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In Praise of a Herb Garden... 5 Things you Need to Know

Dry herbs by hanging upside down in a dark spot
On our farm we have herbs gardens we have planted  AND we have herbs that self sow and grow perennially as part of our landscaping.   Herb gardens have been around as long as people have been cooking or using them for healing.   Traditional old knot gardens often had different herbs for cooking in one part of the knot and others for healing in a another part.

Herbs have been cultivated for thousands of years for 
culinary and 
medicinal reasons

We have them mixed in as part of our landscaping and sustainable gardening.    Here are 5 things  to know about herbs.

Rosemary has pretty flowers
1.  Take Advantage of the Easy Ones.   Certain perennial herbs are really easy to grow.  Just tuck them in as part of your permanent landscaping and forget them.  Our favorites include Rosemary which makes a great bush,  thyme which makes a great filler between stepping stone, most mints which we keep in pots because they are invasive (unless you want a forever ground cover) and lemon balm cuz bees are attracted to it.   We love some of the sages and many have nice flowers so talk to your local nursery about what does best in your area. 

2.  Herbs heal. Herbs that have flavorful or aromatic leaves often have healing or antibacterial  properties.

Parsley has flavonoids that function as antioxidants. In addition Parsley has volatile oils—particularly myristicin which has been shown to reduce tumor in animal studies. 
Cilantro has dodecenal in it which has powerful antibacterial ability which studies suggest is particularly effective at fighting salmonella.
Basil is an antioxidant when you take it internally and you can rub the leaves on your skin as a mild antibacterial.   Rosemary can improve memory when sniffed and when rubbed on the skin is an antibiotic.
Cayenne pepper has Capsicum which can reduce the pain of shingles or other nerve pain.  
Garlic kills bacteria (and your friends if you breathe on them). 

3.  Herbs can act as Probiotics and Gut healers.   Turmeric has curcumin which has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to cortisone.   Because it can suppress inflammation and also increases mucin in the stomach it aids digestion and helps prevent ulcers.     Ginger has peristalsis which helps the intestine walls move food through the gut.   Licorice root, peppermint and cinnamon are three other digestion helpers. 

4.  Herbs are natural pesticides.  If you plant herbs around your flowers you can keep bugs away.   Aphids hate garlic, chives and coriander (cilantro).  Flies hate Basil, Catmint has nepetalactone which is a natural pesticide (you just soak it in water and spray) . Mosquitoes hate basil and rosemary.  Most beetles hate rosemary and mint.   Ticks and fleas hate lavender.   You can see why herbs were grown all around houses in the old days... kept the critters out AND you cooked with it and took the herbs medicinally.

Turmeric and Garlic Heal
5.  Add the super herb to your garden.  If you add one easy to grow herb to your garden make it Turmeric.   It is a rhizome (think like an iris bulb)  and grows underground.   It is a healing herb and no bother.  Turmeric is also what makes mustard yellow if you want to make your own mustard or is the ingredient in curries.

 Tumeric How to
  • Dig it up and break off parts of the rhizome after the plant parts die back in fall.  Replant some of the pieces
  • To process scrape the skin off with a knife and then boil in water until soft. This may take a couple of hours.
  • Dry on absorbent paper in the sun for a week or two.
  • It will shrink to a third of the fresh size and be rock hard.
  • Pound in a mortar and pestle, then grind to a powder in a coffee grinder.
  • It will keep well  in the freezer and refrigerator.
  • Take it in capsules or soup for the health benefits and taste


Follow the Castle Gardener.   Perfecting permaculture and organic practices that are NO WORK and can be done by a farm girl with painted nails..