Updated: Apr 17
Since becoming an urban homesteader, my love for gardening and growing my food has grown (sorry for the pun). There are many reasons to begin a herb garden or food forest at home, supermarket costs have risen, homegrown produce is organic, and the soil is fertile. Herbs are great for beginners as they are easy to grow, they can be grown in a small space or on the kitchen counter, and you don't need a big yard and will have a continuous supply. Gone are the days of buying a bunch of herbs wilting in the back of the fridge; you can pick as you go.
I have recently started to make my own essential oils; Aaron bought me an essential oil distillery for my birthday (best gift ever). Herbs can be used in cleaners, beauty products and medicinal.
I have listed my top 5 herbs I grow in my garden, their uses and how to grow them.
Medicinal Properties: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. With a mild lemon flavour, lemon balm has calming effects. It can be used for sleep and digestion. Packed with flavonoids and phytochemicals with antioxidant properties and high levels of thiamin and vitamin C.
How to grow: Lemon balm loves to flourish in the all-day sun and can tolerate some shade throughout the day. Make sure it has well-drained soil and grows well in large pots. Water daily. Note: Lemon Balm is a self-seeder; clip the flowers before they seed.
How to use: Lemon balm can be dried and made into a tea and essential oils for its beautiful fragrance.
Medicinal Properties: Rosemary isn't just the herb you add to roasts. This humble plant has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Neuroprotective (boosts brain function) and may improve mood. Rosemary symbolises memory; Greek scholars would wear rosemary wreaths to sharpen their memories. It also is used as an analgesic (pain reliever) and digestive remedy. A good source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B6 (peroxide) and C.
Vitamin A helps support immune system function, fertility and reproduction and is a powerful antioxidant. Pyroxidine B6 is an essential B vitamin that helps with mood, memory and brain function.
How to grow: Rosemary is a woody bush that needs well-drained soil and loves sun (6-8 hours a day). If you live in a cold and windy area, this may be a great pot plant that can be moved around.
How to use: Rosemary can be used in cooking, as tea, and as an essential oil; a warm bath with peppermint after a long day will help relax muscles, joint pain and anxiety.
Medicinal Properties: Lemongrass has been used in Asian cooking and many beauty products for centuries for its aroma. It also has medicinal, anti-inflammatort, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties. The chemical substances in lemongrass help relieve pain, and swelling, reduce fever and improve cholesterol in the blood. It can stimulate menstrual flow and the uterus and promote healthy digestion. Lemongrass is a great source of calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, and small traces of B vitamins such as folate and niacin (B3), vitamin C, and vitamin A.
How to grow: Lemongrass is another sun lover and should spend at least half the day in the sun. needs to be protected from the cold and in well-drained soil
How to use: Can be used in cooking, dried and made into tea, essential oils for beauty products, cleaning and diffusers.
Medicinal Properties: Peppermint has always been my favourite mint due to its aid in digestion and bloating. Peppermint helps improve digestion, relieves headaches, aids allergy symptoms and improves concentration. It may help with joint pain and itchy bites. Peppermint is rich in vitamin C, iron, magnesium and calcium, with small traces of vitamin B6.
How to grow: I love growing peppermint, part shade/ part sun, during the day. Grows well in pots as well as garden beds. Water daily (loves water) in well-drained soil.
How to use: Peppermint has cooling properties and can be used as a headache reliever in an essential oil by adding it to a carrier oil (coconut or jojoba oil), rubbing it into your temples or chest, and dabbing on itchy bites for relief. Dried and made into a tea to aid digestion and improve concentration.
Medicinal Properties: I had never heard of a rose geranium (botanical name- pelargonium graveolens) until I saw it at our local nursery. Found in certain parts of Africa, this plant has medicinal properties, with leaves that strongly smell like sweet roses. This has become one of my favourite plants in my tea garden. This beauty has anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, analgesic (pain reliever) and calming properties.
How to grow: Loves full sun part shade and in warm temperatures, well-drained soiled and water moderately.
How to use: Essential oil is very common for this plant due to its anti-aging and antioxidant properties, and used in homemade body butter and tinctures to help heal the skin. It can be dried and used in teas to relax the nervous system. Hot tip- Make a large brew of tea and chill overnight for a delicious rose iced tea.