Herbal Cultivation

We have a herb section in the middle of our garden as we grow fresh spices for cooking along with teas and tinctures to keep us healthy. I started off mainly wanting to have fresh herbs to cook with. Now, we have a library of reference material on herbs by reputable herbalist and we are much more interested in the healing capabilities and qualities derived from our herb garden.

The hardest part for me initially was figuring out how to identify the sprouts as they came up. I’d kill them as I weed until it got easier to recognize them. Almost all of the images available online are of blooming, fully mature plants which do not look very much like a mature plant when they sprout out of the ground. I really wish that the seed packets would put pictures of what the sprouting plants look like. The cultivation success rate improves along with the ways we utilize the herbs as we learn more about them.

It is important to figure out which herbs are annuals needing careful seed retrieval to replant and which were easy self-seeding varieties. Also, which herbs are truly perennials hardy enough to survive our winters in the Inland Northwest climate. Do I need to protect them with a straw covering over winter? If it dies over winter I put straw over the next year to see if it can survive. It has become easier as we dedicate areas for each herb allowing the perennials room to grow and the annuals places to drop their own seeds.

The herbs established in our garden so far include basil, borage, caragon, caraway, chamomile, dill, elderberry, horseradish, hyssop, lavender, mints (lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint), mullein, oregano, parsley, poppy, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, valerian, yarrow. Following posts will show information and photography of each one of these separately along with information about successfully cultivating.

Transplants from the Garden

Transplanting

We had a lot of transplanting to do just as the soil thawed this spring in the Inland Pacific Northwest. As the years go by I am understanding that gardening is just a constant state of discovery, change and adjustment. Our goal is to promote native berry’s and herbs growing outside the garden and, reserve garden space for the guys that can not survive outside.

yellow cone flower bush

Yellow Cone Flower Bush

My wonderful gardening friend gave me a start for this beautiful flowering bush that is a joy to have in the garden. Last year it was full of yellow flowers all summer long. However, had decided that my herb garden is heaven and grew to 8 ft tall and wide in diameter. A case of yellow flowers on steroids! I planted it in the middle of my mint patch and by the end of the season, the mint was struggling to survive. It took over, Oooops!

To resolve this, I spent a day getting to know a shovel intimately. Digging around it and lifting a huge root ball approximately 5 ft in diameter. It was so big that I could not pick it up so I cut it into three sections to be able to get it into the wheelbarrow. One was moved to an open area by the strawberry patch, one was put next to a pine tree inside the drive-in gate and the third section was put outside the walk-in gate as an experiment to see if the deer will leave it alone. This way, if the deer decide it is a scrumptious delicacy we will still have two viable bushes in the garden.

choke cherry bushesChoke Cherry

Next are the choke cherry starts that I got from the Spokane County Conservation District (SCCD) a couple years ago. This is a gardening outlet that I look forward to getting starts from each year, because they are reasonable and the plants are tested for success in our climate. You can sign up for the SCCD newsletter at their website.

As you can see here, these were in the bottom of my herb garden at the retaining wall. They were growing to get big enough for the deer to leave them alone. These guys were taking over the lower slope of the herb garden, so we had to transplant them outside the garden. Do you know about the choke cherry, here is some interesting info about them? Bet you didn’t know all that.

herb garden wall rebuildWe had to remove the retaining wall to be able to dig up the choke cherries. Here is the wall rebuilt afterwards and the herb garden is ready for replanting again. If you look up at the top by the strawberry patch you can see one of the yellow cone flower transplant starts there.

Elderberry BushElderberry

These elderberries were quite prolific last year. This is one herb I love to keep on hand to keep flu and colds at bay. The Elderberry bushes are moved outside the garden this year too.

goose berry bushGooseberry

Now, the gooseberry bush, which has the most vicious thorns I have ever experienced. Honestly, it would make an excellent border hedge to keep all manner of beasts at bay. It is being moved out of the garden as a matter of self-preservation for me because I have grown weary of being poked and cut by this bush. If the deer like this berry, then I guess they are welcome to it, cause the wounds are not worth it to me. I am hoping my attitude will improve with a little distance from this guy.