Your Essential Guide to Harvesting Medicinal Flowers

Your Essential Guide to Harvesting Medicinal Flowers

Growing and harvesting medicinal flowers is one of life’s simple pleasures that can bring enormous joy and satisfaction. Herbs for medicinal use will grow almost anywhere. No matter what shape, size, or aspect your outdoor space has, it’s possible to successfully cultivate plants that may be used for medical purposes.

Read on to discover our top tips to ensure you obtain the very best quality harvesting results, as well as additional information for correctly harvesting a number of common medicinal herbs.

Before using any herb for medicinal purposes, we recommend consulting a suitable professional. 

General Guidelines for Successful Harvesting

  • Make sure that the herbs you’re harvesting have been grown in a suitable environment. Ideally, herbs should be grown organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The soil, water, and air your plants use should be as fresh and natural as possible.
  • Check that you have the correct species of herb. Some herbs have a common name that includes a number of different species. If in doubt, buy medicinal herb plants from a reputable source so that you know you’re cultivating the correct plant.
  • Allow herbs to become well-established and strong before harvesting.
  • Check that the plant is at the correct stage of its lifecycle for harvesting to take place. For example, if you intend to harvest flowers, the plant will need to have matured to the flowering stage of its lifecycle.
  • If you are harvesting a perennial herb, harvest sustainably so that the plant has enough leaves or flowers to survive through to the next harvest season.
  • When harvesting annuals, consider allowing some to self-seed. This will frequently result in a new crop next year, without the need for replanting.
  • Although herbs can be picked at any time of the day, if you intend to dry, process, or store them, we recommend picking them early in the morning, once the dew has dried but before they face the full heat of the sun.

Chamomile

Possibly one of the more well-known herbs, many people enjoy chamomile flowers made into tea. Although both leaves and flowers are safe to eat, it’s the flowers that make the best tea.

To harvest chamomile, wait until the plant has plenty of flowers. Pick the flower heads early in the morning, ideally before the flowers have fully opened. Chamomile flowers can be used when freshly picked, or dried and stored for future use. 

Chamomile is a perennial plant, so once established it should continue to provide flowers year after year. It’s a tricky plant to grow from seed, so we recommend that you buy chamomile plants to make life easier. 

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Calendula

If you are intending to use marigolds for medicinal or culinary use, make sure to use calendula officinalis, rather than related species – all marigolds are not the same! 

The best time to pick calendula blooms depends on what you intend to use them for. If you want to use fresh flowers for a salad or tea, pick the fresh, new blooms. Flowers that are beginning to wilt or that have become over-blown are best left to fade completely, and the plants used for seed harvesting.

Calendula leaves can be added to salads – they have a distinctive taste that can add a kick to any salad plate.

This is an annual plant, so a fresh planting will be needed each year unless you leave a proportion of plants to self-seed.

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Echinacea

Echinacea is a hardy herb that requires minimal care to grow successfully. As a perennial plant, once established it will grow year on year. Echinacea can be difficult to grow from seed. Luckily, you can buy medicinal herb plants like echinacea, which come pre-established.

The roots, leaves, and flowers of the echinacea plant can all be used for medicinal purposes. The type of harvesting will depend on which parts you wish to use. We recommend planting a few echinacea plants so that if you choose to use the roots of one or two, there will still be plenty left for later harvest.

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Nasturtiums

These hardy annuals provide a stunning splash of color for borders, hanging baskets, and container planting, as well as having a number of culinary uses. The leaves, seeds, and flowers are all edible.

Although flowers can be harvested separately, it’s usually easier to harvest the entire plant. Nasturtium seeds are a particularly tasty delicacy – leave the flowers to seed and then harvest once the seeds have formed. Patience is a virtue when it comes to nasturtium seeds – the bigger they are when picked, the tastier they are. Bigger seeds are also more likely to germinate, should you wish to harvest seeds to plant next year.

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Garlic Chives

Garlic chives are a perennial that can be harvested at almost any time of the year. Garlic chive leaves are the part of the plant that’s used. These can be cut to within about an inch of the ground for culinary or medicinal use. In time, the leaves will regrow, providing a fresh crop.

Chives are best used fresh. Their long growing season means there’s less need to dry and store them in comparison with other herbs.

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Yarrow

Yarrow flowers are commonly harvested for a range of purposes. Simply cut off the flowerheads when the flowers are fresh. Avoid over-blown or faded blooms. Yarrow is a perennial plant, so will grow from year to year provided its harvested sustainably.

Like many other perennial herbs, Yarrow doesn’t grow well from seed. We recommend buying established Yarrow plants to optimize the chances of a successful harvest.

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Harvested correctly, medicinal herbs can provide a generous yield that can be used for a range of purposes. Well-established, healthy plants are going to give the best harvest, which is why we recommend buying medicinal herb plants.

Buying a healthy, established plant increases your chances of a successful harvest and removes the worry and uncertainty which can come from attempting to grow herbs from seed.

How to Help Your Herbs Beat the Heat

How to Help Your Herbs Beat the Heat

The “dog days of summer” are upon us! Grab the pool noodles, sangria popsicles, and floppy hats. Even on the hottest days, it’s not too difficult for us to find relief (if all else fails, retreat to the A/C!), but what about your outdoor garden? The sun is beating down on your herbs harder than ever! How can you help them beat the heat?

All Herbs Love the Heat, Right?

Wrong. Not all herbs are natural summer lovers. In fact, several types enjoy cooler temperatures, such as:

  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Chervil
  • Sorrel

So, which herbs enjoy the heat?

  • Lemongrass
  • Basil (Everyone’s favorite!)
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Borage
  • Bay
  • Mint
  • Oregano

It’s important to note that even summer-loving herbs will need extra TLC to get them through the hottest months. Without the proper care, your herbs could be left sunburnt, taste-deficient, and withering. How can you make a success of it?

A Pre-Summer Precaution

Your goal: Keep the roots cool. So, avoid planting your precious herbs in dark or metal containers. Why? Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays, heating up the soil. And, if you’ve ever leaned against a hot car while in your “Daisy Duke’s,” you can guess what damage a metal pot can do!

Watering Your Herbs in the Summer

Adjusting your watering routine to fit warmer temperatures can be an adventure. You may think hotter temperatures = a thirstier plant. And, while that may be the case, keeping that theory too close in mind can also contribute to overwatering. Two rules for summer watering: Always check the soil’s moisture level and water deep.

If you frequently give your herbs a quick, daily spray-down (surface watering), you’re encouraging them to develop shallow roots. What’s the problem with that? When the heat of summer comes, a plant needs deep roots to keep cool and remain hydrated. How do you “water deep”?

  • Container gardens: Drench the soil until water drains from the bottom for 2 minutes.
  • In-ground gardens: Drench for 15 minutes.

While watering deeply takes more time, you don’t have to water as frequently and achieve healthier (tastier) herbs. What’s not to love?

When to Water

We love taking a midday dip in the pool, right? So our plants must love a mid-day spray-down! Nope, think again. Water droplets on your herb’s leaves act as mini magnifying glasses, amplifying the sun’s rays (making your wilty plant even “wilty-er”). Solution? Do your deep watering at the end of the day, when the sun is setting, and temperatures are cooler.

Preparing for a Heatwave

Sudden, shockingly hot temperatures can send some plants into a type of survival-mode-hibernation, where they temporarily stop absorbing moisture and nutrients through their roots. What can you do?

Watch the weather and thoroughly water your garden before the heatwave hits. This will give your herbs what they need to see them through! (Who wants to hibernate on an ‘empty stomach,’ right?) Rewater your plant friend when the soil exhibits the proper signs, remembering that this could happen more slowly than you expect.

Ways to Keep it Cool!

Container Gardens

One of the many perks of container gardens: If a location proves to be too hot or sunny, you can quickly relocate your herbs! Are some of your cool-weather herbs suffering? You can

opt to bring them indoors for the hottest part of the summer. How? Taking plants directly from the midday sun to an air-conditioned house is shocking, to say the least! So, prepare your plant by first placing it in a shady location. In a few days, when temperatures have cooled at night, bring your herb indoors.

One of the downsides: if your container is too small, your plant’s root system isn’t very well insulated from the heat. What can you do? Before the hottest days of summer arrive, make sure your plant isn’t rootbound. If it is, give it a pot upgrade!

In-Ground Gardens

The bad news: your herbs are pretty much stuck with their location. But, there are a few things you can do to help your plants thrive in the heat. Give your herbs a thick layer of mulch to provide added insulation to the soil. Remember, cool roots contribute to a happy plant!

Consider providing your herbs with some much-needed shade, especially from the afternoon sun! How can you do this? There are several ways, ranging from “bootleg” ideas to more polished looks. You can simply move your patio umbrella to the garden. You could rig up one of those (million) Amazon boxes you have. Or you can invest in some shade cloth.

If you’re opting for shade cloth, here are a few things to keep in mind: (1) You need 30% to 40% shade, (2) Dark colors absorb heat, so you’ll need to keep black shade cloths several inches from your herb’s foliage.

Keep Pruning

Warm temperatures give many herbs the “green-light” to flower and bolt. What’s the big deal about that? Bolting negatively impacts the flavor and texture of some herbs. And, let’s admit it, bolted Cilantro is just sad. Prevent your plant from bolting by regularly pruning new growth and removing any flowers ASAP.

Are you at a loss about what to do with all these extra herbs? Keep your eyes peeled for more of our articles with herb-ilicious recipes. And save some of this summer-freshness for the upcoming winter months by making “herbal ice cubes.” Simply fill the bottom of an ice cube tray with your minced herb of choice, top with some olive oil, and stick it in the freezer!

Whatever temperatures this summer brings, by using these helpful tips, we trust that you and your herbs will be able to “beat the heat!” Happy Growing!

25 Best Herbs to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden

25 Best Herbs to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden

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 on 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.

Here are fresh herbs and plants you can grow that are great to have handy in the kitchen.

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PARSLEY

Parsley is a mild bitter herb that can enhance the flavor of your foods. Many consider parsley just to be a curly green garnish for food, but it actually helps things like stews achieve a more balanced flavor. As an added benefit, parsley can aid in digestion. By reading articles such as unify health labs reviews and other digestion related discussions, many supplements and herbs are uncovered as great helpers for the digestive system. Parsley is often grown as an annual, but in milder climates, it will stay evergreen all winter long. Parsley plants will grow to be large and bushy. Parsley is a good source of Vitamins A and C.

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MINT

There are several varieties of mint. You can use it in drinks like mojitos or mint juleps. Or add some mint to your summer iced tea. Mint freshens the breath and will help to calm your stomach. But if you grow mint, remember that it’s considered an invasive plant. Mint will spread and take over your garden. It’s best grown in containers.

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DILL

Dill is a great flavoring for fish, lamb, potatoes, and peas. It also aids in digestion, helps to fight bad breath and has the added benefits of reducing swelling and cramps. Dill is easy to grow. It will also attract helpful insects to your garden such as wasps and other predatory insects.

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BASIL

Whether you choose large leaf Italian basil or large purple sweet basil, this plant is popular in many cuisines but is a feature in Italian cooking like pizzas, salads, sauces, and pesto. Some people think basil is great for planting alongside your tomatoes but there’s no real evidence that it makes your tomatoes taste sweeter. Basil has health benefits of antioxidants and is a defense against low blood sugar.

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SAGE

Sage is an aromatic herb that is great for seasoning meats, sauces, and vegetables. But be careful because sage will have a tendency to overpower other flavors. Sage also helps to relieve cuts, inflammation and helps with memory issues. It was once thought to be a medicinal cure-all. Sage is an easy herb to grow and is relatively easy to care for. It’s great in your garden for attracting bees.

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ROSEMARY

Rosemary is one of the most flavorful herbs and is great for adding to things like poultry, meats, and vegetables. Around Christmastime, you’ll see tree-shaped rosemary bushes for sale. You can bring them home and keep them for planting in the spring. The fragrant plant is a delightful scent and is sometimes used in floral arrangements. Rosemary likes its soil a bit on the dry side, so be careful not to overwater. Allowed to flourish, a rosemary plant will grow into a full-sized bush.

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THYME

Thyme is a delicate looking plant. It is often used for flavoring egg, bean and vegetable dishes. Thyme is frequently used in the Mediterranean, Italian and Provençal French cuisines. Pair it with lamb, poultry, and tomatoes. Thyme is often added to soups and stews. Thyme is part of the mint family. The most common variety is garden thyme which has gray-green leaves and a minty, somewhat lemony smell.

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CILANTRO / CORIANDER

Cilantro is also known as coriander leaf or Chinese parsley. Cilantro is perfect for adding into spicy foods like chills, and Mexican, Chinese, Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines. The seeds of cilantro are known as coriander. The plant grows early in the season and doesn’t like it when the ground becomes too warm.

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FENNEL

Fennel is very flavorful and aromatic, and along with anise is a primary ingredient in absinthe. Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region and does best in dry soils near the ocean or on river banks. The strongly flavored leaves of fennel are similar in shape to dill. The bulb can be sautéed or grilled, or eaten raw. Fennel bulbs are used for garnishes or sometimes added to salads.

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CHAMOMILE

In the United States and Europe, chamomile is most often used as an ingredient in herbal tea. It is one of the world’s most widely consumed herbal teas. But it has also been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine for settling stomachs and calming the nerves. Chamomile also helps reduce inflammation and treat fevers. You can grow either German chamomile or Roman chamomile. The two are interchangeable when it comes to making tea, but they are grown very differently. German chamomile is an annual plant that grows up to three feet tall. Roman chamomile is a perennial but only grows to about a foot high. German chamomile is more commonly known for its blossoms.

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FRESH TARRAGON

French tarragon is the traditional ingredient of ‘Fines Herbes’ and is the aristocrat of fresh herbs. A must-have for any Culinary Herb Garden! It will transform an ordinary dish into a work of art with it’s spicy anise flavor. A little tarragon in a chicken salad makes a profound difference. It is wonderful in sauces, soups and meat dishes. Try it with vegetables. It is the choice for any hearty dish.

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LAVENDER

Grown as a condiment and for use in salads and dressings, lavender will give most dishes a slightly sweet flavor. Lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used in the United States for making lavender scones and marshmallows. Health benefits include the soothing of insect bites and headaches when used with herbs and aromatherapy. Lavender plants will survive in many growing conditions but do best in full sun in warm, well-drained soil.

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CHIVES

Chives are a member of the garlic family and can be the perfect complement to sour cream. Chives are mostly used for flavoring and are considered one of the “fine herbs” of French cuisine. Chives are native to Asia but have been used as an additive to food for almost 5,000 years. Chives work well with eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish, and soups. Chives are an excellent source of beta carotene and Vitamin C.

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ARUGULA

A member of the Mustard family, Arugula is a leafy green that packs a peppery punch! Similar to Watercress in flavor, Arugula has edible, aromatic leaves and a spicier flavor than most greens. Often eaten raw in salads, Arugula also tastes great when cooked. If you’re adding it to a pizza, pasta, or pesto, make sure to add it last or just after the meal is done cooking to prevent the leaves from withering.

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BAY LEAVES

The smell of bay’s noble leaves reminds you of balsam, clove, mint, and some say even honey! Well known for its use in hearty stews and other long-simmering dishes with a slightly sharp, peppery, almost bitter taste. Add the whole leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and remember to remove them before serving. Sweet bay is native to the Mediterranean.

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LEMON VERBENA

Lemon Verbena is a useful culinary herb, used in teas, salads, dressings, and desserts. A wonderful herb plant that will do very well when potted for container gardening or in an indoor herb garden. Made popular as a perfume centuries ago when introduced by Spanish conquistadors who had found the aromatic herb in South America. Since that time Lemon Verbena has been used in everything from recipes to soaps. Because Lemon Verbena holds its citric fragrance long after being dried, it makes a great addition to potpourris and herb pillows and can be used in closets and drawers to freshen laundry.

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CHERVIL

Chervil produces flat, light-green, lacy leaves with a hint of anise, and enhances the flavor of chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, and salads. It is an heirloom herb that was most likely introduced to European herb gardening by the Romans. Closely related to Parsley, chervil has become an indispensable herb plant in the kitchen, and a classic among herb plants in French cuisine.

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WINTER SAVORY

A deliciously spicy culinary herb, Winter Savory adds an aromatic flavor to many dishes. Also used medicinally for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Winter Savory, like its Summer counterpart, is a spicy culinary herb from the Mint family that compliments fish, beans, and poultry with its intense flavor. Though it loses some of this intensity during the cooking process, Winter Savory remains aromatic and is often used to flavor liqueurs and makes a beautiful garnish to any salad.

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PEPPERMINT

Like other mints, peppermint is known for aiding digestion and freshening the breath. But peppermint is also a good source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin B. Peppermint is a hybrid mint, being a cross between water mint and spearmint. Peppermint oil can be used for flavoring but is also useful as a natural pesticide. It has been shown to reduce the effects of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint prefers rich soil and partial shade. Like other mints, it spreads quickly, so consider planting it in containers.

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STEVIA

Stevia is an attractive looking plant and a natural sweetener. The added benefit is that there are no calories. Stevia is part of the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions in the Western hemisphere. While it’s a perennial plant it will only survive in the milder climates in North America. Still, you can add stevia to your garden for the summer. It is also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf and is grown for its sweet leaves. Stevia can be used as a natural sweetener and as a sugar substitute.

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LEMONGRASS

Lemongrass stalks can provide antioxidants such as beta-carotene and a defense against cancer and eye inflammation. Lemongrass has a strong lemon flavor. You can brew it in tea as well as use it as an herb seasoning. To grow this outdoors, you need to live in at least Zone 9. Outside it can grow up to six feet high but will be notably smaller if you grow it indoors.

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BERGAMOT (BEE BALM)

Gaining renewed popularity as a culinary herb, Bee Balm makes a wonderful addition to pizzas, salads, breads and any dishes that are complemented by the herb’s unique flavor. Minty and slightly spicy, Bergamot makes a great substitute for Oregano. Bergamot has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians used this hardy perennial in poultices to treat minor cuts and wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by gingivitis, as the plant contains high levels of a naturally occurring antiseptic, Thymol, which is found in many brand name mouthwashes.

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OREGANO

Oregano is also part of the mint family and is native to the warm climates of Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Oregano is a perennial plant but in colder climates can be grown as an annual. It is sometimes called wild marjoram and is closely related to sweet marjoram. Oregano is used for flavoring and is a staple herb of Italian American cuisine. In the United States, it gained popularity following World War II as soldiers returned home with a desire for the “pizza herb.”

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CUTTING CELERY

A more flavorful choice than its crunchier cousin, Cutting Celery is a leafy, aromatic herb that can be substituted for celery in dishes if you want to add flavor without the stringy fibers. Often mistaken for flat-leafed Parsley, Cutting Celery has a dark, glossy leaf with a serrated edge and small sprig-like stalks. The leaves and stems can be used to add flavor to salads, vegetables, stews, and soups.

If you grow your herbs indoors you can enjoy them fresh year-round. But if that’s not an option, consider freezing or drying some of your own herbs to have available for cooking year-round. When you’re ready to buy herb plants, please check out our online store.

The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

Basil: We love it. It’s become a household staple and a beloved friend. It tastes great and enhances everything. No wonder the word “basil” comes from the Greek word for “King.” But, when you stop to think, how much do you really know about that Basil sitting on your windowsill? This “King of the Kitchen” has a fascinating secret past, and surprising origins! Learning the facts will give you some mind-tingling trivia to use at the dinner table, and just might put a smile on your face next time you make your grandma’s marinara recipe.

Basil Basics

What do Basil, Mint, Rosemary, and Sage have in common? Hold onto your chair! They’re all related. Is your mind blown?

These plant-cousins seem vastly different in looks and tastes, but they are all part of the Lamiaceae plant family, which has about 3,500 species! In fact, the genus we know as Basil (ocimum basilicum) has 150 varieties.

That classic variety you’re probably thinking of right now is Basil ‘Genovese,’ aka: Sweet Basil. But, there are plenty other types of this royal herb that deserve attention. Tulsi, or Holy Green Basil, is revered for its religious significance and health benefits. Then, of course, there’s the dark and glossy Basil ‘Amethyst,’ and the ‘Thai Siam Queen,’ who graces us with her sweet licorice twist. And that’s just to name a few!

Care

The good news is, all of these Basil plants require the same type of care. So, if you want to experiment this growing season and try out a new variety, don’t despair! Just follow these basic care tips:

  • Soil: Select a nutrient rich, well-draining soil.
  • Water: Basil hates soggy roots. The soil should be kept slightly damp, rewatering before it has dried out in its entirety. If you’ve opted for container gardening, check your soil an inch or two down with a chopstick or your finger. If you used a traditional potting mix instead of the recommended well-draining soil, water less frequently. Tip: The best time to water is in the mornings or evenings. This will help prevent the foliage from getting sunburned from the harsh afternoon sun!
  • Light: These herbs love the morning and early afternoon sun. They require 6-8 hours of natural light per day.

If you are growing your Basil indoors, they still have the same natural light requirement. Put them near your sunniest window, and supplement with a grow light. If you opt to use a grow light-only, Basil requires 10 hours of artificial light.

  • Harvesting: You should do this frequently to encourage your Basil to become a mighty bush! Check the stem and locate an area where two pairs of leaves are growing; cut the stem just above. This means the two stems will continue to grow, amplifying your plant’s productivity.

Fast fact: If harvested properly, twelve Basil plants can yield 4-6 cups of leaves per week! Having trouble using that much basil? You can always freeze it. Simply pulse the washed leaves in your food processor with some olive oil (to prevent the leaves from turning black in the freezer) and put it in an ice cube tray. Viola! Fresh Basil whenever you need it.

The Origins of Basil

When you hear “Basil,” what country comes to mind? Italy, no doubt! And for a good reason: Pesto, Pasta Sauce, and Caprese Salad are some of our favorite Basil-forward dishes. The cruel irony, however, is that Italy’s favorite herb is not a native of the Mediterranean.

Basil was a transplant during the spice trade from India and Asia. No one is entirely sure who gets dibs on its origin. The first historical record of Sweet Basil was in 807 AD in the region of Hunan, China. However, Basil’s roots run deep in India, where Hindus revere it and use it in the ancient worship of the god Vishnu.

The confusion about the exact origins of Basil is a testament to its hardiness! Wherever this plant goes, it can grow and propagate. This also highlights the rich history of container gardening, which aided in Basil’s transport.

Historical Significance

People in ancient times were fascinated by our favorite herb. Basil became an integral part of religious traditions and the topic of some intriguing folklore. Perhaps funniest of all: Many of the concepts are in stark contrast to each other. So, will we never know all of the secrets Basil has to hold? Read on and draw your own conclusion!

Basil is a central part of Hinduism. Holy Green Basil is offered to Vishnu, when worshipping her, making it a common feature in Indian gardens. During the British occupation, Indian citizens were permitted to swear on Basil rather than the Bible when in court, highlighting just how esteemed this herb is in Hindu culture!

The religious significance of Basil transcends belief-systems, as the Greek Orthodox Church uses the same type of Basil to prepare their holy water.

Jewish tradition says that Basil can give you strength when fasting. While Italians say that Basil helps you have a restful “abbiocco” (after-lunch nap).

Many cultures also revered Basil as a way to gain favorable passage into the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians used it in their mummifying procedures. Other cultures would place the herb in the hand or mouth of the deceased.

John Keats famously wrote a tragic love-poem surrounding Basil Folklore, entitled “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil.” While we will save you from some of the grisly details (this story makes Romeo and Juliet sound like a kid’s cartoon): A forlorn girl uses a pot of Basil to preserve her dead beau, only to “die forlorn, imploring for her Basil to the last” after her brothers steal her beloved herb. (Don’t get this attached to your container garden, please!)

Meanwhile, in Africa, Basil was used to ward off scorpions. While in European cultures, just one whiff of Basil could apparently infest your brain with them!

Italians saw Basil as a signal of love. Portugal too, uses Basil as a gift to your sweetheart during certain religious holidays. While ancient Rome and Greece felt that Basil symbolized hatred, abuse, poverty, and misfortune.

 

Who would’ve thought that we had such a world-traveler on our hands! Next time you pick up some fresh Basil, take a couple of seconds to reflect on how far this ‘King of the Kitchen’ has come. (But smell it at your own risk!)

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Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

LIGHT:

Light is the most crucial element for their success ~ even direct light is a challenge in the winter when intensity is reduced.  Your herbs will need at least 6 to 8 hours of indirect sun a day (for the most light needy herbs, the ones that say ‘bright light’ or ‘full sun’).  There are those that recommend acclimating your plants to lower light by gradually adjusting them to lower light conditions.  Great idea, but ‘ain’t going to happen’ in my case.  My space gets morning and afternoon sun, so I am lucky in that we are talking 8 hours per day.  You can use grow lights, but since I have no experience with them, a Google search is advised.  You are going to see a few changes in the plants due to this decrease in light:  your herbs may drop a few leaves.  The plant is actually shedding its more inefficient leaves by producing more efficient leaves higher up, closer to the light source.  The plant may get a big leggier as it reaches for the light.  I recommend that you turn the plant periodically so that it receives light on all sides;   you’ll know it is time as the plant will ‘lean toward the light’.

WATER:

‘Not too much, not too little, just right’.  That is hard when they come indoors.  The really trick is to find that balance.  In general, begin to water LESS often and MORE thoroughly.  Make sure that the soil is dry to the touch before watering, and when you water, make sure that the water runs out of the pot.  Drainage is key, so make sure that you use a well-draining pot.  My favorite pots are your run of the mill, red clay pot.  If you plants are small, a 6” pot will be perfect.  And, make sure that you are using a quality potting soil.  Not making a ‘plug’ for one soil over another, but Miracle Grow makes a good indoor mix that we’ve used for a few years.

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FOOD:

Although we aren’t big promoters of fertilizer ‘in the field’, we do recommend a nice supplementary feeding when your plants are confined to a pot, growing indoors.  Again, just our recommendation ~ a top quality fish emulsion every 2 weeks when the plants are in their ‘grow phase’.  Stinky but effective!

PESTS AND DISEASES:

No one wants to think that they are harboring these ‘nasties’ but you’ll never know what can be lurking inside.  Actually, some of these pests may just piggyback on your plants as they come home to roost.  Bottom line:  be vigilant.  I used to wait to act, but now I’m encouraging everyone to ‘be proactive, not reactive’.  Herbs are more susceptible to common pests when growing indoors, so keep your eyes open for whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and the WORST of all – scale insects!  I’ve begun a routine of regular spraying with an insecticidal soap.  If it works in the greenhouse, it should work on my sun porch.  There are a number of safe and effective products out there, so take a look.

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ACCEPTING THE INDOOR CHALLENGE:

I’ll be the first to admit it:  growing herbs indoors is not as easy as growing them outdoors.  But, rest assured, it can be done.  Since I have a lot of greenhouse space, plenty of light and water and 24/7 attention, I never felt the need to grow them indoors, at home.  But, over the years, as your questions about indoor growing became more numerous and specific, I began to grow more and more of them in our bright little ‘life of it’ room (named by my then 6 year old son, who on a cold wintery day, proclaimed that our warm sunny haven was ‘the life of it’) – not sure where that came from, but it stuck.  Twenty -three years later, it’s still bright and sunny and filled with herbs ferns, gardenias and a lot of citrus trees and bushes.

Our room is glass, on three sides, and has an east, south and west exposure;  basically we have a lot of light all day.  We have an old fashioned radiator backed up by a small baseboard electric heater.  I am always out there, watering, cleaning, trimming and keeping a sharp eye out for any potential pests.  So, the basics: lightheatwater and lots of attention.  I do a weekly spraying with a ‘safe’ pesticide made from … herbs!

The second vital component is knowing which herbs do best indoors.  We try to be specific on our site, and try to provide information on why some herbs do well indoors and why others should not be grown indoors.  Do yourself a favor and take our advice.  

Start small and try to pick three or four of your favorites – the ones you will use.  I’d suggest mintparsleyoregano and thyme.  Rosemary and lavender are a bit trickier but they can be successfully grown indoors remembering that lavenders must dry out well between waterings.  A note of cautions – make sure that you don’t crowd out your plants, as good air flow between plants is a must.

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A Time to Plant, Fall Herb Gardening

A Time to Plant, Fall Herb Gardening

Spring: The Fickle Season

Ah, Spring ~ the fickle season. Bringing us out on a lovely day then slapping us back inside with an unexpected snowstorm. “Cover the__” – {you can fill in the blank!} And on the other side of spring, another lovely day followed by a scorcher  “Water the __” {and fill in the blank!}

Spring is such a frenzied time for a gardener, and so many of us, tired of the dreary winter, tend to jump the gun and live to regret it. Yes, even veteran gardeners give into emotion when we see all of those bright annuals luring us into the garden center in March. What we don’t see, however, is their weary staff trying to hustle carts back into the greenhouses in the evening after a snap frost has been forecasted. Or, planting early when the soil is still cold, being frustrated by no growth.

Fall: The Stable Season

Let’s talk about the less emotional side of autumn. If Spring is a drama queen, then Fall is the more stable sister season; less intense in terms of mood swings. We glide into cooler days, cooler air temperatures are easier of plants, the soil remains warm and allows roots to grow longer than the spring, up until a freeze. Plants can devote their energy to growing tough, strong and healthy root systems. Harvesting herbs in the fall is a joy. The sun is less intense in the fall, and not only is that better on the plants, what about the gardener?

Pre-Order Fall Plants

These plants ship in the Fall, pre-order today as plants will not last! 

Fall Planting Is For The Grower Too

Right now, in mid-summer in Zone 7A, I find myself gardening in the very early morning and harvesting late, almost dusk. It’s hot and humid in my garden, and I’m at war with all of the pests and diseases and weeds that are just waiting to invade. Honestly, gardening in July is a challenge.

In autumn, your biggest challenge is keeping those pesky falling leaves at bay with a leaf blower, but one the biggest advantages is the lack of insects. Give me the cool and pest free days of autumn. Sure, there are mosquitos and a few other challenges, but I’m much better equipped to deal with them in autumn. Right now, they just make me cranky!

As we begin growing our Fall Crop, over 150 different herb plants, we turn our attention to helping our customers understand the value of growing in autumn.  

Many culinary herbs grow best in the fall season. Take some time to review the plants we offer, think about your own wants and needs in both fall and spring … and summer, and realize that planting these herbs in the fall not only gives them the best start, but it provides you with both a fall and spring/summer crop as well as gives you the opportunity to garden at what we think is the BEST time of year! 

The Beauty of Fall

Following the progression of the seasons and anchoring us to nature’s rhythm, even if we can only follow a few moments a day.  But those few minutes are enough to relax our thoughts, lower our blood pressure and give us a restart; recharging us to take on the day! We at The Growers Exchange believe everyone should have their own little garden spot, no matter how big or small. Whether you have ten acres or ten inches, we know how important gardening can be. Your outdoor plot or indoor pot can sometimes be the only oasis in a busy day of fast paced living. We applaud your green thumb, and  if you have one, we have an interesting assortment of plants, we can help beginners, and as always, we send healthy, well rooted plants. Our success depends on your garden success; we want to help you grow!