Medicinal herb gardening is a wonderful way to begin incorporating permaculture into your life. Growing useful medicinal plants allows you to experiment with small-scale sustainable gardening methods while helping you learn how to create your own home remedies. You can grow herbs to use towards treating basic ailments to maintain your and your family's health while cutting health care costs.
It is easy to successfully practice medicinal herb gardening whether you have a large yard or just a couple of large pots or planters to work with. Permaculture considerations include careful selection of plant species, companion planting, and efficient design and layout.
Think about what you want to use the herbs in your medicinal herb gardening project for and choose ones that will help you achieve your goal. Here is a short list of a few great herbs you can start with:
The concept of companion planting is well suited to medicinal herb gardening. Companion planting is the practice of putting specific plants together so that they gain mutual benefits from each other such as pest control, encouraging higher yield, bringing up nutrients from deeper down in the soil and similar functions.
When you are using the herbs mentioned above in medicinal herb gardening, consider the following information on companion planting:
Whatever space you have available, whether deck, small yard or several acres, medicinal herb gardening is possible and fun! Keyhole and spiral garden designs are two great permaculture techniques for maximizing limited space when making a medicinal herb garden.
Keyhole Beds: To create a keyhole garden bed, start with a circle of soil about 8 to 12 feet in diameter with a path coming into it on one side. Let the pathway end in the center of the circle, and leave yourself a circular space of 18 to 24 inches so that you can turn around. Make your beds 3 to 5 feet across. Plant the herbs in concentric rings in the beds. If you have the space, it is also possible to do multiple keyhole beds that branch off from a main pathway.
Herb Spiral: To start a small herb spiral, make a mound of good soil that is about 3 feet high and 5 feet across. Then, place fist-to-head sized rocks in a spiral pattern that winds from the bottom inward to the top. Leave around a foot of soil between the tiers of the rock spiral. Then, plant your herbs into the soil of the spiral. If you have more room, you can consider make more herb spirals or a much large spiral mound system for your plants. The spiral creates microclimates which can be used to aid the growth the plants in your medicinal herb gardening project. Plants like Rosemary, lavender and yarrow are sun loving species and might do best on the South side of the spiral. Meanwhile, plants that like cooler, moisture-rich environments such as parsley and peppermint can be placed in the North side of the spiral.
As you work on your medicinal herb gardening project, remember to think about what your goals are with the garden, what species of plants you would like and how you would like to design it to fit your needs. Enjoy getting your hands dirty and watching your garden grow! It is incredible what you can accomplish with a little bit of soil, some water and a little work!
By the way, a big part of why we love homesteading & permaculture skills so much is because they are a natural extension of learning about wilderness survival (both fields are all about self-sufficiency and working with nature to satisfy needs). An understanding of survival not only helps you become a better permaculturist, it empowers you with life-saving outdoor skills to keep you safe when out in nature. Right now you can get a free copy of our mini survival guide here, where you'll discover six key strategies for outdoor emergencies, plus often-overlooked survival tips.
For more information we recommend: GAIA'S GARDEN: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway
About the Author: Filip Tkaczyk is a periodic guest teacher at Alderleaf. He also wrote the field guide Tracks & Sign of Reptiles & Amphibians. Learn more about Filip Tkaczyk.