Starting an Medicinal Herb Garden

Introduction

This was a good basic introduction / Materia Medica.

So its finally that time of the year when one prepares for spring and all that goes with that. One of the big projects we have going on this year is establishing a medicinal herb garden. I started learning about medicinal plants back roughly around August of 2013. By the end of September I had read the book “The Herbal Handbook” by David Hoffman (on the right). While reading this it was quite clear that we needed to get started on a medicinal garden that we could create tinctures, salves, poultices and other medical items. The wife and I already drink quite a bit of medicinal teas and are becoming more knowledgeable about plant medicines all the time. I am also now taking the online Herbal Medic course over at The Human Path so I will continually be evolving my knowledge of medicinal plants.

Here is a little bit about our plans for a medicinal garden and the steps we’ve taken thus far.

Seed Varieties

I came across Horizon Herbs and saw that they had an unbelievably massive selection of medicinal herb seeds. Also recently Grow Organic started carrying some of their major medicinal seeds. Grow Organic was having a new years sale (I think 15% off all orders) so I loaded up with the majority of the seeds that they carry that I knew about, but knew that some were missing from their selection, so I made another purchase at Horizon which I received recently.

These are the following Medicinal Herbs that we purchased.

Common Name Latin Name
Passionflower, official Passiflora incarnata
Anise Pimpinella anisum
Astragalus Astragalus membranaceus
Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum
Burdock, Gobo Arctium lappa
Cleavers Galium aparine
Costmary Tanacetum balsamita
Cowslip Primula veris
Dandelion, Wild Taraxacum officinalis
Echinacea laevigata Smooth Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower
Echinacea sanguinea Sanguine Purple Coneflower
Elderberry, Black Sambucus nigra
Elecampane Inula helenium
Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis
Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
Horehound, White Marrubium vulgare
Hyssop, Official Hyssopus officinialis
Licorice, Official Glycyrrhiza glabra
Marshmallow Althaea officinalis
Plantain, Broadleaf Plantago major
Poppy, Zahir Papaver somniferum
Saint John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum
Slippery Elm Ulmus rubra
Tansy Chrysanthemum vulgare
Tarragon, Mexican Tagetes lucida
Thistle, Milk Silybum marianum
Tulsi, Rama Ocimum sanctum
Valerian, Official Valeriana officinalis
Wormwood, absinthe Aremisia absinthium
Yarrow, Official Achillea millefolium

Starting The Seeds

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We are starting the majority of the varieties in a green house tray under florescent lights. I pulled out all of the varieties that do not require any special attention (like scarification or stratifying) and the ones that I could plant in trays or pots. The remaining seeds will be planted directly into the garden during spring, or will be handled in a special way (such as Slippery Elm, which is a tree).

I first used tape to set up the boundaries and columns/rows of the tray. I used Letters for columns and numbers for rows (like a spreadsheet). This way I could record which variety goes where on a piece of paper using letters and numbers. Example: A1-A3, I4-I6.

 

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Letters for columns.

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Numbers for Rows.

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All seeds completed.

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Excuse my handwriting, but this is my notes of where each one is where. I used the latin names to try and reinforce learning them by their latin names.

Their Final Home

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The first few beds of the eventual medicinal garden.

Here are some pictures of the areas where these plants are eventually going to go. We started work on this most of sunday. This area has intensely compacted clays from when they built the house so we used our new 14″ broadfork to break up all the way down. (It works AMAZING, its a MUST have tool). We then flipped over the sod, carved out paths and then used the good soil on top. We then purchased some top soil and compost to put on top.

We will be making most of this area a medicinal garden and an overall nice place to be. We have a lot more beds to go, which we’ll just make as we go. I put a cover crop which should be germinating here soon.

 

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It has rained it’s butt off for the last two days, and the only location where there is standing water in these beds is in the walkways. The beds are now extremely deep and very well drained.

Conclusion

I will have to keep you guys updated on how the medicinal garden goes. This will be the first leg of this project where eventually we’ll be using these plants to propagate all over the property. Plant seeds are definitely not cheap, so getting a good stock going is quite important for the long term. Each packet is about 2-4 dollars and its only a hundred or so seeds. Definitely way too expensive to throw all together and broad cast with the trees, bushes and other plants that we’re doing. You know Sepp Holzer style. Eventually we’ll get seed heads from these plants and just sprinkle it places, or go through and take and root cuttings. I should note that I didn’t mention comfrey among the list. I already have a bunch of it, which I will be taking cuttings of and putting in the herb garden as well.

2 thoughts on “Starting an Medicinal Herb Garden

  1. Chad

    I have a feeling that you and I will be exchanging a lot of information on this subject. I’ve been trying to expand on our medicinal herbs lately and it’s not always easy.

    Listen here, man. Don’t forget about things like cayenne pepper and horseradish. I take a daily snort of a medicinal snuff from Western Botanicals for my allergies and it has a good mix of cayenne and horseradish, among other things. Is it a cure? No, but it does help sometimes.

    Anyway, some of the usual stuff gets overlooked sometimes.

    I recently ordered some Camellia tea varieties for my wife and caffeine is definitely medicinal and for people like me, an addiction. I’ll let you know how it goes but I’ll probably keep them in a container for a while.

    Some of these herbs can be quite hard to get started. That would be a good subject for the elders to chime in on.

    Mike, again, I hope you post lots of detail on this subject, because everyone thinks that they’ll just grow this stuff and everything will be hunky dory, but it doesn’t always work that way. I’ll try to offer anything new that I discover as well. I have some flax sprouting in the other room but the chicory and the coffee hasn’t yet. Am I doing it wrong? I don’t know.

    1. Mike

      Got the cayenne covered. I’ll be growing tons of those plants this year. I tried growing a bunch last year but didn’t work out. I ended up buying 2 plants from lowes and got a good amount but they just weren’t all that great. (Although we did powder the last bunches we got of them and it was pretty good season wise).

      Yeah christine keeps looking at me to get horseradish. My only problem is like… wow i’m sure a single root of that thing would last me… forever. We simply don’t use it. But I guess i could powder it / tincture etc. She really wants to get wasabi especially now that she has seen a catelog with that. Everything I’ve seen says its hard as hell to get working.

      I haven’t germinated coffee but I definitely have germinated chicory. I have two of them in the garden right now (actually i should say that one died from the super low temperatures). I also have a 2 pound bag of seed of that that i’m going to broadcast seed. I feel like I didn’t have a difficult time getting it to germinate. Spinach I remember being ridiculous tough, but I want to say chicory was one of the easiest. I was doing a similar situation as I’m doing right now. I had it the small peat pots, then put them under lights in the winter. Eventually transplanted outside. One of them is still alive and doing well.

      This is another reason why we have so much garlic in the garden (180ish bulbs). One of the most important medicinal. Like i said in the post I read the packets which are pretty informative. I moved all the ones that require special work to the side and focused on the relatively easy ones. There are a few in this set here that I think are going to be a pain in the butt. But hell I got hickory seeds (15 out of 19) to germinate within 2 weeks (usually takes months).

      If you want a challenge try stevia. And I realized just now that I was supposed to put stevia in one of those… dammit. I have a bunch of seed I saved from last year I wanted to use.

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