Traditional home gardens are here to stay. Not only for those who have the pleasure of having a patio or garden, since in the city it is becoming more and more fashionable urban gardens or the rental of spaces to cultivate.
In large cities, environmental education and sustainable development, and they have as a way to promote it to take advantage of empty land to arrange orchards. In these converted spaces there are areas to plant vegetables and medicinal plants, since the synergistic properties of the mixture of these crops are well known.
When designing a garden of medicinal plants a series of conditions must be taken into account:
- Plant species to choose from
- Size and shape of the orchard
- Combat pests and diseases
- The area where we grow
Table of Contents
The beginning of the medicinal garden
In many countries, the tradition of cultivating certain countries has returned with force to resume medicinal species with healing or gastronomic properties, and with it the formation of orchards, small plots, patios, gardens or even their cultivation in pots.
Although there is a lot of literature mentioning the healing properties of many medicinal plants, in this last century we have lost the ability of our grandparents and great-grandparents to take advantage of these species for healing, aromatic or repellent purposes.
In fact, we can even say that the least developed countries of the planet have a greater habit of using this type of plants, either because they do not have the economic means to acquire drugs (which after all is the product resulting from the extraction of compounds generated by plants) or because they have always been linked to a agricultural culture.
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An essential condition, taking into account the place where we live
One of the important things we have to consider when assembling our medicinal garden is to know the area where we live. Depending on the climate where we are, we will have the possibility of planting certain species. Otherwise, it would be to force the natural mechanism of growth.
Not only the climate, we must also take into account conditions such as:
- Associations between crops.
- The location of the largest and smallest plants.
- Access to sunlight.
- Respect a suitable planting framework for each type of species.
- Take into account the quality of the land and, where appropriate, improve it.
- Avoid planting toxic species (like castor) if animals or children are present.
The orchard, as such, is an association of herbs, shrubs and other plants, each with its use, arranged in different areas, according to the discretion of the farmer. This space can be a garden, a terrace, a school and even a balcony. Each producer will choose, according to his criteria, the way to cultivate, since a garden can demand valuable care time that not everyone can afford. Sometimes a simple growing table satisfies a person’s or family’s eagerness to produce their own plants.
Although everything that has been said before is also conditioned by some things as simple as access to water or surveillance capacity (it is useless to have an orchard of medicinal plants if minimum care is not designated).
The orientation of the aromatic garden
The orientation of the orchard is important, the most recommended being the one that goes from north to south, with the aim of reducing shade conditions. Even so, we will monitor the growth of our plants so that excessive shadows are not generated that harm the development of species with high light needs (rosemary, thyme or lavender are).
The soil or substrate, if we grow on terraces or balconies, must have appropriate characteristics for the growth of plants. When we do it in our garden or outdoor garden, we have to adapt to what the land offers us (always being able to improve its quality somewhat). If we buy substrates there will be no secret; choose one with good drain capacityhe, good moisture absorption and a minimum of nutrient and organic matter content.
With respect to the land we will cultivate, we have to control its pH, its ability to drain the water that we will contribute to the plants, its level of organic matter and its texture. All these characteristics are modifiable by us, as farmers, so that we can improve the quality of our small garden with little economic effort.
Of course, it will also depend on the medicinal plants and aromatic that we cultivate. Some, such as species of Mediterranean origin, are accustomed to stony, rustic terrain and poor soils. Although that does not mean that we have to “copy” this environment, we do not have to spend a high amount of money on excessively increasing the quality of our garden to cultivate. As always, everything will depend on the species we want to plant.
Preparation of the land for the orchard
If we seek to improve the agronomic properties of our soil, the first thing we have to do is create a soft soil with a minimum of organic matter content.
Most aromatic and medicinal plants do not develop roots below 30 cm, so we will remove the soil to that depth and bury this organic matter (compost, decomposed manure, leaf litter, etc.). With this we will achieve improve the physical structure of the soil (texture, porosity level and air content, drainage, etc.).
If we had to delete adventitious herbs to leave our garden ready for planting, we can take advantage of these vegetable remains and reincorporate them into the garden as compost. Of course, we must be careful not to spread their seeds (easily propagable), because we will turn our medicinal garden into a breeding ground for adventitious herbs.
The distribution of aromatic plants
A small trick is to divide the space we have dedicated to the garden into small squares. This way we will know how many plants fit and leave a suitable planting frame. It is interesting, depending on the measures we have, to leave a corridor to access the plants placed in the center. A path of gravel, small stones or tiles is an ideal method to be able to pass without having to crush the ground and make it lose the physical properties we were looking for.
The orchard in containers
If you do not have land but you have a balcony, roof, patio or something similar, you can also create a small garden using containers. In this process anything goes and will depend on our imagination, since you can use all kinds of materials (tubes, boxes, cans, etc.). In any case, it is necessary to consider the special conditions of growing in containers. You have to get a good drainage of the water provided, eliminate stagnant water in the dish and above all, nutrition issues. Keep in mind that the roots are “fenced” in a small space, where they can not get nutrients as easily as they would if they were plants in a conventional garden or orchard.
There are some plants that cannot be grown with others, or require special containers. For example, the mint (Mentha spp) or the fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), they are considered invasive and easily spread along all the terrain they encounter.
There are also some plants that, due to their size and growth, deserve to be individually in containers. This would be the case of the rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), the American mint. (Lippia alba) or thyme.
When distributing the different medicinal or aromatic species, it is necessary to consider whether they are perennial or annual. Also the colors and flowering of each one, in order to take into account the color and improve the ornamental appearance. The association of medicinal plants with aromatics it is extremely effective, since each one has its own essential oils that will create different responses throughout its development (some oils will be repellent, another will strengthen other plants, others will have fungicidal or insecticidal potential, etc.).
Plants that stand out
For its aromatic potential
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) annual grass with yellow flowers.
- Incense (Artemisia absinthium). Perennial grass, with yellow and greenish flowers.
- Holy cane (Cymbopogon citratus). Perennial grass, counteracts soil erosion.
- Coriander (Eryngium foetidum ). Small-sized herb with self-propagation.
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Perennial type herb with yellow flowers.
- Purple sage (Lippia alba). Shrub with small, lilac flowers.
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Annual type grass with white and intense yellow flowers.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Perennial grass with white or pink flowers.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Perennial shrub, violet or pale blue flowers.
- Rue (Route graveolens). Perennial grass, grayish-green foliage, yellow flowers.
- Borriquero thyme (Lavandula stoechas). An aromatic plant with great flowering and aroma.
For its potential as a medicinal plant
- Aloe (Aloe vera). Herbaceous of perennial type with yellow and orange flowering.
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis). Small annual grass, showy yellow-orange flowers.
- Vicar (Catharanthus roseus). Herb that becomes perennial, flowers from white to violet.
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Creeping or climbing plant, large violet flowers.
- Caraway (Carum carvi). Small herbaceous plant with whitish flowering.
- Meliloto (melilotus officinalis). Yellow-flowering fodder plant.
Of course, there are many more, which we will add little by little to our plant sheet.
Planting the orchard
In the garden, to sow medicinal or aromatic plants we can use both vegetative parts (stakes, stolons, rhizomes, etc.) such as seeds (the most common). As most plants of this type are herbaceous, the growth is quite fast, so most people usually use the means of propagation through seeds.
Some medicinal products can be sow directlyhow Calendula officinalis or chamomile (Matricaria recutita), although others, due to their condition, it is worth sowing them before in a seedling or in pots, and after they have germinated and grown (around 10 cm), plant them in the definitive site of our garden.
It must also be said that each plant has its depth, when sowing the seed. They are usually around 10 millimeters on average, although in other cases it also rises to 20 millimeters.
Fight pests and diseases with medicinal plants
We can classify this type of plants as insecticides or as repellents. In most cases, in the natural state that these plants present, they act as repellents. Only when we extract the essential oils or let them macerate, they can act with their insecticidal or fungicidal potential, as is the case with thymol.
Still, when he says “action against,” he means his ability to repel, not kill. That’s why it’s very interesting. integrate vegetable gardens with medicinal plants. This way we will keep more than one insect at bay.