As you make your garden plan for spring and you order seeds from catalogs take a moment to think about plants you can grow for their medicinal properties. There are plenty of safe and effective herbs you can grow and use in homemade remedies for everything from first aid uses to illness.
Learning about herbs and all their uses is actually quite fun. It is a perfect way to pass time during the dreary, cold winter months. Make a plan now to come to know the following herbs and plant a few. Then when spring and summer comes try your hand at making herbal remedies. You can create your very own homestead apothecary! Enjoy!
20 Safe Herbs to Grow and Use
Aloe – A succulent prized for its thick gel that is perfect for soothing burns and skin irritations.
Burdock – This tenacious weed is great for skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Calendula – Beautiful flowers that promote cell repair and growth in rashes, sores, and burns.
Chamomile – Gentle but effective in treating colic, indigestion, infection, and more.
Chickweed – Soothes skin irritations and calms itchy eyes. Great eating too!
Dandelion – A great liver tonic and blood purifier. Good for digestion.
Echinacea – Stimulates the immune system and fights off cold and flu in the beginning stages.
Elder – Helpful with fevers, viral infections, and frequent bladder infections.
Goldenseal – Can be used to fight off illness and conjunctivitis. Makes a great mouthwash.
Hawthorn – Can help with cholesterol levels and blood flow.
Jewelweed – Excellent for dealing with poison ivy and poison oak.
Lemon Balm – Helps with depression, memory, focus, and digestive issues like colic.
Licorice – Soothes inflamed tissues such as sore throats and ulcers. Also good for adrenal fatigue.
Marsh Mallow – Lubricates dry coughs and moisturizes the lungs. Also soothes skin.
Nettle – Helps with joint pain, allergies, and hay fever.
Plantain – Often used for wounds, bites, stings, and blood poisoning.
Red Clover – One of the very best vitamin and mineral supplements you could ever take.
St. John’s Wart – Helps with stress, depression, nerve damage, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Valerian – Helps with insomnia and nervous system disorders.
Yarrow – Helps with swelling after injuries, soothes menstrual cramps, and reduces heavy bleeding.
Don’t let the cold temperatures and rainy (or snowy) weather get to you. Spring is right around the corner and there are lots of garden chores that require your attention this month.
February Garden Chores:
- Harvest winter hardy cabbages, brassicas, leeks, celeriac, parsnips, rutabagas, and winter radishes
- Check garden beds, fruit cages, etc for damage after snowfalls
- Start making homemade cloches/hoops
- Winter prune established apple and pear trees
- Prune grapevines and fruit bushes
- Stock bird feeders
- Cover seedbeds with newspaper and cardboard
- Buy/start seed potatoes
- Lay out garden plan for upcoming year
- Order seeds from catalogs (think regional, organic, heirloom)
- Order new asparagus crowns for planting in March/April
- Sow seeds indoors for planting in spring
Gardening can be hard on the environment if you don’t know what you’re doing. This may seem seem impossible since gardening and cultivating the earth seem so earth friendly but think about the impacts of what you are doing. Are you using chemical fertilizers? Are you buying plants raised with bee killing neonicotinoid pesticides?Are you using unsustainable amounts of water? There are eco-friendly gardening practices that you can use to lessen the impact on Mother earth. Here are easy gardening tips you can use to reduce pressure on the environment.
Reduce Water Usage
There are many ways to reduce water usage when gardening. You can use mulch, which will keep water from evaporating into the environment. Mulching reduces the need to fertilize as much too. It’s important to use sustainable and all-natural mulch products that are free from pesticides and chemicals.
Another option is to utilize grey water. The same water you used to shower with or wash clothes with can be used in the garden if you set up a greywater system and change a few household products and practices. Recycled water? Yes please!
Grass is a big water-sucking plant that has no use other than its looks. Instead go with clover, creeping thyme, or even rock. The less grass you have compared to other types of plants, the more you’ll cut down on water waste.
Use Native Plants
When you use plants that are native to your area, it means they’ve adjusted to the climate and don’t need as much outside intervention to grow healthy and strong. Remove foreign invasive plants and replace with what is native to your area. You may have to ask at your local extension service which plants are indigenous to get started.
Invest in Irrigation
For plants that do need regular watering, and gardens, consider an irrigation system that measures the amount of water the plants are getting. This will help you avoid over watering, as well as keep you informed about how much natural rain has occurred so you don’t have to use as much tap water.
A rain barrel to harvest rainwater is another important aspect of any eco friendly garden. Turning on the tap should be a last resort and depending upon how many barrels you have, you can collect hundreds of gallons of water for those times when rain is sparse.
Use Natural Weed Control
Believe it or not, plants have different natural weed control properties. You can control all kinds of pests with the right plants. Consider different ground covers based on the pest you’re trying to avoid. You may want to plant creeping wintergreen, juniper or verbena. You can even use essential oils in the garden. Just remember to plant water-thirsty plants together and drought resistant plants together.
Use Recycled Goods in the Garden
Don’t go out and buy a bunch of brand new gardening stuff when you can repurpose things you already have. This saves money and planetary resources. Instead of seed planters use eggshells, toilet paper rolls, and newspaper. Instead of buying cloches, use milk jugs. Garden fabric for weeds can be avoided with newspaper and cardboard. Get creative!
Use Organic Soil and Compost
To keep your garden and yard happy, it’s best to use organic products that are pesticide free and disease free. By far the easiest and cheapest route is to make your own compost. It is incredibly easy and it turns your soil into nutrient rich black gold! Everyone should have a compost pile.
Use Push Reel Mowers
A push reel mower doesn’t use fuel and it cuts the grass differently than fuel-powered mowers. Plus, leaving the clippings behind can actually help the soil. And if you’ve cut down the areas that have grass, this will be perfect for your postage size of grass. Oh, and if you allow clover to overtake the grass you have to mow even less!
By implementing these eco-friendly gardening practices, you can cut your own carbon footprint to the point where you may even negate it. We need to be leaving the soil better than we found it!
One of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly things a gardener can do is recycle water for use in the garden. Harvesting greywater to water vegetable plants and trees helps them thrive during times of drought, reduces your carbon footprint on the earth and will also help to lower your household’s water expenses.
What is Greywater?
Greywater is water that has already been used in other household applications and gone down the drain. Water from sinks, showers, bath tubs and washing machines is called greywater. The used water will have traces of dirt, soap, hair, grease and household cleaning products in it which makes it have a grayish color, that’s how the gently used water got its name. These trace elements in the greywater can actually be good for plants and provide them with nutrients that help them grow. It all depends on what else gets washed down the drain.
Water from toilets is not suitable for recycling in the garden, nor is laundry water which has been used to wash cloth diapers. Toxics like paints, hair dye, or harsh cleaners, should never enter the greywater system, and should instead be routed through the municipal sewer.
How It’s Harvested
It will require a little elbow grease and perhaps some ingenuity to set up a catchment system for the greywater so it can be harvested and re-used.
PVC pipe can be attached to the drain systems of sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines so the used water can drain off to a separate location instead of going into the septic system. PVC pipes can be installed underground and take the water directly to the garden to provide moisture to growing plants from below the soil level.
PVC pipes can be connected to in-house drains and fabricated to carry the greywater to a central outdoor holding location so that the used water can be re-used at the gardener’s discretion.
A very simple and easy approach some homeowners use to catch greywater is to install drain pipes under the sinks, tubs and washing machines and run the open end of the pipes through the exterior walls to the outside. Barrels or tubs are placed under the open-ended pipes to catch the greywater and the gardener can use it as needed.
You will likely need to make some changes in what products you use and send down the drain but you won’t always be perfect so your system should have a three-way valve, which will allow wastewater to be routed back through the sewer as needed. A good filter designed for recycling greywater for garden use is also a good idea!
If water is to be re-used on plants, a few changes may be needed in the household to make the water safe for plant life. Using safer soaps for cleaning and bathing will be good for both you and your garden. Look for products that are biodegradable or biocompatible. Harsh cleaning chemicals, like chlorine bleach, will need to be avoided too. You will need to become a label reader if you are not already but all that water for your garden is worth it! And honestly if the product is not good for the earth can it really be that good for your body? Think about it.
Product Ingredients to Avoid in Greywater:
- any ingredient with the word “sodium” in it
- chlorine bleach
- sodium perborate
- sodium hypochlorite
- petroleum distillate
- water softeners
- anti-bacterial soaps & cleaners
- optical brighteners
- titanium oxide
- chromium oxide
- artificial colors
- synthetic fragrance
Good laundry detergents for greywater systems:
Homemade detergents – the ones based on soap and washing soda – are not an option because of their salt content.
Good soaps and shampoos for greywater systems:
Read your labels!! Most bar soaps have sodium ingredients so liquid is your best bet.
Once you get your greywater system set up and you buy the right household products, you can feel confident that you can sustain a garden even through droughts by simply reusing the water from your household. Good luck!
Gardening might sound like something people do in retirement, and while this is true there are plenty of positive reasons to begin building your garden today, from improved health to a beautiful space for you and your family to enjoy. For anyone wondering what they can do to start building their own garden, and what some of the advantages of doing this might be, here are a few things you can do to begin putting one together, and a few positive outcomes that can come from it.
Plant Organic, Eat Healthier
One of the best parts of starting your own garden is the ability to begin planting, growing, and eating your own produce. In your own garden you can easily supervise the type of nutrients you give your plants, and avoid using chemicals and other health-hazardous materials that can find their way into the food found at grocery stores.
Composting is one of the best ways to improve the health of your garden and to reduce your carbon footprint. There are two main types of composts that are used today, one being an indoor version that is used for household waste, and the other an outdoor one that is used commonly for both household waste as well as yard waste, such as dead leaves and plants. The rich nutrients that are produced from composting make for a perfect fertilizer for your soil, and will both eliminate your need to use chemical growers and reduce the cost of running your garden.
Be Sure to Have the Right Tools
When you’re starting to put together your ideal backyard, there are a few basic tools that you’re going to want to have, as they will reduce the time it takes you to complete tasks and the stress on your body. Pick-up garden shears, garden scissors, a spade, hand trowel, hoe, and hose. There are plenty of other pieces of equipment you’ll want to pick up from your local gardening hub in the future, but when getting started these are the most important.
Relax and Unwind
The most important thing to keep in mind when gardening is that the activity is supposed to be one that relieves stress. Spending time in nature and creating a vibrant and lively space in your yard should be something you cherish and enjoy doing.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start planning your new garden, so what are you waiting for?