Growing Essential Herbs Organically
If you have always wanted to grow herbs in your garden or on your windowsill, but did not know how to get things moving, well, here you are. This essential guide is going to tell you all about some of the important herbs, which you can grow very easily on that particular sunny spot on your windowsill or even indoors.
Herb Gardens have been considered to be a very valuable part of the garden, for centuries. Monks and nuns in medieval times were very proud of their herbal gardens and most of all, they knew all about the curative property of these herbs. They also knew that these herbs were very valuable, in matters of taste, and aroma when added to hitherto bland dishes.
Since ancient times, man has known all about the power of herbs, as a medicine, as a food additive and as an easily cultivated plant resource in his garden. Spices may have been rare to obtain. One needed to travel to all corners of the world to get exotic spices. But herbs, native herbs were easily available in the wild as long as you recognized them. And then you could bring back their cuttings, or their seeds and plant them in your own garden.
And they flourished there, ready to be picked and to be used in one’s own culinary delights and delicacies coming out fresh from the kitchen.
This book is going to tell you how you can grow herbs organically. Organically means, that you are going to use natural and traditional ways in which to cultivate these plants. You are not going to use any chemical fertilizers on them. Instead, you are going to be using animal manure and compost as well as other natural products in order to make your herbs grow in the way nature intended their growth.
Knowing More about Herbal Plant Culture
The word herb in itself is going to apply to all the plants roots, stems, leaves, flowers, roots, seeds and fruit have been used by mankind, as well as animals and birds to eat and to heal.
In the very beginning, when man had just begun to stop leading a nomadic life, and started to settle down in settlements and tribes, he began to grow food for his own use. That is when he began to grow herbs, which had been gathered from the wilds. There are many kinds of herbs, which are indigenous to their own native areas, and climates. That is why some herbs like to grow in the colder regions, while some prefer temperate and warm zones.
Herbal culture is relatively simple, and they are easy to grow. Almost all the herbs are going to do really well in a sunny location, and soil which has been well-drained. However, there are some herb varieties, which like partial shade and even poor soil, because their origins occurred in such natural conditions.
Some Important Herbs and How to Grow Them
Basil [Ocimum basilicum]
Basil is a perennial plant native to tropical regions. It grows as an annual in temperate climates.
The leaves are shiny, one – 2 inches long, and they are really attractive when you grow them in Herb borders or in your herbal garden. Basil is excellent mosquito repellent, so little pots of basil used to pepper the homes and balconies of people living in areas, prone to mosquito growth, down the ages.1
The flowers are purplish or white, and they flower in late summer. The smaller variety of basil is just about 1 feet high, and it is an excellent indoor pot plant.
The leaves of the basil are valued for their spicy and warm flavor. You can use them sparingly, in salads, tomato soup, poultry, meat, fish, and in sauces.
The basil is a tender annual, one – 2 feet high, depending on the variety. It is going to do well in the sun, and the soil should be rich and light.
Sow the seeds in a container, on a sunny window, or in a box, in early spring. Transplant the seedlings to the garden in early summer or you can also sow the seeds directly in the garden in late spring.
For immediate use, make sure that you take all that you need, but keep 2 or 3 leaves, at the base of each branch before the flowers start to bloom.
Remove the flower buds so that the leafy growth is encouraged. After all, basil leaves are what we want to harvest. You may want to prune them to 6 inches height, once or twice in the year, so that you can get more leafy growth.
Freeze, or dry basil leaves to preserve them. You can also keep them refrigerated in jars. This is done by alternating the leaves in layers with salt. Top it up with olive oil. This is the traditional way of preserving basil leaves.
Basil plants grow from seed propagation.
The most popular mint varieties are Apple mint, peppermint, and spearmint.
The purple or white flowers are really attractive, but you need to pinch them off so that you can encourage a better foliage growth.
White butterflies and cabbage butterflies do not seem to like means. You can also use pennyroyal M. pulegium to repel ants. That means you are not going to find aphids in your garden, which are commonly found near ants.Mint leaves can be used fresh or dry. You can make mint tea, which is popular all over the world. You can also use it to garnish cold drinks.
Spearmint is generally used to make sauces and chutneys. Mint is also used commercially as mouthwash, and in chewing gum.
Mint extract is one of the most popular ancient remedies used to prevent tummy upsets, especially after you have eaten heavy, rich and spicy food. Consider it to be the eastern version of bicarbonate of soda or Alka-Seltzer. In the Indian subcontinent, spearmint is called pudina, as in mint/pudeena chutney.
Once your herbal plants have started growing well, it is time to harvest them. One way of harvesting is to keep taking the leaves are the sprigs of the herbs, anytime when you need them. This can be from spring to autumn. The other method is to leave just enough of foliage, for the plants to develop normally.
Some of these herbs are used when green. These include coriander, garlic, chives, borage, sorrel and cress. You can preserve these pieces for a long time in your fridge, if you place them in cloth bags. Somehow I do not like using plastic bags to preserve my herbs.
Another way of preserving them is to wash the stems and leaves, shake off as much of the water as possible, and then store them in glass jars. This is going to increase their longevity and also help them retain their crisp quality.
Many herbs are harvested for storing after drying. The time to harvest them, if you want to dry them is to cut them just when they are coming into bloom.
Some herbs like lavender and thyme can be cut when they are in full flower, as their flavor is at a peak at that time. That is because of the abundance of essential volatile oils during that flowering season.
The best time to pick or harvest your herbs is in the morning. That is after the dew has dried, but the sun has not managed to heat up the leaves.
If your plants are spattered with mud or cold with dust and grime, just hose them with a water pipe, the previous evening, or you can wash the harvest thoroughly, shaking out the excess water and then spreading them out on cloth so that the water can get absorbed and the herbs dry naturally.
Some of the herbs are gathered for their leaves. These include the herbs from the mint family. Other herbs like basil are taken with leaves, as well as the stem. Fennel and other members of this family are valued for the seeds as well as for the leaves.
Allow the seeds to mature well and collect them in airtight packets before they can scatter in the wind. Cut the heads of these into open paper bags and leave with the tops open so that the seeds can dry thoroughly. When they are completely dry, you can seal them in an airtight container.
Sharp scissors are a necessary part of your gardening equipment. You can use it to cut pieces of mint, basil, and other herbs. When the cutting is completed, you can take the individual bunches, collect them and label them.
For perennial herbs, take only the top portions, so that you do not prune the complete plant. These include Sage, tarragon, and winter savory.
On the other hand, you can shear annuals like sweet marjoram, sweet basil and borage to within 10 cm of the ground.
This book has given you lots of information about some of the easily grown herbs and how you can use others in beneficial teas.
Herbs have been used down the ages in medicinal and culinary preparations and we are lucky that shops everywhere sell lots of herbs and spices which were once unavailable to the common populace.
The so-called wonder drugs may be a mixed blessing, by giving you really quick results but they are also going to bring with them unexpected side effects. However, if you have herbs growing in your garden, and you have someone experienced and wise telling you all about the curative properties of those particular herbs, you are going to keep your family as well as yourself healthy.
So take full advantage of the bounty of nature, Live Long and Prosper!