It’s wisest to let Nature have Her way. Nature has her own agenda, and your life as a gardener will be simpler if you bow to Her desires. Better to dance with the fairies than fight with removing “weeds”. What herbs already grow around you that you could use as teas and seasonings? Most regions are abundant in these plants, both native and introduced. Many will be delighted to grace your garden with very little effort on your part. Some will look; others might wish to be transplanted. Still others are just there, waiting for you to detect.
As an example, pine trees.
Pine needle vinegar is an exquisite treat that’s easy to make. I call it homemade “balsamic” vinegar. Fill a jar with pine needles. (I prefer white pine, and pinyon pine is much better, but the fibers of any pine are fine) Cover needles completely with apple cider vinegar, filling the jar to the top and capping with a plastic lid or a piece of plastic wrap held in place with a rubber ring. This vinegar, like most that I create, is ready to use in six weeks. Pine vinegar is full of flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. It helps keep the immune system strong, and strengthens the lungs also. I really like it on salads.
Your house, like mine in the Catskills, provides increased hips and sumac berries for vitamin-C rich teas; spice bush berries and leaves to indicate the tastes of bay and allspice; and the origins of sweet clover to use as a vanilla substitute.
Grab a local area guide and go searching for all of the plants that are indigenous to your region. For instance, if you reside in the northern states like Minnesota, a excellent book is”How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine, and Crafts”, written in 1926 by Frances Densmore who gathered information from the Minnesota Chippewa. There are lots of similar guides available.
Why use native plants?
They are usually hardy survivors and obviously adapted to the area, occasionally requiring less watering and attention. Whether in the wilds or in your backyard, Nature is ever-ready to supply you with everything you need with little if any input from you. Plenty of medicinal and edible plants covers every inch of my backyard – and I did not plant any of these. With just a little help from me (I spread mulch a few inches deep in my gardens spring and autumn, and keep them fenced against my goats as well as the marauding deer), my gardens grow: garlic mustard, chickweed, violets, dandelion, curly dock, nettles, burdock, wild madder, crone(mug)wort, wild chives, poke, catnip, malva, wild mint, bergamot, cleavers, motherwort, chicory, raspberry, goldenrod, creeping jenny, barbara’s cress, evening primrose, milk weed.
The next best thing to allowing Nature plant your herb garden for you will be to place in perennials and let Nature take care of them. You’ll discover the best plants for your area at a plant swap at a local church or school. Nurseries, especially the email order ones, offer a great deal of different sorts of crops, but only some of them will be equally productive and carefree.
The most reliable perennial herbs are Echinacea, comfrey, elecampane, wormwood, and thyme, on the hardiest members of the aromatic mint family.
Cuttings of different mints are simple to find and simpler yet to establish. Chocolate mint and red bergamot are two of my favorites, but do not be choosy – accept all mint cuttings you’re given. Perennial aromatic mints – like lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, oregano, pennyroyal, and catnip, in addition to spearmint and peppermint – form the”backbone” of most herb gardens. Just grow them in full sun in poor soil and do not overwater.
Anyone that has a comfrey plant will be pleased to offer you a “beginning” (a bit of the origin ). And, once placed in, comfrey is a friend for life. Ditto rhubarb, whose origin is a potent herbal medication.