Herb Gardens

Herbs, taken by Tricia Weber

Herbs, photo taken by Tricia Weber

I recently taught a herb gardening class and emphasized how easy herbs are to grow. Friends always ask, “what should I plant?” The best way to get started is to make a list of herbs you want to cook or make medicine with.

Herbs can be used to make teas, tinctures, honey, or salves, all of which are easy to make. If you are not familiar with a particular herb, make sure to do some research so you know which plant parts to use as not all parts are edible. Also, know which species to use, for example black and blue elderberries are edible but, not the red. There are certain plants such as nettles that need to be harvested at specific times in the plant’s life cycle. Some herbs are best when harvested in year two of its life (typically true when harvesting roots).

See the lists below suggesting ways to use specific herbs. All the plants listed can be grown in the NW and in more gardens in the US. Many of them are perennials and will return the following spring. I recommend purchasing herbs in 4-inch pots to get your garden started. Some herbs are easy to grow from seed such as: calendula, borage, oats, nasturtium, sunflowers, and basil.

You don’t have to grow all the herbs you want to use as many are available at farmer’s markets, co-ops, herb stores or can be harvested from the wild. I have placed an asterisk next to the herbs that tend to be invasive and are best purchased at the store or vigilantly contained in your yard.

Herbs for an every day tea
nettles, chamomile, lemon verbena, peppermint*, spearmint*, oats, red raspberry (leaves), thyme, basil

Sleepy time herbs
catnip, chamomile, hops, skullcap, motherwort*, valerian

Herbs to promote relaxation and calming
valerian, skullcap, chamomile, catnip, wood betony, hops, oats, St. John’s wort*, lemon balm* , lavender, holy basil

Respiratory system herbs
elecampane, blue or black elderberry (not red),echinacea, garlic, cayenne pepper, marshmallow, sage, yarrow, hyssop, lobelia, eucalyptus, Oregon grape, mullein, fenugreek

Digestive system herbs
mint*, parsley, catnip, thyme, oregano, coriander, dill, chamomile, fennel*, rosemary, marjoram

Herbs for making skin salves
St. John’s wort*, calendula*, chamomile, peppermint*, arnica, plantain

Edible flowers
nasturtium, violet, borage*, calendula*, pansy, sunflower, hibiscus, chive blossoms

Herb vines
hops, passion flower, grapes

Wild foods to cook
dandelion*, nettles, horseradish, watercress, nettles, chickweed, amaranth*, burdock*

Edible berries
blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, huckleberries, kiwi, figs, gomi,aronia, Chinese wolfberry, akebia vine, blue or black elderberry, cherries, choke cherry

Herbal bath salts
lemon verbena, rose geranium, lavender, wild roses, rosemary, peppermint*

Herbal honey
roses, elecampane,cayenne pepper, blue or black elderberry

Pollinator attracting herbs
echinacea, bee balm, basil, yarrow, wild roses, calendula*, chamomile, mints*, borage*, motherwort*

Some of my favorite herb gardening books
The Family Herbal, Rosemary Gladstar
Growing 101 Herbs that Heal, Tammi Hartung
Herbal Tea Gardens 22 Plans for Your Enjoyment & Well Being, Marietta Marshall Marcin
Easy Growing, 
Gayla Trail
Designing the New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook,
Jennifer R. Bartley

Where to Buy Herb Starts in Portland, OR
Farmer’s Markets
Garden Fever
Portland Nursery
Livingscape Nursery
Dekum Street Doorway
New Seasons
Whole Foods
Blue Heron Herbary

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