Written by Meg Dickey, Contributing Writer

This month at Keeper of the Home, we’re discussing Gardening 101, and we’re continuing this week with the second part of Gardening with Herbs 101. Let’s jump right in to my favorite part of gardening: what to grow!

First, consider your needs:

What herbs do you love the smell of? What tastes do you enjoy adding to your food? What tea are you always splurging on? What kinds of medicine does your family use during the year? Do you want a garden your children can enjoy too? Are you in need of a quiet place to spend an early morning?

The answers to these questions will give you a great start to what herbs you might enjoy in your garden. Stephanie gave some great tips on how to plant a garden that works for where you live last week, so keep those guidelines in mind as we choose our herbs.

Theme Gardens

I adore theme gardening. It’s not for everyone – I have several friends who find the idea of organizing such a thing daunting, and would rather have a beautiful hodge-podge of plants scattered throughout the yard. The idea behind theme gardening is to group plants together according to their uses. There are many ways of choosing which ones fit your needs best. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Kitchen Garden

This is the most basic of herb gardens, and can easily be purchased as a kit from a local store. You do not need much space to provide a surprising amount of fresh herbs for your kitchen.

A Kitchen Garden in a Pot

Our first kitchen garden was a windowsill garden. It contained rosemary, lavender, sage, and thyme – perfect for a quick herbs de provence blend for soup, or to season a homemade dressing. Other excellent herbs to add are tarragon, dill, marjoram, basil, oregano and chives. I am also planning to add a bay tree at some point in time, since I use bay to flavor so many things!

I think one of the best ways to plan a kitchen garden is to make sure it’s close by. If you have to walk out back, around the corner of the garage, and 6 feet past the swingset to pick your herbs for dinner, it’s far more likely you’ll just reach for a bottle out of the cupboard, or worse, simply forget about the plants sitting back there and pick some up from the store. You can have different pots of herbs on your back steps, on your front porch, or even hanging from the porch ceiling, but you should be able to get to them easily.

Medicinal Herb Garden

This has to be the biggest money saver for our family, hands down. After spending so much money on herbal teas, medicinal tinctures, and various other remedies, we finally clued in and spent our money to build a medicinal herb garden.

A whimsical medicinal herb garden

I sat down one evening and poured through my herb books, checking to see what herbs were used most often in our home, and what was practical to grow in our area. I also chose those plants which were better utilized fresh, as well as noting what herbs were the most costly to purchase outright. Because we mix and sell herbal blends and tinctures, we wanted to make certain we had quality plants to start with. Growing our own was a great way to get that security, as well as cut down our overhead costs.

Our medicinal garden contains lavender, catnip, poppy, feverfew, chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, St. John’s wort, nettle, plantain and calendula. I will also be attempting to add lemon myrtle tree and an elder tree (for berries and flowers) at some point in time. Other excellent options would be tulsi (Holy Basil), arnica, or angelica.

Children’s Herb Garden

I don’t know about anyone else’s children, but mine LOVE dirt. If I am out in the garden, they all want to be out there too, helping to dig holes, pour water, and watch things grow! We started giving our boys garden chores last year, and they thrived with them. This year, we’re taking a little different tack, and allowing them to choose their own plants, as well as maintaining them.

Our boys working in the berry gardens

Our boys specifically requested “teepees” for their gardens this year, so we’ve planted climbing sunflowers to cover their hideaways [in addition to the pole beans]. Other great ones to let the little ones try out are pineapple sage, lemon balm, or any of the scented geraniums, which come in scents like lime, apricot, orange, and strawberry.

Children also get a kick out of smelling the plants in the mint family, especially peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint. Our boys also like to “heal themselves” with plants, so we try to make sure there is at least one aloe plant where they can find it. 🙂

There are so many other options for theme gardening – potpourri herbs, medieval, butterfly, shakespearean, pizza or Peter Rabbit (two great children’s options). Here are some great resources to consider:

Are you excited to start your herb gardens yet? I know I am! What herbs are you considering for your gardens this year?

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