A Beginners Guide to Herb Gardens Herb Gardening in your Home
I have already written about how to make a herb garden in another gardening book- How to make a Herb Garden – in our Gardening series, but the gardener cum herbalist is going to get an even more extensive knowledge about how to make a full-fledged herbal garden in this book. Perfumes, juices, oils and other products extracted from seeds, leaves, shoots, and bark of the herbs have been used since the earliest times in religious ceremonies, and in cooking. Magicians used them in making mysterious potions to impress the credulous public.
Herb essential oils along with parts of herbs have long been in use down the millenniums to make natural beauty products. The oracles of Delphi were women who had been “intoxicated” on fumes of deadly nightshade, which would make them hallucinate. And then with bay leaves in their mouths-these leaves were considered sacred to Apollo – they used to predict the future. No wonder not many could understand them or interpret their sayings. So each hearer chose the one which suited his requirements the best, and believed the Gods had spoken.
A Roman soldier millenniums ago would not want to miss his essential oil and herbal massage, with a scraping strigil after a hard day’s work out in the battlefield. Nor does his many times descendant, after a hard day’s work out at his desk.
Today, these herbs are usually grown for their great value in cooking. That is why it is well worth finding a small place for herbs in any garden. The 21st century world is also slowly and steadily getting back to the idea that the herbal remedies, which were used in alternative medicine in ancient civilizations of the East and West had curative properties. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Mayans, Aztecs, Greek and other knowledgeable people all over the world used these herbs, and derived all the healthy benefits of them as often as they could.
Growing herbs in containers have been in practice for millenniums, especially when there was not a kitchen garden around. People of the West, especially the Anglo-Saxons in ancient times did not know much about the healthy aspects of herbs as well as the aromatic and exotic plants grown in the East. However, they knew all about the curative properties of the plants which were grown indigenously and locally. They also used these plants for cooking purposes. Many of these plants were given local names, which described their use even to the simplest rustic user. So if you heard about a plant named liverwort – it meant it was a plant good for your liver. These names are still in practice today. The monks continued the compiling and gathering of the knowledge of these herbs and herbal medicine and every monastery had a herbal Garden of which to be proud. All of these monks tended their herbal gardens, and collected the herbs to heal the illnesses of the poor of the parish. In fact, many of the people were taken to the church to get themselves healed and nursed by the nuns and the monks when they were taken ill or when they were wounded in bitter battles. The chances of their getting healed were high, except for Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, the famous Earl of Huntingdon, who when taken ill was put under the care of his relative, the prioress of Kirklees Priory who had decided that he had to die, because she was viciously and jealously built that way! Nothing God-fearing about her, it seems. So she did not use her curing herbs, but allowed him to be slowly poisoned and thus he died at the age of 87. With the dissolution of the monasteries in Britain, this once contained knowledge spread all over the country, and so the knowledge was taught how to grow all the essential herbs needed for her kitchen, and for her still room in the garden. Anybody who had a piece of land could grow the herbs very easily.
I hope this book gives you an understanding of herbs, and how you can cultivate them easily. Remember that organically grown herbs are more powerful, because they are not polluted with chemical pesticides. Also, all that mumbo-jumbo of collecting herbs with a golden sickle under the full moon and other such showmanship stories was a part of herbalist rituals to make people believe that they knew what they were doing. However, this has some scientific basis, because if the herbs were collected at a particular day in one particular area, to the accompaniment of chanting under the hot sun or in the light of the moon,(notice, no dew) it meant that the herbalist who was also a keen gardener knew that the plant was ready for harvesting. And while he chanted while harvesting, the audience listened admiringly and approved. They were definitely very proud of their knowledgeable wise man or wise woman! So follow the footsteps of those wise human beings of yore, and get steeped in herbal lore! Live long and prosper.