rock, lime, wood ashes or granite dust over the layer of earth. As the height of the pile increases, you need to water it at every stage and repeat the layers in the same order till the height of the pile is about three to five feet. At the same time, it is important that you ensure that the pile maintains its aerating characteristic. In order to keep the pile properly ventilated, you need to make several tubes with wire netting pieces and place them vertically in the middle of the pile, at a distance of roughly 3.5 feet from each other.

After several days of its completion, the pile will heat up and start decaying. Once completed, you can use a pitchfork to turn the heap after two to three weeks and once again after five weeks from its completion. When you follow this procedure thoroughly, within three months the compost or peat will be ready for use.

Compost in 14 days: Another way of making aerobic compost is to follow the method known as compost in 14 days. Compost prepared following this method decays sufficiently and is ready for application in the garden within just 12 days to 14 days. This method entails proper shredding of all organic materials that would be used for making the compost. Unless this is done, this method will not work satisfactorily. Subsequently, the shredded organic substances are blended together and heaped into a pile that is roughly five feet in height and no higher. You need to turn the pile once in two to three days using a pitchfork till the compost is fully prepared.

Biodynamic compost: This method involves using six different herbs, such as chamomile blossoms, dandelion flowers, oak bark, stinging nettle, yarrow blossoms and valerian flowers. These herbs are mixed and put into the compost heap with a view to facilitate the ripening of the compost as well as enhance its aptitude to preserve nutriments. One teaspoon of the biodynamic preparations made appropriately is placed inside a hole measuring about 20 inches in depth and angled downwards into the compost heap. It is important to note that the biodynamic compost preparation with stinging nettle needs to be made in amount of four to five teaspoonfuls, but the preparations with the other herbs should be made in amount of just the level of a teaspoon and not heaped. Subsequently, the holes are filled up with the herbal preparations and closed.

Generally, people engaged in biodynamic gardening prefer locating their compost heaps close to oak trees, as the oak tree offers a favourable environment beneath its branches, enabling the development of good soil in the surrounding area. The compost piles are situated no less than six feet away from the tree trunk with a view to prevent the development of any disease in the oak tree.

Nitrogen fixing

It is important to note that three key elements are necessary for the health of the soil and among these elements nitrogen affects the growth of plants most significantly. Unlike humans, plants do not have the ability to absorb nitrogen mixed with oxygen and other gases directly from the atmosphere. As an alternative, they have to rely on bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil to obtain this essential element.

It is interesting to note that lightning flashes have an incredible power, possess the aptitude for nitrogen fixation in the soil. A number of scientists are of the view that in fact such type of contact between the soil and lightning enabled the development of first life on our planet. Nevertheless, the bacteria present in the soil are more reliable as well as a common means for nitrogen. This way, these nitrogen-fixing bacteria help to enrich the quality of soils that have low nitrogen content. It has been found that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria thrive on the roots of numerous leguminous plants – precisely speaking, more than 1,350 species. Such plants include alfalfa, beans, clover, peas and vetch. In addition, it has been found that a number of trees also possess the ability to fix essential element in the soil, for instance acacia, autumn olive and red alder. Some shrubs also help in fixing nitrogen and these can be used as hedge plants around a garden as well as orchards to enhance the fertility of the soil.

A number of cover crops like alfalfa and clover are usually cut and put into the earth prior to their blossoming. During this stage, these cover crops release plenty of nitrogen within a period of just a few weeks. This is considered to be an ancient way of green manuring and several cultures around the world have used it over the ages. Occasionally, some gardeners use such nitrogen-rich plants for mulching, instead of cutting and putting them into the soil to decompose and release the essential element. In addition, some gardeners also cut these plants and include them in their compost pile. Irrespective of the manner these nitrogen-rich plants may be used by the gardeners, eventually they yield the same result – provide additional nitrogen to the earth.

A number of legumes are fit for sowing during the later part of summer and they grow all through the winter months provided the temperatures do not drop below freezing point. Such legumes include Austrian winter pea, bur clover, crimson clover, sour clover, rough pea, fenugreek and winter vetch. There are other legumes that grow well during the summer and one of the most common summer legumes is alfalfa. In addition, crotalaria is one legume that can even thrive well in infertile sandy soils found in the southern climates. On the other hand, red clover grows excellently in places having cool temperate climatic conditions. Lots of people inhabiting the southern climates grow plenty of a legume called lespedeza. Sweet pea and cowpea are two legumes that have the aptitude to flourish in nearly all types of soils and everywhere.

Mulching

Mulching the soil has multiple benefits. For instance, when you spread mulch on top of the soil in your garden, it not only safeguards the plants from excessive heat during summer and extreme cold conditions during the winter months, but also enriches the soil, helps to preserve moisture and prevents growth of weeds. In fact, a number of gardeners have turned mulching into a genuine art. Majority of the gardeners are of the view that when the soil in their garden has been drained out they need to develop it again by means of covering it with compost prior to starting the no-digging mulch method.

You can make good mulch using almost all organic substances, for instance, rice hulls, a mixture of saw dust and soybean meal, straw mixed with grated leaves, cocoa hulls, buckwheat hulls, grass clippings, shredded corncobs, cornstalks, pine needles and alfalfa hay. You can used mulch to good advantage in the flower, vegetable and herb gardens; in orchard as well as in the fields. In addition, several gardeners grow different cover crops like millet, soybeans, vetch, rye, clover, alfalfa and buckwheat and cut these plants for using them in the form of mulch. A number of gardeners also include a thin stratum of kelp or seaweed in their mulch, because these plants are loaded with various valuable minerals.

It is very important to consider the quality of nutriments contained by the materials that you are use for mulching. Organic substances like corn cobs, straw and saw dust contain very low levels of nitrogen and hence it would prove to be beneficial if you mix them with leguminous mulch. On the other hand, pine needles are known to be acidic like the oak leaves and therefore they are not very useful for mulching plants requiring an alkaline or neutral soil. However, you may use them for mulching if you are growing strawberries or other plants like azaleas, bearberry, rhododendrons and trailing arbutus.

About HerbDay – HerbDay

Source: About HerbDay – HerbDay

The HerbDay Coalition is comprised of the American Botanical Council, United Plant Savers, the American Herbal Products Association, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and the American Herbalists Guild.

American Botanical Council will celebrate the 12th annual HerbDay on Saturday May 6.

AUSTIN, Texas (April 10, 2017) — On Saturday, May 6, the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) will celebrate the 12th annual HerbDay with a variety of herbal educational activities, including presentations from local and national herbal experts.

The HerbDay event occurs at ABC’s headquarters at the historic Case Mill Homestead, 6200 Manor Road in East Austin, from 10 am until 4 pm. It is free and open to the public. Mindy Green, aromatherapist, herbalist, author, educator, and owner of Green Scentsations, will give a presentation from 11:45 AM – 1:15 PM on “Rose: Herbal Remedy, Aromatic Essence, and Culinary Delight.”

ABC’s founder and executive director, Mark Blumenthal will give a presentation on “Humorous Health: Conventional and Alternative Medicine, Pharmaceutical Drugs, Diet, and Lifestyle as Seen through Cartoons” From 2:45 PM – 3:45 PM.

Two herb walks through ABC’s 20+ medicinal- and culinary-themed gardens will be led by local Austin herbalists. The first will be from 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM with Ellen Zimmermann, owner of The Austin School of Herbal Studies and EZ Herbs. Nicole Telkes, author and director of the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin will lead the second herb walk from 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM. In addition to the herb walks, participants will have plenty of time to explore ABC’s medicinal and culinary herb gardens on their own.

“ABC looks forward to reaching out to the local community on HerbDay,” said ABC Special Projects Director Gayle Engels. “In keeping with ABC’s nonprofit educational mission, staff gets to introduce visitors to the beneficial plants we love and to the broad knowledge base of local and global herbalists.”

Plants, books, refreshments, and membership information will be available in addition to free sample issues of ABC’s acclaimed, full-color, quarterly, peer-reviewed scientific journal, HerbalGram, and other educational literature.

There will be live music throughout the day and special events for children including a May pole, an herbal art activity, and planting a seedling to take home.

HerbDay at ABC is sponsored by Peoples Pharmacy, Organic India, Traditional Medicinals, Pukka Herbs, and Veriditas by Pranarōm.

About HerbDay

HerbDay is a coordinated series of independently produced public educational events celebrating the importance of herbs and herbalism. HerbDay was initiated by five nonprofit organizations with interests in herbs and herbalism (the HerbDay Coalition) to raise public awareness about the significance of herbs in the lives of millions of people worldwide, as well as the many ways herbs can be used safely and creatively for health, beauty care, and culinary enjoyment. The HerbDay Coalition includes the American Botanical Council (ABC), American Herbalists Guild (AHG), American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and United Plant Savers. The HerbDay coalition can be contacted here.

 

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Every April 22, millions of people in nearly 200 countries celebrate Earth Day, and I’m one of them. Originating in 1970, Earth Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we can make our Earth a better place. It’s a time to be mindful of your impact on the Earth and challenge yourself to adopt new, environmentally friendly habits that conserve resources, save money, and encourage healthy living all-around. In fact, with wonderful benefits like those, doesn’t it make sense to live every day like it’s Earth Day?

Well, you can. Over the years, my family and I have used Earth Day as a starting point to implement new and creative changes in our lives. Here are 30 ways we celebrate Earth Day that you and your family can try, too. Some of them may seem small, but small changes add up and if you sustain that change for the rest of your life, it will profoundly lighten your environmental footprint and help make the Earth a better, cleaner place to live.

Earth Day Infographic

 

In Your Home

1. Use Essential Oils

Many candles, scented plugins, and room sprays contain toxic, synthetic fragrances. Instead of those, add pure or mixed essential oils to a diffuser or humidifier to spread a pleasant aroma throughout your home. Many essential oils boast health benefits or have calming effects on mood.

2. Declutter Your Home

Spring is a great time to conduct a thorough home cleaning and discard, recycle, or donate all the unused items that are only taking up space. Make a conscious decision to keep the items that bring you joy and let go of the ones that don’t. Additionally, designate a spot in your home for every item you keep. Having a place for every item and returning it after use reduces clutter and will ensure you’re always able to find what you need when you need it.

3. Use Lavender in Your Laundry

Many types of dryer sheets contain synthetic chemicals and fragrances. Ditch those and add about 20 drops of lavender essential oil to a damp washcloth or a few wool dryer balls and throw them in the dryer with your wet clothes. It’ll give your clothes a pleasant, natural scent that will even be noticeable throughout your home.

4. Adopt a Tree

A single tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. If you live in an apartment or townhouse, get a small, indoor-friendly ficus. Yucca, kaffir lime, Madagascar dragon, or bonsai are other small trees that thrive indoors. Keep in mind that if you have pets it’s best to double check that the tree you select isn’t toxic to them.

5. Plant Flowers

Native flowers look beautiful and they provide pollen and nectar for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. Even better, locally-sourced flowers are typically low maintenance because they’re accustomed to your climate.

6. Use Natural Pest Control

Reduce your reliance on synthetic pest control methods like toxic powders and sprays. Encourage local insect-eating animals to visit the area around your home by installing a birdhouse or, if you dare, a bat house. You can also create a welcoming environment for predatory insects like praying mantises and ladybugs to help control pests. If you have slugs or snails, protect your precious plants with a sprinkle of diatomaceous earth.

Saving Energy

7. Change Your Air Filter

There are many different types of air filters available, opt for the ones that are washable or made from eco-friendly materials. Reusable filters reduce waste and they’re more economical over the long run. Even better, clean filters improve the efficiency of air conditioners and can reduce energy costs.

8. Seal the Door

A little air flow is a good thing but too much can work against your home’s heating and cooling efforts. Install a draft stopper on your door and seal up major cracks or leaks where you can. It’ll help you save on heating and cooling costs and keep pests out of your house.

9. Take Cooler, Shorter Showers

According to the US Department of Energy, the water heater accounts for about 17% of the average American’s monthly energy bill. In other words, it requires a lot of energy to heat water for a shower or bath. Taking a cooler, shorter shower can reduce energy use. As an added bonus, cold showers may help you feel more alert and reduce feelings of fatigue.

10. Install a Smart Thermostat

Depending on where you live, central air conditioning might account for as much as 50% of your energy use. To reduce waste, consider installing a smart, programmable thermostat. These devices shut off automatically when you’re away and have other built-in features that facilitate efficient heating and cooling.

11. Check Your Fridge

If you frequently find half-frozen produce or leftovers in the fridge, you’re ruining your food and wasting energy. Set your fridge to 37º F to reduce unnecessary energy use and keep your food fresh and unfrozen.

12. Lower Your Water Heater

Water heaters are often set unnecessarily high, sometimes as high as 140º F. Lowering the settings to 120º F saves energy. And, since exceptionally hot water dries out your skin, it’s better for your complexion.

13. Put on a Sweater

If the house feels a little chilly, put on a sweater, warm socks, and cozy sweatpants. Prepare some herbal tea or a homemade soup rather than turning on the heater.

14. Keep Cool, Naturally

Consuming something cold is a great way to cool down. If it’s hot out, shed some layers and drink iced water or tea. Or, blend together and freeze organic frozen fruit to make a homemade sorbet.

15. Turn on the Fan

It’s easy to reach for the air conditioner when it’s too warm but, next time, turn on a fan instead. Even the most efficient air conditioners account for a significant portion of your monthly energy expenditure. Fans use a tiny fraction of this energy.

16. Let There be Sunlight

Open up the curtains and blinds to let in more natural light whenever possible. More than just conserving energy, sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D and it strengthens your immune system.

17. Skip the Shower

Consider whether or not you need a shower before taking one. Less frequent showers are becoming the norm once again. In fact, people used to bathe about once a week and just wash up at the sink the week leading up to their next bath. The idea of regular bathing became popular when soap salesmen invented the need for a daily shower.

That said, personal hygiene is essential for your health and it’s something the people closest to you appreciate, but you might be showering too often. If you haven’t performed any strenuous activities, you might not need a shower. Additionally, keep in mind that some types of soap disrupt your skin microbiota, so try to use natural hygiene products.

18. Use Gentle Cleaners

When cleaning your home, use eco-friendly cleaning products instead of harsh, toxic agents. Plant-based cleaning solutions are widely available; you can find them at both big box stores and natural markets. Alternatively, castile soap or a simple solution of white vinegar diluted in water is an effective cleaner you can use on many types of surfaces.

19. Reuse Glass Containers

Before you recycle your glass bottles and jars, think about how you can reuse them. Large jars are great for salads and soups, small ones are the perfect size to measure portions of nuts and dressings. You can even reuse the dropper bottles from Global Healing Center products; just wash them out when you’re finished with the product and use them to hold or blend your favorite essential oils.

Transportation

20. Check Your Tire Pressure

Improve fuel efficiency and lower your carbon footprint by keeping your tires properly inflated. It’s also a good strategy for prolonging the life of your tires and, in turn, saving money.

21. Walk or Bike to Work

Not only is walking or biking to work great exercise, it reduces your carbon footprint. It can also be good for your mind—people that commute by car experience greater stress than people who walk, bike, and use public transportation, so it’s in your best interest to take a stroll to work. As a bonus, you’ll also get a little exercise and some much-needed sunshine on your way.

22. Start a Carpool

If you have a few coworkers in your neighborhood, consider carpooling with them. You’ll help reduce CO2 emissions, decrease traffic congestion, and you get the bonus of social interaction before and after work. Studies report that talking to friends and coworkers offers substantial health benefits.

Lifestyle

23. Eat Less Meat

If everyone cut back on their meat and dairy consumption it would be a great contribution to the environment. Raising livestock requires an astounding amount of resources; it contributes to deforestation, habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions, crop contamination, and water pollution. Even worse, studies show that the consumption of animal products contributes to many chronic and debilitating diseases.

I don’t eat meat, but if you do eat meat, challenge yourself to replace it with plant-based food more often. Organic plants don’t have the same environmental impact as factory farming and a diet rich in plant-based food provides the specialized nutrition to support your health, and increase your lifespan. Starting a “Meatless Monday” habit is a great way to get started. If you like the results, take it a step further and become flexitarian, reduce tsarian, pescatarian, or semi-vegetarian to reduce your reliance on animal products even more.

24. Unplug and Go Outside

Today, too many people spend too much time indoors consuming media in some form or another—usually electronic. A climate-controlled environment requires energy to maintain, as do devices. Do yourself and the planet a favor by powering down, going outside, and enjoying nature with your friends and family. You don’t need to get on a plane to have an adventure. There might be some local undiscovered spot that will become your new retreat. National parks and nature preserves are resources many people don’t take advantage of and, unfortunately, parks that don’t receive a lot of visitors are at risk of being defunded, developed, or mined of their natural resources. Plan a visit to a less popular park to help protect its funding and maintenance.

25. Support Sustainable Businesses

If you can buy it, there’s an eco-friendly version of it. Support companies that use sustainable practices, ingredients, and packaging in their products. Many businesses have started incorporating recycled or upcycled materials into their products.

26. Get a Reusable Water Bottle

Disposable, plastic water bottles may be convenient but they release toxic plasticizers and hardeners that make their way into your body and the environment. Plastic does not degrade easily, and it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Instead, buy a reusable water bottle made of glass and fill it with purified water every time you leave the house. It’s a habit that will reduce waste, and take a water bottle wherever will encourage you to drink water more often and stay hydrated.

At the Office

27. Take a Plant to Work

Air purification devices are handy but wouldn’t it be great to clean the air naturally? Well, it turns out that you can literally clear the air of pollutants with certain plants. According to a NASA study, some plants help remove toxic compounds from the air. Florist’s Chrysanthemum is cited as the most broadly effective and reported to remove pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia; English ivy is another excellent choice. Take a small desk plant to work and breathe a sigh of relief.

28. Take a Mug to Work

Disposable cups are convenient but using them is a tremendous source of waste. Even worse, most of the disposable cups you use every day are not recyclable and contain objectionable chemicals like styrene (found in Styrofoam), which is linked to neurological effects. Skip the disposable cups and bring your own mug to work. There are many nice options that are made with non-toxic materials.

29. Pack Your Lunch

In the United States, over 30% of food is thrown away at the consumer level. That is a massive amount of waste and the majority of it ends up in landfills where it contributes to the production of greenhouse gasses. Do the Earth a favor: save your leftovers and take them for lunch instead of going to a restaurant. If you have some veggies that have seen better days but are still good, turn them into a soup and pour it into jars for an easy grab and go lunch.

30. Stop Printing

The average American uses seven trees worth of paper and paper products every year. That’s a lot of trees, and most of it ends up in the garbage. Whenever possible, avoid printing at work. A link or a PDF is often easier to keep up with and won’t clutter your coworkers’ desks.

Lasting Changes

Small changes add up quickly and can make a measurable difference on your carbon footprint and use of the Earth’s natural resources. Hopefully, these will provide a good start and encourage you to explore other areas such as using fewer disposable goods and recycling regularly. If everyone adopted just a few of these changes, we could significantly reduce our collective impact on the Earth.

Medicines for the Earth

We are entering a period in history when human health will be seriously challenged. If the destructive trends of rapid global warming, accelerating the loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution and degradation of ecosystems, deepening poverty, malnutrition, and political instability are not reversed, all forms of medicine will become increasingly ineffective, unaffordable, and unavailable. For large populations in many parts of the world, this future has already arrived.

The causes of these conditions are numerous, complex, pervasive, and seemingly overwhelming. There is, however, one solution that has the potential to unify humanity in worldwide healing the plants.

Plants are the foundation of civilization and culture. They created the biosphere of the earth’s surface, and they regulate its functions. Plants are the ultimate source of all health and prosperity; they feed us, give us clothing and shelter, provide fuel, fiber, and countless other necessities. Every breath we breathe is the breath of plants, which supports all life. Plants are the origin of medicine.

When healing an illness, there is often relatively little that doctors and patients can do to directly produce optimum functioning of human physiology. Plants, however, provide the biochemical and nutritional compounds that assist the body’s internal ecology and promote its innate homeostasis and equilibrium. Phytonutrients nourish the organs, support the tissues, and enhance immunity, while the medicinal constituents of botanical species detoxify metabolic waste and xenobiotics (harmful foreign substances). No synthetic pharmaceutical drug can perform these functions.

Similarly, there is relatively little that people can do to reverse global warming, to stabilize disturbed weather patterns, or to detoxify environmental contamination. But plants do all of these things. They cool the planet, help regulate the seasons, recharge groundwater, restore soil fertility and stop erosion, regenerate the ozone layer, bind atmospheric carbon dioxide, and purify the toxins we put everywhere. Plants perform the same crucial functions in the outer environment as they do in the inner environment of the body.

This article, along with The Peoples Pharmacy and The Pharmacy of Flowers outlines a broad vision of plants as humanities primary resource for solving the complex and potentially devastating challenges we face. The article begins with a brief overview of how plants created and sustain the biosphere, followed by an exploration of the parallels between human and plant physiology, and comparisons between disease processes in the human body and planetary ecosystems. Finally, it outlines some of the ways plants are being used for healing the environment, and how these functions are similar to healing mechanisms in the human body.

Plant Physiology and Planetary Evolution

The life-supporting elements that we often take for granted are the result of unimaginably long cycles of evolutionary processes. It can accurately be said that plants created, and continue to create, the world we live in. Recognizing our dependency on the eco-functions performed by plants increases our sensitivity to the conditions of the environment, and encourages us to protect and restore the natural world.