Living a natural and holistic life has many aspects, which require being mindful of what you eat and where you source your food. To live as holistically as possible, consider growing your own herbs at home. Not only can you use herbs for cooking, but you may also use some in your natural wellness cabinet. And growing them yourself helps save money, ensures you have the most organic herbs possible, and produces more pride and gratitude in witnessing your ability to cultivate your family's food ingredients.
Before getting into gardening specifics, let's quickly cover why growing herbs is important.
Growing Your Own Herbs To Save Money and Live Healthier
Yes, growing your own herbs can help save money and support your body's living healthier.
Instead of buying all your herbs, which should be consumed within a year, you can grow them yourself and just walk outside or up to your container and harvest some.
Growing your own helps you to create the supply you need without paying the price of the herb, the logistics of transporting the herb to your grocery store, and the storage costs for warehouses and grocery store shelves, not to mention the contribution to employee salaries and other business expenses involved.
Example: Cost Analysis for Rosemary
To give you an example of how growing your own herbs can save you money (which isn't something most parents think about), I looked at my local grocery store for dried and fresh rosemary and compared it to a rosemary plant.
- Price for a 0.5 oz sprig of organic rosemary in the herb section at my local grocery store: $2.20
- Price for a 1 oz dried rosemary leaf jar: $2.69 (non-organic)
- Price for a small organic rosemary plant containing roughly 2 cups of rosemary: $2.99
As you can see, it makes more sense financially to purchase the rosemary plant and cultivate it to provide an endless supply of on-demand rosemary harvesting than to buy containers. After the first harvest, your rosemary plant (and other herb plants) will have already saved you a trip to the store plus the cost of your rosemary.
Additional Benefits Growing Your Own Herbs Yourself
You also have access to the herb at home, so there's no worry about running out when you need it for a recipe, losing potency if it's been sitting too long in your cabinet, or going bad over time.
Plus, you have complete control over how your herbs are grown, so you won't have to worry about how your herbs were farmed and whether harsh chemicals were used.
Knowing how my family's food is farmed is especially important to me, especially after spending nearly a decade enduring a chronic autoimmune and neurological health crisis that was put entirely into remission using natural methods and cleaning up our food habits. Enduring such health chaos before having kids taught me the need to instill good habits in children while they're young. It also motivated me to continue using healthier lifestyle habits, so I can enjoy my time with my kids longer.
6 Simple Steps for Growing Herbs
Growing your own herbs requires a learning curve, especially if you're not a seasoned gardener. However, once you are confident and know what you're doing (and what to expect), gardening is fun, therapeutic, and financially worth the effort.
You will also enjoy the foods you grow as they taste so much better than what you find at the store.
Not to mention your faith grows, too, as you develop a deeper connection with God, feeling thankful for the harvest He provides.
1. Strategize Your Needs
The first step to growing a herb garden is to prepare. Before making decisions on what you will grow, and all the gardening logistics related, you'll need to know your intentions.
- What do you plan to use herbs for?
- How often will you need to harvest your herbs?
- How much will you need to grow to sustain your family in your use plans?
- Will you need an outdoor or indoor herb garden?
For example, if your family consumes basil regularly, you would be wise to plant at least one plant per person. Maybe add an extra one if you wish to harvest some for other herbal uses (like in personal care creations, tinctures, salves,…etc.).
Most Common Herbs for Families To Consume, Use, and Grow:
Some of the most common herbs used by families all over the world include:
- Bay Leaf
Thankfully these common herbs are also some of the easiest herbs (and plants in general) to grow.
Which plants to choose should depend on which herbs you're planning to use (or which ones you most often use). For example, if you don't use mint often, you probably don't need to plant it. If you never use dill, it doesn't make sense to plant it. If you use more sage than bay leaves and have limited space, you may want to prioritize sage over bay leaves or choose to place bay leaves in a smaller kitchen container.
2. Create a Garden Plan Before You Begin
You want to take some time to figure out what you will grow, how much of each plant you will need to grow, where you will place your garden, and how much room you will need.
When you're just getting started, research comes in handy.
Gardening is much more than buying seeds and fertilizer and shoving them in the ground. To maximize your harvests and minimize your headaches, you need a plan and to know what to expect with your plants' needs.
- How much space will each plant need? Some plants may only need a few inches, others may need 2-4 feet of growing space.
- Will you be using inside growing kits?
- Will you use a system that doesn't require dirt? (I use and love this aquaponics garden from Amazon)
- How much sunlight do your plants need?
- Does the area you're planning to use have good soil drainage?
- What risks does each plant pose? (Insects, nutrition needs…etc.)
- How can you arrange them with companion planting? – Companion planting helps to return nutrients to the soil, and may deter a variety of pests.
- What fence ideas will you need to deter deer or scavenging animals?
- Which herbs are perennials in your area? For example, rosemary is often a perennial and can be grown like a hedge in warmer climates.
3. Decide Whether To Buy Seeds or Starter Plants
There are two primary ways to grow herbs:
- Start them from seeds (I like using seed starting trays to make it simple)
- Purchase plants already started for you
Naturally, starter plants will be much easier, especially if you are a beginner gardener.
If you start your plants with seeds, you can use a few helpful tools to make it easier.
Where To Buy Quality Seeds
I came across several places to find heirloom non-GMO seeds to bookmark after seeing numerous reports of seeds purchased at local grocery stores and big box stores not performing as well as they have in the past in terms of plant growth and how well they produce.
The list is a bit too long to add here, so check out these reputable places to purchase your seeds from.
Where to Purchase Quality Starter Plants
I'm sure you're well aware of different growing conditions: organic vs industrial agricultural. However, not many families know that the same rules apply to purchasing plants.
For example, most plants sold at big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes are sprayed with pesticides known for killing bees. These pesticides are also neurotoxins and often can cause reproductive system harm in humans too… not something you want in your garden, let alone to cook with or to use in herbal healing tinctures or salves.
There are a few places you can find plants, even locally.
First, check with local gardening groups online or a local plant nursery (not from a big box store, but a dedicated nursery).
Often in our area, we find farmers and local nurseries selling pre-started herb and vegetable plants.
I often also see local families looking to sell pre-started herb and veggie plants, give them away, or trade for plants they don't have.
If you're in an area where finding pre-started herb plants is difficult, there are a few online places you can go to.
4. Become Familiar With Each Herb's Needs
Before you plant your herbs, understand what each herb needs you to do to care for and grow healthy.
By knowing what your plant needs, you'll avoid frustrating (and potentially costly) herb garden mistakes.
Every herb has different growing guidelines:
- How much water it needs,
- How much space it needs,
- How often it needs to be watered,
- How much direct sunlight it needs,
- Whether it should be planted in a container or in the ground
Mint grows and spreads very fast. When we bought our house, the previous owners planted some mint and tomatoes. I smiled, seeing how proud they were, and imagined all the minty things we could do with it. Then later that summer, the mint took over everything, including growing rogue in our yard and other in-ground planter boxes! Turns out mint works best in a container by itself. Mint grows well in full sunlight and also in partly shaded areas.
Rosemary grows better in cool climates that have sun and needs to be brought indoors during the winter. It is also a great plant to grow as a short hedge in warmer climates. Rosemary is also one of the few culinary plants you can grow in your front yard without breaking most HOA rules. It even grows well in small containers in your kitchen if you have a kitchen window that sees a lot of direct sunlight.
5. Care For Your Herbs as They Grow
While many herbs may be grown indoors in containers, they must be close to a window or have access to a timed grow light.
If you don't have windows with direct sunlight beaming through, your plants may need to be moved outside for at least a few hours, as most herbs should get 3-4 hours of direct sunlight each day, depending on which herbs you're growing.
You will need to actively pay attention to sunlight amounts, temperature control, watering amounts and frequency, and using suitable soil (adequate pH levels, proper fertilizing techniques…etc)
Far too often, new gardeners forget to water their herbs regularly. Figuring out the right frequency may a little tricky to figure out. Instead of just watering on a consistent schedule each week or every few days, check the soil often to determine what your plants need. You'll know it is time to add water when the soil feels dry a few inches below the surface.
6. Harvest Your Herbs When They're (And You're) Ready
Your herbs will grow more and be healthier with more frequent harvesting.
Of course, you'll want to look at each variety's instructions to better understand harvesting guidelines.