Tag Archives: kitchen garden

Finding my Feet in the Garden Again

lagerfeld roseYesterday I had a major anxiety meltdown.  It made everyone miserable.  Today I have a huge emotional hangover.  The best thing I know of to cure it is to hang out with plants.

P1010317So before I go get some bean seeds and squash plants from the nursery I am sharing some pictures of how the front garden is coming along.  Many things are settling in and just now starting to make new growth.  These pictures are from a week ago.

P1010319Those tomatoes are in.  I didn’t start my own seeds this year so I’m at the mercy of the local nurseries choice of toms.  So far we’ve got: Sungold, Japanese Trifele, Pineapple, Cherokee Purple, Ethiopian Black, and Anasas Black.  (Wishing I could have found Caspian Pink and Aunt Ruby’s German Green)

P1010321Sharon gave me a bit of comfrey root and I wasn’t sure it was going to make it – but it did!  I’m pretty excited about this.  Don’t you dare tell me how it “takes over” as though that’s a bad thing.  Comfrey is one of the best medicinal herbs there is so bring it the hell on!

P1010318The border against the porch is really coming along well.  All the roses, having been fed a couple of months ago, are thriving and are covered in blooms and buds.  We cut our first bouquets of the season and for days I’ve been enjoying the heavenly rose scent next to my laptop in my office. iceberg budIceberg is a workhorse.  We’ve missed having it in our garden.  Beautiful small blushed blooms with a medium honey-scent.  Wonderful for filling in bouquets.

People stop and stare at our garden now every day all day long.  And not as though they were wondering how such a trash heap was allowed to flourish.  They LOVE it! They tell us how much they love it all the time.  A UPS man slowed down to tell me the garden was looking great.  A group of hoodie and skinny pants -wearing teens walked by and I heard one of the guys say “I can’t wait to see what they do with this next!” pointing at the raised beds.  Seriously.  Teens love our garden as much as the older set do.

It’s childish of me but it makes me giddy to say I designed and built them every time someone asks.  I’m that proud.

On earth day I was writing but I stopped to go plant my Abraham D’Arby rose and do a little weeding.  Perfect day.  Perfect moment.  Everyone knows I’m not a fan of sunshine but I will say that when it’s mild enough even I can enjoy the feel of it on my back.  The alyssum smells strong when the sun is out so the yard smelled like honey.  I picked my mom and I each a little vase of roses.  That is a chief pleasure in life of mine.  Deadheading roses and picking bouquets to bring in the house.  My therapist said I needed to do that as often as possible because I mentioned it as one of the few activities that I find truly calming.  Anxiety is an insidious bitch and she took me the hell down yesterday.

Today is gorgeous out and so I believe the best way I can push the lingering threads of stress from my head and body is to put my hands in that soil out there and open packets of seeds and play that game where you put them in the soil and hope something comes of them.  You never know with seeds.  I’ve got some Alpine strawberry seeds I’ve been meaning to plant.  I’ve been hesitant because I don’t want them to fail.  Today I’m going to sprinkle them out in different areas and just let nature decide what to do about it.  There isn’t enough time in life to sit on seeds when you can throw them out into the world and watch for the tough suckers that pop up.

On my day out Friday I spent about an hour at a bus stop waiting for buses that didn’t come.  I picked up trash and I enjoyed the scattering of chamomile.  I don’t know what kind it was – no petals on them – the scent was more pale than on the Roman or German kind you grow in your garden but had the unmistakable smell of chamomile.  I’m not sure if chamomile has a wild cousin or not, I will find out another day.  I just enjoyed that a carpet of it was thriving in the hardscrabble behind the bench at the stop.  I feel like I’m one of those scrappy little buggers, just hanging on through drought and flood.  Popping back up after being walked on carelessly.  Multiplying its universe against all odds.  And for the desperate traveler they offer succor to an aching head.  If only the traveler would bother to know what’s right there under his feet.

I hope your garden is breaking out of its winter shell now.  I hope you’re able to get out in it.  I’ll be connected to you all today when I’m out there blackening my nails. xo

december nasturtium

Garden Wish List for 2013

december nasturtium

My mind is turning towards my garden and all that I want to do with it and plant in it and the things I want to change in it.  At the moment I am struggling to make myself new clothes because suddenly everything I wear has holes in it or stains on it and I don’t have a lot of choice and I have decided that since I may be obese for life regardless of good healthy changes I make to my life – I am determined to stop being so drab.  Making clothes requires pattern work and lots of time.  I need to finish this before I get my hands into the yard – but while I’m sewing I keep trying to organize in my head all the things I want to grow.

We mostly have low maintenance shrubs and plants here.  A couple of things we do have that are awesome:

a lemon tree (not a Meyer I’m happy to say)

A white peach

a gardenia

a few roses

freely seeding salvia and alyssum

The trees and roses all need big help.  The peach has been in a barrel for years without the bottom cut out – so it need the bottom cut out as was done for the lemon so it can spread its roots.  It needs a little compost and fertilizer – as does the lemon.  Both produce fruit (I just had broccoli yesterday with lemon juice from our tree!) but need care.  The roses are in dire shape as they’ve been in the shade for years.  They are horribly spindly and thin – they all need to be moved up front to the strip of dirt in front of the porch and they’ll need rose food to help them along.  The wee gardenia has a bud but it is being crowded out by a really big hideous shrub-turned-tree that I am going to completely remove.

What I want:

Culinary herbs: rosemary, lots of thyme, Greek oregano, Mexican oregano, winter savory, French tarragon, dill, parsley, sage, and marjoram.  (I would add basil and cilantro but I’ve never done well with either)

Fruit: a yellow peach tree (or two, dwarf), an orange or tangerine (though orange might get too big), gooseberries, lingonberries, wild strawberries, currants, blueberries, kiwis, and Red Flame grapes.

Flowers (both annuals and perennials): penstemon, scabiosa, lavendar, rudbeckia, cosmos, nigella, bleeding heart, coreopsis, campion, dahlias, nasturtiums, and columbine.  Also hundreds more I can’t think of right now and probably don’t have room to grow.

Medicinals: calendula, comfrey, peppermint, feverfew, catnip, chamomile, and other things I can’t remember right now and need to look up.

Vegetables for this year:  cucumbers (fresh eating), lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, green beans, summer squash.  Just the basics.  Even if I get a couple of raised beds going in the driveway I won’t have much room.  Perhaps snow peas too?  If so I should get those going soon I think.  That would be good for both salads and stir fries.

One last thing I want to grow in this garden if I can are mushrooms.  We have all that shaded area and a big oak – some mushrooms like oak trees.  I want some half rotted logs innoculated with spores to try and acclimate with plenty of mulch and obviously moisture when the season comes.  I must look into this.

So what’s on your garden wish list?

An Apartment Garden in Portland

I love how more and more people are turning their yards into edible landscapes.  I especially love to see this happening on the grounds of apartment buildings.  When I lived in the JC neighborhood in Santa Rosa I had a neighbor who was a great inspiration to me – he rented a small apartment just down the street and had almost no yard space but not to be discouraged he turned the sidewalk curb strip into a miniature garden in which he grew garlic and greens and tomatoes.  In his small place he was busying brewing wine and making cheese.

It’s so easy to be defeatist and assume that if you can’t grow lots of food or make lots of your own preserves that you shouldn’t bother growing or preserving anything.  My neighbor taught me that the important thing is to be doing whatever you can for yourself, that growing your own food, even if it’s a few heads of garlic and some salad greens, is an act of freedom and of self sufficiency.  It’s about keeping your connection strong between yourself and the soil that nourishes you.  It’s a little bit like a prayer or a meditation and it’s a lot like feeding yourself the highest quality nourishment you can even on a micro-scale.  Learning how to grow things and preserve food is tapping into knowledge that is at the core of the success of human beings as a species.

In a more pessimistic view it’s also what’s allowed us to overpopulate the earth and conquer nations and fight wars.  Growing things allowed humans to settle down and stay put through the seasons.  Agriculture allowed us to stop roaming.  The evolution of food preservation is what allowed humans to cross oceans and to cross masses of land to attack other people.  Without drying and salting foods armies couldn’t go far.  So in a weird way, while I’m eulogizing the wonderfulness of growing and preserving foods I’m also celebrating what has made humans the most terrible virus on earth.

Still, those humans who know how to grow their own food and how to preserve it for later use have truly valuable knowledge and in times of war or natural disasters this kind of knowledge gives you better chances of survival.  Plus, everyone will want to be friends with the person who knows how to make alcohol from apples and who can make sources of protein rise from the ground in plant form when there’s no meat to be had.  The person who knows how to pull wild yeast from the air and mix it with flour to make bread is like a magician when there is no bread and no packaged yeast in the stores.

I am happy every time I see evidence of humans getting into the soil to grow their own food.  City gardens are hopeful and resourceful.  I always stop to enjoy them whenever I see them.  This garden has some really big beets that are ready to pick.

It’s time for some lemony beet salad!

This Week’s Garden Harvest

This is what I harvested from the garden this week: some cayenne peppers (many more are almost ripe, but not quite there yet), rose hips from my French wild rose, and a handful of snow peas.

I halved the hips and gutted them.  They are now drying.  I tried getting all the hairy bits off but with no success.  That stuff can, apparently, irritate your throat if ingested.  I guess I just have to make sure to use muslin bags for making tea with them.

I haven’t had a lot of time to play in the kitchen and I still have those same pesky preserving projects hanging over my head.  I would truly like to get them finished this weekend.  I need to move on with my writing.  I’m also going to have to clean my house pretty seriously because in a month there are going to be a lot of people in it.  I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Preserving left to do:

sugar up the grape juice to make syrup, and can it

Apple sauce, can it

Quince in vanilla sugar syrup, canned

Shred all the giant zucchinis and freeze them

I have heard from some of my friends that they’re winding their own preserving projects up but are having trouble, like me, getting it all done between work and other responsibilities.  We do it because it’s important but there’s no question that doing a lot of preserving takes time.  What I’m tired of is having jars everywhere, on every surface, and all my equipment out.  I’m ready to put it all away.  But it would be silly to do it before I’m done.

I’m going to go get dressed, go to the Saturday farmer’s market, and then I’m going to get some of this done.  Plus cook a farewell dinner for really good friends who are moving back to Utah.  Boooooo!  We are devastated.  We must feed them so well they will immediately plan they’re first vacation to visit us.

What are you all working on this weekend?  Is your canner finally back on the shelf?  Are you wrapping things up or still in the thick of it?

A Garden Surprise and a New Garden Hero

I was waiting for these currants to turn red, the way you do when you’re growing red currants.  They have stayed this pretty blush color for a long time.  Now some of the berries are shriveling up like raisins.  This was a clue to me that these fruits were not going to turn red.  I had this flash of memory back to the time I was agonizing (in the most enjoyable way) over which currant varieties to buy.  I couldn’t help but be attracted to the champagne currants for their ethereal paleness.  I was completely blinded by the romance of them.  In the end I decided that they probably wouldn’t taste as good as the red ones.  I tend not to like pale versions of food.  Except for cauliflower.  I don’t like white eggplants, white asparagus, or wax beans (pale yellow).  So I ordered the red ones.  I ordered three plants.  One died.  I finally planted the two surviving ones and this year (the first time in three years) it produced a few clusters.

So here we are today with two champagne currants.  Isn’t it strange how sometimes what we want comes to us even when we decide we really don’t want it?  I’m going to cut these today and see if they taste good.  They may not because they’re quite old at this point.  Still, I’m not sorry that the universe handed me my fanciful plant wishes – just look how the blushed berries are illuminated by the sun?

If we get to keep the house then I’ll plant a couple of red currants as well.

I have a link to share that I saw on my friend Ann’s blog Thoughtherder which you should check out just to read about her adventures in not using shampoo.  She posted this video of Ruth Stout and I am so charmed by this lady!  You really must watch this film of a wonderful gardener named Ruth Stout.

Thank you for sharing that, Ann!

I have another link to share with you.  If you do any foraging for wild food you will be amused and you will feel yourself in excellent company: Stalking Boletus Edulis – Or How Mushrooms Caused Me to Engage in All Seven Deadly Sins

I still haven’t foraged for any mushrooms but this only serves to wet my appetite for hunting mushrooms.

We got our first real harvest of tomatoes yesterday and they are so good!  Especially the Black Krim which is one of my very favorite tomatoes of all time.  This weekend I canned dilled beans/carrots/zucchini.  7 quarts.  Yesterday I canned 11 jars of blackberry jam and have a discussion I want to start about reaching gelling points with other canners.  Next up, hopefully this weekend, my mom and I will try to get a box or two of pickling cucumbers from Sauvie Island to make my garlic dill pickles.  We’re out and it’s devastating!

What’s going on in your kitchens and gardens this week?

August 2011 Garden Update


Thanks to my mother our garden is doing great.  She’s the one who’s been watering every other day (manually) and mulching and planting.  While I’ve been working and writing and preparing for my trip she’s been out there working hard.  These are Romano beans (Helda) and they’ve become my favorite now.  They can get quite big and still not be tough or develop beans inside too fast and they taste wonderful.  I’m done growing Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder, both of which have performed poorly for me in the last few years.

I actually know a few people who don’t like tomatoes.  I’d be devastated if I became allergic to them.  I look forward to them every year with the same fervor some teens look forward to seeing Justin Bieber in concert.  (I know all about Justin Bieber because my ten year old son mocks him at every opportunity)  Everyone in my area keeps saying this summer is even colder than last summer but I don’t believe it.  I have lots of tomatoes and there’s plenty of time still for them to ripen.

Bee balm.  It’s such an outlandish flower.  We already had quite a lot of flowers to attract beneficial insects but my mom has added a lot more.

I don’t care what Oregon says*, Buddleia is gorgeous and definitely brings the butterflies and hummingbirds around.  I didn’t buy my  buddleia, I got it as a volunteer from the neighbors.  I will concede that it’s a bit pesty the way I keep finding more sprouts which get woody and dug in really fast if I don’t rip them up at first sight.

Squash!  Everyone jokes about it but for us it isn’t growing so valiantly that we must share it with anyone at this point.  The two crookneck squash plants died.  One of our zucchini plants is a little yellow and small and that leaves just one trooper that is giving us some promise but the delivery has been nothing to brag about yet.

Thank you mom!

*Buddleia is considered a noxious weed in Oregon and it is illegal to buy it.  One of those ridiculous laws that defy sense since nurseries are allowed to sell it.  Maybe the law is that you’re not allowed to grow it.  You can buy it but not grow it?  In the Master gardening program I asked some very keen questions about it but naturally the answers just went in circles.

Strawberry Jammy Sauce or Saucy Jam?

For the first time in my gardening life I had enough fruit from my own yard to make jam.  For anyone who has dreams of living off the fruit of the land, this is a beautiful and triumphant moment.  Although, I suppose it’s a little less triumphant when I report that the bed of everbearing strawberries, from which this incredible bounty grew from, did not produce consistently good tasting berries the way my June bearing patches did.  We couldn’t stop eating the ones that came from the June bearing patch but these ones… eh.  So making jam was less about using up the crazy excesses of my bountiful yard as it was about finding a way to make them taste better.

I will take this moment to dispel an insidious myth that everything you grow yourself tastes better.  Not true.  This deserves an entire post on it’s own.  I’ve grown carrots that were, indeed, better than any carrot I’ve ever bought.  I’ve also grown carrots that were woody, bitter, and stupid.  In that order.  There are so many factors that go into what makes a vegetable good: variety planted, soil quality, frequency of watering, heat available to plant, etc.  It’s really annoying when everyone out there claims that everything home grown is better.  It annoys me, but apparently not everyone else.  It also may indicate that they have magic soil and mine is just ordinary.

Back to the jammy strawberry sauce.  Or saucy strawberry jam.  Whatever.

You are always going to get the best preserves from using the freshest and best tasting fruit.  Truly.  But the magical thing about jam is that if you have a somewhat watery flavored fruit, cooking it down a little with a lot of sugar can result in a more intensified flavor so that a mediocre strawberry will make a good flavored jam (and an ambrosial flavored strawberry will make something you want to describe in some stupid poetical way that will make everyone around you want to hit you).   I chose to use a recipe from Hilaire Walden’s book “Perfect Preserves” which is full of dreamy recipes for what promise, right on the cover, to be perfect preserves.

I think if you’re not me making perfect strawberry jam might be a cinch.  But I AM me.  I am an excellent food preserver.  My pickles are renowned (and not just limited to my close small family circle either, at least two friends have raved as well!), my blackberry jam has given much pleasure, my pickled cauliflower is shiny, my canned peaches coveted.  I’m not bragging, I’ve just practiced a lot.  Except with pectin.  Pectin and I have yet to come to an understanding.

I’ve used several varieties and several recipes and sometimes it works out well and I can’t understand how come people make such a big fuss about it (mostly me), and then other times I follow the exact same instructions and it doesn’t set.  I used timers and everything.  I am not a sloppy preserver.  You already know the end to this story because I gave it away in the title of this post.

My strawberry “jam” didn’t set much.  It’s definitely thicker than sauce, but likewise it’s thinner than what I like to experience in a jam.  It’s not Hilaire’s fault.  I know the fault must lie in my own methods, or in the natural pectin levels of the fruit I was using being perhaps unusually absent.

It doesn’t actually matter because it tastes SO good!  No watery flavor at all, nice and rich and exactly what my idea of perfect strawberry jam tastes like.  There is a quality some strawberry jams can get that’s almost – I’m not even sure if this would be the right word- metallic.  This doesn’t have that unhappy quality.  It’s sweet without shriveling your teeth up.

So I’m happy.

Which I better be because I took 6 1/2 pounds of berries and turned it into 15 half pint jars of strawberry jam.  I’m not done with pectin yet.  I think we’re going to come to an understanding soon.

Beautiful June

June in my garden means all of my roses are either blooming or are just about to bloom.  While I was working on the novel the other day my mom surprised me with this vase full of gorgeous “Cottage Rose” roses, a David Austin variety.  I don’t know how this rose behaves in anyone else’s garden but in mine it is towering and reaching and wants to be a climber.  The roses are prolific and gorgeous.  The scent is light but definite.  Roses in my garden either have to have a scent or they have to perform some other purpose (rose hips, for example).

Here’s “Cottage Rose” in its natural environment, the jungle of my yard.

This is my bean bed which is coming along nicely.  I need to buy another bean packet to fill in some holes where beans didn’t pop up or where they were eaten to the ground.  I planted all I had in this bed.

I’ve grown bush beans and they’re good but my favorite is always the pole bean.  I am growing Scarlet podded, Helda, and Lazy Housewife.

I have some wild purple lupines from a wild seed packet but this one my mom bought at the nursery and I can see it from my eyrie of an office.  I’ve been enjoying the almost coral color mixed with the orange calendula and California poppies it shares a bed with.

I have been wanting to grow red currants forever.  I have made several failed attempts.  For the first time I’m getting berries and they’re so pretty!  Gooseberries are another ambition I have and now I’m encouraged to try for them next year.

This week we finally heard from the bank about our house.  Through a gross miscommunication we have been applying for the HAMP loan for a year and the bank was ignoring us because our bankruptcy file never officially closed.  You can read about it on my other blog if you like “If My Bank Was My Boyfriend”.   The upshot is that they aren’t ignoring us anymore and we should find out whether or not we get to keep our home within the next month.  Now I’m looking around feeling both dread and excitement at the same time.  I find myself saying (constantly) “If we get to keep the house we’ll replace those dying diseased peach trees with more “Frost” peaches…” or “If we get to keep the house I’m going to plant a gooseberry…” or “If we get to keep the house we’ll get a tub we can actually soak in…”

The reality is that if we get to keep our house we’ll be so broke we’ll just have to sit tight and buckle down with budgets and make do with what we have and there will be no real improvements for the foreseeable future.  I can live with that.  For the chance to see my sour cherry tree mature and put out a full crop?  For the chance to harvest our first Spitzenberg apple?  Worth the poverty.  Not having to move, not having to leave this house we love, not having to uproot ourselves to God knows where and in what hovel… completely worth being broke as dirt.  All my fingers and toes are crossed.  We think the numbers are in our favor and the bank says the only thing they care about is the numbers.

Whatever the outcome, I’m enjoying my roses and seeing my fruits and vegetables growing and maturing.  June is a lovely month in Oregon.

Flowering and Fruiting in the May Garden

Lilacs are something I didn’t see that many of when I lived in California but here in Oregon the landscape is covered with them and May is when they flower.  I have several in my garden but since I didn’t plant them myself I don’t know what kinds they are.  I have two white ones and this is the first time this one has put off more than a couple of blossom clusters since I’ve lived here.  I love it.  Philip isn’t crazy for the scent of lilacs in the house, he thinks they’re overwhelmingly soapy.  I love it.  The scent on this one isn’t particularly strong, a disappointment to me, but at least it’s beautiful.

This is the first time my red currants have produced any berries.  The plants (I have two) spend an awful long time in their pots so it’s not surprising.  Now that they have a good deep spot of soil to reach into they are much happier and I’ve got several clusters of berries on them.  Not enough to do much with but it makes me happy anyway.

Borage is an amazing plant to have in the garden.  Bees love it so it helps the pollination of everything else to have it growing near all your fruiting plants.  This one’s very small but they do get enormous and they’ll seed freely.  Some people think this is a nuisance but I don’t.

This is my bed of tomatoes and calendula.  I’ve got: 3 Siletz, 2 Jaune Flamme, and a Sungold.  I need to have black tomato varieties too.  So I’d better get another bed cleared of quack grass.  Yeah, no problem.  I’ll get right on that.

I’ve never done square foot gardening but my mom is giving it a try in this bed.  She’s got it marked up and soon will plant it out with seeds.

It’s good to mulch your strawberry beds.  My mom covered ours with straw and with the sunshine we’ve been getting (not a lot, but enough) and the slightly warmer temperatures have given them an enormous boost of growth and though you can’t see it well in this picture, they are blossoming.  This is a bed of ever-bearing which means it doesn’t produce quite as large a berry or as large a June crop but will continue to produce for a few months.  Last year I was getting berries through October.  Just a few here and there.  If you want to make jam or pies with your strawberries you’re better off planting June-bearing varieties that tend to produce large amounts in a single crop and often the berries are of larger size.

Not pictured is my 8×4 bed of pole beans- the first few bean sprouts have emerged.  I love green beans and I don’t think you can have “too many” because if I can’t keep up with fresh eating I love to marinate and can them.

What’s going on in your own garden right now?

Essentials for Every Medicinal Herb Garden

My mother has a certificate in herbology and a lot of experience growing, using, and foraging medicinal herbs.  She’s shown me how to make salves and at one time made me and my siblings all herbal first aid kits which included tinctures and salves she made herself.  My favorite item from that kit was her comfrey salve which I found very useful for many applications.

I believe everyone should grow medicinal herbs in their gardens.  You don’t need to be an herbologist to make use of medicinal herbs safely.  A couple of good herb books is all you need.  I am no enemy to modern medicine and depend on it for a number of things I could never find relief for with herbal medicines.  I believe in an integrated approach to medicines: take the best from the East and the West, take the best from the present and the past.

I always grow medicinals because they are generally gentle, cheap, and can be incorporated into your everyday health regimen.  There’s another reason I think everyone should grow some medicinals: what if commercially produced medicines were to become unavailable to you?

You should have on hand some herbs that you can use in emergencies to do things like reduce fevers, bring swelling down in sprains, heal cuts and bruises, treat burns, calm nerves, detoxify your liver, disinfect wounds, and reduce the symptoms of influenza.  Growing herbs to meet all these basic needs is neither difficult nor need it take up too much space in your garden.

How do you choose the essentials?  My mom and I love this game.  There is a dizzying number of medicinal herbs and plants that you can choose from to grow in your own yard, so how do you narrow it down?

  • Make a list of common issues you and your family experience: skin issues, headaches, colds, anxiety, persistent coughs… think of all the things you routinely find yourself needing to treat and include all first aid things you keep on hand.
    • Consult a reliable herbal book.  Look through the lists of herbs, read what each of them do, and discover which herbs are the most recommended for the needs of your family.  Most libraries will have several you can check out if you don’t have any of your own.  I will list some titles you can rely on for good information (these are all books I personally own and trust):

      “Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar

      “Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine” by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson  (published by National Geographic)

      “The Essential Natural Health Bible” by Nerys Purchon

      “The Complete Herb Book” by Jekka McVicar

      • When you have a list of all the herbs most likely to fulfill your family’s particular needs and those of general first aid, cull the list down to the ones that will grow well in your climate and ones you have room for.  Don’t exclude culinary herbs from this list, many of them have great medicinal qualities that improve your health simply by being used frequently in your cooking.  Thyme, for example, is a powerful antiseptic properties in addition to adding great flavor to soups and other savory dishes.

        While I believe choosing the herbs you grow should be based on your personal needs, there are herbs I believe everyone should be growing in their gardens regardless of who they are.  I’m going to give you two lists to start with.  The first will be a list of the herbs I think every single garden should be growing, this will be the bare essentials.  The second list is the one my mother and I have come up with for our own garden.

        Essentials for Every Medicinal Herb Garden:

        Comfrey – absolutely essential for healing cuts, bruises, burns, and sprains; the roots are great made into tea for your bath as it will soften and heal skin.

        Calendula – great for all skin issues (softens, cleans, heals), anti- inflammatory, antifungal.

        Thyme – strong antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antispasmodic properties.

        Sage – sore throats, antiseptic, immune booster, colds, and treats nervous exhaustion (I should be drinking this every day!).

        Peppermint – stimulating, refreshing; good for relieving indigestion, tension headaches, and spastic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract.

        Aloe Vera – soothes cuts and burns, nourishes and moisturizes skin.

        Elderberry – reduces severity of influenza symptoms, immune system stimulant, reduces fevers, colds, and ear and throat infections.

        Rosemary – good for digestive ailments, increases circulation, colds and flus, mouthwash, dandruff, and may ease depression and fatigue.

        The only one from that list that not everyone may be able to grow in their own garden due to its size is the elderberry.  Elderberry can be kept pruned to a reasonable size but left to its own devices it will become a big tree.  If you have room: plant it!

        Here is a complete list of what I will have in my own medicinal garden with the items I already have planted asterisked:

        Echinacea, lovage, rosemary*, comfrey*, beebalm, arnica*, calendula, balm of Gilead, borage, sage*, tarragon*, winter savory, feverfew, peppermint*, nasturtiums, parsley*, thyme*, vervain*, elderberry*, mullein*, oregano*, marjoram*, plantain*, roses*(for rosehips), and lavendar*.

        There are so many amazing and useful herbs you can plant in your garden.  Aside from the benefits these herbs offer to you personally they are also great for attracting beneficial insects that will increase pollination in your other plants and help keep in balance the pests that hurt your soil and plant health.

        What herbs do you grow and what are you planning to add to your garden this year?  I want to know!