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Winter Health Kick: How to Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Garden

Filled with health benefits, a steaming cup of herbal brew can be the much-needed antidote to those cold winter mornings. For these uncertain times, a step-by-step guide to growing brew-friendly plants at home, and using them to make infusions that soothe and restore. If you’re looking for an easy project to get stuck into this winter, this is your ultimate guide to creating a herbal tea garden at home.

Tea gardens go back to ancient herbalists traditions, which date back to over 5,000 years. Originating in Southwest China, Sumerians would list the names of hundreds of herbs — including thyme, sage, myrtle, mint and marjoram — on clay tablets that were later rediscovered in what is now Iraq. 

Easy to cultivate on a windowsill or balcony, or in any garden bed, and yielding ingredients more potent than typical store-bought equivalents (specimens cultivated in artificial terrains tend to produce less flavour), these plots of herbs and edible flowers offer a chance to reconnect with nature, and a soothing balm for our collective anxieties.

The first step to making a herbal tea garden is to choose which herbs you will be planting. You might like to think about the herbal teas that you enjoy drinking the most, or about the health benefits that you will be seeking from the tea. Some popular herbs for tea include chamomile, lemon balm, fennel, mint and Thai basil. Chamomile tea is known to calm and ease sleeping problems, lemon balm can elevate your mood and decrease stress levels, while fennel and mint teas can help with digestive concerns. For herbal tea gardens, you can also plant flowers such as lavender, hibiscus and calendula which will add a wonderful, fragrant aroma to your new.

How to Plant

To build your herbal tea garden, you will need to buy or source your herbs, a container and suitable soil. Begin by deciding whether you want to plant seeds or live plants. While seeds are more cost efficient, live plants will see their efforts rewarded quicker. For your container, you can choose between pots, planters and window boxes. Any of these are fine as long as the container has some holes to ensure adequate drainage. For your soil, you will ideally use some potting compost but some soil from your garden will be fine as well.

If you’re planting seeds, you need to pour some of your soil mix into your container and spread out your seeds. Cover your seeds with more soil and give them a good water. If you’re planting a live plant, place it in your container and surround it with soil mix. Then give it a good water. If you’re using a large pot or container, you might like to place some gravel at the bottom to help with drainage as well.

While most herbs require moderate and regular watering, you will need to check your specific herb’s or plant’s requirements. A good way to tell if your herbs need watering is to check whether the top soil is dry. If it is, then the herb needs watering. Your herbs will also have sunlight and shade requirements. While most herbs enjoy full sunlight, especially in winter, it’s a good idea to check what each herb requires. That way, you can move their container to a suitable space in your garden or kitchen window.

How to Harvest

“The more you cut, the more they grow,” that’s according to ‘The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants,’ a 2016 guide to home remedies. Once your herbs have grown, you can start picking them. If you’re picking flowers, you can pinch the bloomed flower head and pull off the plant. For leaves, you can cut the smaller stems off the larger stem of the plant. You can pick your herbs as needed but remember to take a mix of large and small leaves so that your plants continue to grow.

How to Dry

In the warmer months, you can snip plants from your garden and put them straight into your teapot, but as the colder nights draw in, it’s worth shoring up supplies by drying what you collect. After picking the leaves and flowers, you can start to air dry them. To do so, simply tie a string around all of the stems and hang the herb bunch upside down in a dark and dry area. The herbs should take around a week to dry and will stay usable for about six to twelve months. If you have cut off the stem, then simply lay the herbs on some wax paper for a week.

What to Brew

Once your herbs are dried and ready, you can start making your herbal teas. Making herbal tea is relatively simple. To do so, place out about a spoonful of loose leaves into a pot and add a cup or two of boiling water. Let the herbs brew into the water for a few minutes and then pour the liquid through a strainer into your teacup. You can also repeat this process in the summer and cool your tea in fridge to make an iced version.

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