Whether you want to grow a kitchen herb garden as a hobby or to save money or just for healthier eating, there are plenty of herbs you can grow in your backyard, on your patio or even in your windowsill. Fresh herbs make recipes taste even better and are great to have around for soups, stews, and salads.
In picking a place to grow your herbs, keep in mind that they need a good four to six hours of sun daily. There are many herbs that you can grow to enhance your cooking. When you plant a kitchen garden, don’t only plant the herbs you know, take a chance on something else. You might just be surprised. (more…)
Although some would argue that ‘mindfulness is the new black’, for most gardeners, we’ve been practicing mindfulness since the first moment we connected to the soil.
Don’t get me wrong guided meditation, in the classic sense, is an important I’d argue; a vital technique in which we are able to align our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. I’ve come away from a weekend retreat feeling more grounded, more peaceful, and more ‘at one with the world’ thanks to the guidance of world-renowned Sharon Salzberg. But, that experience, as impactful as any I’ve had short of the birth of my 3 children, doesn’t happen every day. (more…)
Patchouli is a plant species from the Lamianceae family, which also includes lavender, oregano, and mint. Although its scientific name is Pogostemon cablin, this perennial herb is more commonly known as stink weed, pucha pot, or putcha-pat. With so many names comes many uses, and patchouli’s potent aroma is what makes it a hot commodity among herb lovers today. It’s used for everything from aromatherapy to perfume and repellent.
Characteristics of Patchouli
Patchouli is native to Southeast Asia but is now cultivated throughout China, India, and parts of western Africa. It’s one of the bushier herbs and typically features a firm stem and small pale pink flowers. The plant averages two to three feet in length. (more…)
This past weekend was spent preparing my 12 favorite herbs for their trip back indoors. All spring, summer and into fall, they have enjoyed a life of rugged survival. Hot, humid days and pounding rain storms. Hot sun, thirsty days and most made it through my vacation when they were ‘on their own’. They were attacked by slugs, munched on by unknown critters (in my yard, it could be anything) and of course cut back at any conceivable time for summer recipes. They made it. Rough around the edges, but survivors.
Now comes the real test; can the herb plants survive the transition from their ‘wilderness experience’ to the lush confines of my glassed in porch. Life is actually going to be more challenging indoors where they will have to contend with less light, more pests and of course, overzealous gardening! However, they survived the fall and winter, so I am hopeful. However, here are a few things I need to remember: (more…)
While winter is still flirting with us here in zone 7, many of our friends are already hunkered down throughout the country to weather out winter storms. Though I love the simple beauty of winter, I hate that freezing feeling. You know the one, where you can’t seem to ever get warm. The one that no matter how many layers of socks you put on, you still have toecicles. It’s that down-in-your-bones-cold feeling that no heap of blankets can seem to remedy. If you’re having trouble staying warm from the inside out, then it’s time to brew some delicious hot tea. There’s no quicker cure for this kind of coldness, than a steaming cup of herbal tea to lift your spirits, warm your bones and relax your mind. For an added benefit, try mixing medicinal herbs into your brew to ward off those worrisome winter sniffles.
Here’s a great recipe from our Marketing Director, Caroline, who usually uses her cats as a “mew”-lectric blanket, but when they’re not enough, she turns to a hot cup of herbal tea from her garden.
We’ve had a relatively mild winter here in the Richmond, VA area this year, so when we experienced our first cold day, it was a shock. I got home after a long commute in the cold, and I just couldn’t leave the January chill at the door. I turned the heat up and donned a sweater but still wasn’t satisfied with the temperature. After a quick survey of the kitchen, I realized that it must be time to grocery shop, because I was out of herbal tea. Instead of chattering any longer, I realized that because of the unseasonably warm winter we’d had until this point, I still had a few hardy herbs left in my gardens outside and some indoor potted herb gardens thriving in my kitchen.
Younger Horehound leaves are covered in a protective fuzz that they shed as they grow bigger.
I gathered a handful of Horehound, an old fashioned medicinal herb, related to mint that acts as a soothing expectorant. Though not approved by the FDA you can find Horehound in many candies, cold remedies and lozenges, and makes a wonderful tea. (As with all medicinal herbs though, you should consult your doctor or herbalist if taking other medications and it shouldn’t be taken in large doses, especially by people with heart conditions or who may be pregnant because it may affect your blood pressure or existing heart conditions.) I think it’s a beautiful plant in the garden, with its fuzzy, textured leaves and was excited to try it in tea. I found it to be slightly on the bitter side, so next time I’m adding more Mint and maybe even some Stevia to sweeten it up!
Chocolate Mint is a beautiful addition to your kitchen garden.
I also picked a few dark sprigs of Chocolate Mint and some large, bright green leaves of Kentucky Colonel Mint for flavor. Mint has always been one of my favorite plants- it’s easy to grow, easy to use, and each variety has its own charm. The smooth, dramatic leaves of the Chocolate Mint and the brilliantly green texture of the Kentucky Colonel Mint look as great in an herb bouquet as they taste in a tea! These two varieties are a unique twist on the standard Peppermint flavor. Kentucky Colonel has a bold, spicy spearmint taste that works well in summer drinks and salads. Chocolate Mint has a smoother, more subdued flavor, warmer than some of the other varieties, and tastes great in desserts. Both of these culinary herbs are perfect for making tea, as Mint is a great digestive aid and its strong mentholated aroma allows you to breathe more easily.
Kentucky Colonel Mint is great for more than just Mint Juleps!
Being too impatient to dry my herbs, I washed and chopped them and then packed them into a small tea infused. Just add hot water and let the leaves steep for a bit! You can also dry your herbs in advance for more of a traditional tea.
You can also use cheesecloth to make a small pouch for infusing.
Consider tisanes (herbs for making tea or herbal infusions) when you’re planning your next garden. We all love teas with more floral flavors, like Chamomile and Lavender, but don’t forget that many culinary herbs make a great tea, too. Some other unlikely candidates for a healthy, flavorful tea to warm your bones are Lemon Grass, Rosemary, Basil and Lemon Thyme. Try mixing different variations of your favorite culinary herbs and discover a delicious new way to use your garden! Want to get a start on your herb garden during these cold winter months? Try one of our Potted Herb Garden Kits, like our Time For Tea Gift Set and we’ll give you everything you need, from soil to saucer, to grow your own tea garden.
As the sun began setting here in Zone 7 yesterday, I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe that it was only four o’clock! While the darkness descended around our farm, I thought to myself how depressing the winter months can be for gardeners. A severe decrease in sunlight plus plummeting temperatures are a bit of a shock after such a long, warm summer. So, what is an avid gardener to do? Bring your herb garden indoors and make your own light! You could even decide to get some street lights (or as people in France would say “Lampadaire exterieur“) that can be placed in your garden so you can keep your herbs out there for just a little bit longer. Until the time comes when it really is that cold and dark that you have no choice to bring them inside.
An ideal indoor lighting setup for growing herbs throughout the winter would be to have a ton of south facing windows with lots of space to line your herbs along the window sills. It might be useful to consider smart home lighting to have better control over your home lighting in these darker periods of the year and works well with this situation. If this scenario isn’t a reality, you can also line your ceiling with fluorescent grow lights to accommodate your indoor oasis while sunlight is scarce. Though many herbs may go dormant, like Mints, as per their natural seasonal cycle, artificial lighting can extend their growing season and keep them useful. Most culinary herbs are well suited as indoor potted herbs, like Rosemary, Thyme, Chives, Winter Savory or Garden Sage, and tend to do well with supplemental light. Growing an indoor herb garden is a wonderful way to beat the winter doldrums and will provide you with fresh flavors until spring thaws the ground outside. Until the days grow longer, you can supplement your home’s natural lighting with fluorescent grow lights to keep your herbs growing strong all winter long.
Many herbs tend to get a big leggy under fluorescent lighting, so make sure to keep them pruned well for better growth. Growing herbs indoors can also affect the water levels your plants need, so also pay close attention to the amount of moisture your herbs require to keep them from drying out. The type of pot or container your herb is growing in can also affect the amount of moisture it retains. Terra Cotta pots work well, as most herbs do not need a lot of water and the porousness of the clay allows excess moisture to escape. Mature herbs should be placed a few feet away from the light source, while sprouts may need to stay within a few inches until they get established.
Florescents are more efficient than many other lighting options because they are much brighter and more narrow, and due to lack of surface space, they waste less. If you can afford the space for this endeavor, try lighting that falls between 4000 and 6000 Kelvin, a range that is warm enough to mimic the lighting environment of a greenhouse, without being too hot that it fries your herbs. Color temperature is measured in Kelvins, and is an important characteristic of visible light- especially when we’re talking plants. The lower degree of Kelvin or color temperature, the more warm the lighting feels, and the higher the Kelvin, the cooler the light feels. Think of the difference between cozy warm lighting in your home versus the harsh, cold lighting of your doctor’s office. By choosing fluorescence that falls between 4000 and 6000, you allow for a healthy spectrum of warmth and color for most culinary herbs. (Some of the more tropical or sun loving plants like Stevia or Ashwagandha may take a bulb with a fuller spectrum of light). Many herbs need at least fourteen hours of light a day to stay happy indoors, and getting a timer for your lighting may be a good idea to help with this, as well as prevent them from running too long and wasting energy.
For a better idea of how the Kelvin system works, see the chart from 3drender.com below :