The Top 4 Essential Herbs to Plant This Year

Posted On Mar 15, 2024 |

With spring comes planting! Choose these herbs for your garden this spring so you can fill your herbal pantry in the fall.

Whether you have a huge garden or a couple pots on the deck, here are my top 4 essential herbs to grow this (and every) year.

These plants are on the list for a couple reasons. I love to wild harvest but these herbs don't grow wild in most parts of the US. This means foraging is not really an option. I also find that the quality of harvest you can get from your own garden is superior to what is available commercially.

All four are different aesthetically and add so much to a garden landscape with their beauty and stature. And of course, these herbs are essentials for your home herbal pantry, with multiple uses from self-care to the soup pot!

Calendula

Topping the list is my all time favorite: Calendula. Not only is calendula one of the best herbs for skin healing and skin protection, it is also beneficial for our internal “skin” such as inflamed mucous membranes and intestinal distress.

Calendula is a gentle lymphatic, helping to keep this important but underappreciated body system working properly. Because it is gentle and nourishing, it can be used regularly and makes a wonderful and beautiful addition to tea.

Calendula has bright orange, single petaled flowers and has been bred for other ornamental colors including yellow, cream and double petaled varieties. Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of calendula is its wonderful, lemony scent that comes from the whole of the plant and is what makes its flowers both delicious in a salad and desirable for medicinal use.

Calendula is also called Pot Marigold and is related to but quite different from the marigolds commonly used in gardens and landscape plantings. It starts well from seed and tends to reseed itself in the garden. It’s a bit of a whimsical grower so it’s best planted in groups rather than trying to make it conform to a straight row or border. 

Chamomile

Chamomile comes next in two different varieties. Both have small daisy-like flowers covering plants with feathery foliage. German chamomile is tall, reaching 2-3 feet whereas Roman chamomile is short, only 3-6 inches. German Chamomile has more of the essential oils and other properties that we wish to have for medicinal use. It blooms from mid summer to early fall and can be harvested multiple times.

We all know chamomile as the tea for calming our nerves at bedtime. It’s considered gentle and safe for children, pets and everyone else as well. Chamomile is known for helping with anxiety, insomnia, pain relief, digestion, fevers and infections. See why this is on the “essential” list?

Once you grow this herb yourself, two things will happen. First, it will very likely self-seed and return again next year. Second, once you get a taste of chamomile tea made from freshly harvested and dried flowers, with their apple-like scent, a tea bag from a box just won’t do it for you any more! Start Chamomile from seed indoors now to get a jump start on the season

Tulsi

Tulsi, also known as Sacred Basil or Holy Basil is related to the culinary basil we all love so well. There are several different varieties of tulsi, some of which can be grown as annuals here in the Northern Hemisphere whereas others are more shrub-like and best grown in sub-tropical or tropical climates. When planting tulsi, follow the same growing practices for any other type of basil.

Herbally, Tulsi is often referred to as both a nervine (calms the nervous system) and an adaptogen, which means it’s able to support our body’s response to all types of stress. It has a positive, strengthening effect on the immune system. Tulsi is warming, making it a wonderful ally for moving mucus during acute illnesses such as colds and coughs.

Holy basil makes a fragrant and delicious tea and can be used in all sorts of cooking as well. It’s potent so take care not to over do it when adding to dishes. 

Rosemary

Last but certainly not least is Rosemary. I’m totally in love with this plant! Not that it’s a soft and gentle lovable herb - not that kind of love. It’s more of an admiration I suppose. Rosemary can powerfully flavor a soup or roast and the next day, I might add it to a facial steam blend. Recently, I’ve made it a dominant flavor in my herbal chai—so delicious.

Rosemary is astringent and antiseptic but also beneficial to the digestive system as it aids in the digestion of fats. A Rosemary decoction can be not only drunk as tea, but also added to your weekly herbal bath or as a hair rinse. It’s a member of the mint family along with nearly all our favorite culinary herbs such as basil, thyme and sage as well as catnip, and bee balm.

Now you may live in a climate where Rosemary can thrive and become a small shrub—lucky you! Here in the Northeast, it’s a semi-hardy perennial that needs to be sheltered inside for the winter. It’s no small feat to keep these “should-be-growing-outside-near-the-Mediterranean” plants alive, mind you.

As a semi-woody perennial, starting from seed is not really a great option and even cuttings can be difficult to root---trust me, I’ve tried. I usually purchase a new plant or two from my favorite local garden center each spring as they are much better at cuttings than I am. Should you choose to buy a Rosemary this year, remember to count the number of stems in each pot—often there are more than one and can be divided before planting.

There you have it - my 4 essential herbs to grow in the garden each year. Whatever you choose, be sure to include a few of these healthful and beautiful herbs in your garden plot!

If you’d like to be part of a community of like-minded herb lovers, join my Cultivated Life Community by visiting my webpage https://www.thewellcultivatedl...