Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Growing Your Own Herbs

If you are new to natural health or self-sufficiency, growing some of your own herbs for cooking and home remedies is a great place to start (or you can be experienced, but interested anyway). Much of our intellectual, spiritual and emotional development as humans has come about because of a millennia-long relationship with plants, which the more recent, but still outdated, "better living through chemistry" philosophy has caused many of us to forget. But herbs can still do more than just look pretty in your house or on a plate, if you care for them correctly.

One of the most essential factors in growing your own herbs is sun exposure. Most will need at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day, which varies by their origin and the climate in your region. If you're growing them on a windowsill or balcony, it is best to have them facing south or southwest; east or west is okay, but north-facing windows or balconies are least preferred. The majority of herbs can also thrive in containers, but it is essential to use ones that are well-drained and are at least 25 centimetres, or 10 inches, in depth. Otherwise, there are many different items you can use to make cute containers, as long as they are large enough and have drainage holes cut into them.
Source: Sean Freese

It is also best to group together herbs with similar needs. For example, basil, parsley and fennel are sometimes known as "vegetable culture herbs", which need to be watered well in summer and fed with fertilisers containing vegetable-appropriate levels of nitrogen. "Mediterranean climate herbs" include chamomile, sage and oregano. These need very well-drained soil and do best with mushroom compost and sometimes an annual application of lime. Mint, lemon balm and watercress are some "ample summer moisture herbs" that also thrive the best in high-nitrogen (vegetable appropriate) soil and should not be allowed to dry out (surface mulching may be advisable). With short-lived herbs, you can also save seeds.

So which herbs should you grow? Many have their own health benefits, so it is a matter of personal preference. For example, rosemary may boost memory, improve circulation and even help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Oregano can improve immunity and fight some bacteria and viruses. Paprika, made from chilli peppers, may fight the H. pylori bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. Additionally, apigenin, a phytochemical in parsley, has even been found to prevent colon cancer. Although the studies which show these results would be using extracts more potent than culinary use, growing and using your own herbs may help with general health maintenance and complement treatment plans made by naturopaths and other practitioners.

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