How To Get The Perfect Herbal Tea Garden
We love to drink herbal tea and wanted a way to ensure we made the best choices for our health as well as taste, so with a little research we were able to start our own herbal tea garden!
Growing your own herbal tea garden is not as difficult as it sounds. You will need to look at what teas you currently drink and how to best use the space you have available. Do not be put off if you have a smaller space outside. Some of these herbs can be grown on a windowsill and a lack of space should not be prohibitive to fresh herbs!
Trust us when we say that since growing our own we have had a much nicer cuppa, just check out our reasons and see if you don’t agree! Let’s start by looking at the herbs you can grow and how to do that, then how we harvest the leaves and flowers for fresh or dried herbal tea all year round!
Herb Flavours For Your Herbal Tea Garden
- Chamomile is a real classic for teas. We love the zingy apple taste and the aroma will pull you back to summer very quickly.
- Fennel has that gorgeous fresh aniseed flavour with a sort of earthy savory background note.
- Mint is the ideal palate cleanser and can help to relax and restore energy naturally.
- Lemon Verbena is the strongest of the lemon flavours and this citrus flavour can make it the perfect pairing with chamomile.
- Borage leaves have the wonderful taste of delicate cucumber and the flowers carry that flavour into a sweeter note.
- Rose Hip has the concentrated taste of how you think a rose flower should taste, but they are so much more than just that alone! Sweet and unctuous.
- Echinacea is the sweetest herb we are going to use here and goes really well with some of the more savoury flavours like rosemary.
- Cardamon is a grown up sweet pine flavour with notes of summery goodness.
- Rosemary is another pine type taste with earthy overtones. Very much a winter warmer.
- Lemon Balm is a sort of minty lemon. A more complex flavour profile but with a softer lemon aroma.
- Ginger is zingy and spicy which will really heat things up! Very much a herb to reckon with, try mixing ginger with some of the other herbs like chamomile or rose hips.
Herbal teas are essentially made from steeping various plant parts in boiled water for several minutes. Be it the leaves, roots or seeds. I wanted to show you how to grow and harvest each of the herbs listed above as way to give you confidence to grow your own herbal tea garden!
Starting off nice and easy with chamomile. It is easily thought of by some as a weed. Chamomile is from the daisy family and produces those wonderful white petal flowers.
Grow from seed and sow thinly onto well prepared soil. Cover with a thin layer of perlite to protect the seeds, mist with water and keep in a sunny spot, but in a heated propagator or green house. A few weeks later small seedlings will appear. When they get to be a few inches high you can transplant them to their final pot. Harden them off gently and ensure that the final frost has passed.
We keep ours in pots to stop the invasive nature of chamomile, but also so that we can bring them inside. In the UK and depending on which zone you are in the US you may find this is the best option.
Chamomile will not mind you missing a few days of watering and as long as you provide good drainage it will thrive in a container. Making it an ideal choice for a filler in many pots and we grow it with thyme for the ultimate in cascading herbs!
To harvest the flowers wait until they have started to pull the petals back a little bit. This means that the local bees will have had time to enjoy their fill as well. You can use them fresh, or dry them on a tray in a dust free cupboard. It will take a few weeks, check occasionally to make sure no mold has started to appear. Once dried store in a sealed mason jar.
About 5 flowers is a good amount for a very gentle cup of tea. Chamomile is known for its calming properties and is used to help aid sleeplessness.
To grow fennel from seeds, sow onto well prepared soil. Cover with around 1/4 inch of soil and water well. Cover and leave in a heated propagator until germination occurs around 14-21 days later. We grow ours in biodegradable pots so as not to disturb the roots when transplanting outside.
When the weather has finished freezing us all to pieces you can take the fennel seedlings outside. Harden them off a bit first in the green house or poly tunnel. Then plant out to around 8 inches in between each plant.
Keep fennel away from any dill plants as they can easily cross pollinate.
Throughout the season you can eat the leaves from the plant and make a decent herbal tea from steeping the leaves in hot water for around five minutes. I find it a very pleasant taste of aniseed with a bitter after taste that is not to everyone’s palate, so mix it up with a few chamomile flowers too!
Harvesting is easy. Once the fennel has produced it’s umbrella of flowers you can start to see seeds forming. Before they darken and start to get ready to fall, cut the stem and take the flowers inside. Hang them upside down with the flower head in a paper bag. The seeds will dry and fall into the bag.
Retain some seeds for the following years crop and then you can use the other seeds in your herbal tea. Take a teaspoon of seeds and crush them roughly between two teaspoons. You can use a tea ball or infuser inside a teapot to then steep the seeds for around 4-5 minutes in boiled water. Amazon sell a Clear Glass Teapot so you don’t need to go to the faff of getting anything other than this really.
Mint is a wonderful addition to any garden. However only in pots. It is the most invasive and intrusive herb you could ever grow and will take over and smother any other plants it is put with!
You can buy mint from the supermarket and once purchased you will never need to buy that variety again! You can propagate cuttings or use the root stock to grow from the runners. Basically you are harnessing that invasive characteristic and using it for good!
You can use cuttings from any mint plant including, spear mint, chocolate pepper mint, strawberry mint all from online nurseries like Suttons. So a little investment up front can reap so many rewards forever more.
To grow from cuttings, take a cutting between 4-6 inches just below a leaf node. Take the bottom 3-4 inches of leaves away and either leave in water or moist soil for two weeks. Roots will start to appear and you can then plant on.
To grow mint from runners you can take around 12 inches of root stock and simply plant it where you would like it to grow. Lay flat onto the soil and cover with around three to four inches of soil. Water well and it should emerge within a few weeks.
Keep your mint trim by regular pruning, do this by pinching out fresh growth. It will stop your mint from becoming straggly and just producing stalk and not very much foliage.
4. Lemon Verbena
Lemon verbena can be great in herbal teas but is a little bit tricky to grow from seed. I would recommend buying as plugs and planting into pots. This shrub can grow to around 3 foot tall so is ideal towards the back of a sunny spot.
Lemon verbena is a tender perennial and as such is not frost tolerant in the UK. This means that you will need to bring it inside when the weather turns. So growing in pots or containers that can be moved is ideal.
You can harvest the leaves from mid Spring onwards and you can steep them in boiled water very easily. For storage it is easy to dry the leaves out on a sheet of cloth stretched out. This way the leaves are not likely to develop mold as they dry out.
Store leaves in a sealed mason jar. Be aware that lemon verbena does not retain that strength of flavour when dried and it can take a little bit more to get the same strength of tea.
Lemon verbena makes for a lovely herbal tea when mixed with mint or borage.
Borage is one of the easiest herbs to grow. You will be able to sow directly in the ground or in pots once the last fear of frost has passed. To start you will need to scatter the seeds thinly over the ground, covering with a light touch of compost. Water well and maintain the moisture throughout this growth period.
Because of this large tap root you will not need to keep borage in the seed tray long, if you plant out from weed keep it around 12 inches apart as the shrub can grow quite large.
Harvest the leaves from about month three of growth onwards and continue to enjoy the foliage throughout the season until early Autumn. You can harvest the flowers after their first flush has passed. Kind of like you let the insects and bees enjoy them first.
This much overlooked herb is a real favourite of pollinators and will attract all sorts of beneficial wildlife to your garden.
The borage foliage is almost furry with its feathery feel. You can use the leaves directly in herbal tea, steep in the water for five minutes or as a cold tea. Bear with me on this one, but making up a pot of borage and then freezing the flowers in the steeped water is a lovely way to add summery taste to cocktails and cordials. The flowers themselves are also edible and make for a bright burst of blue starry colour.
We also use borage to make green manure and liquid fertiliser, so a bit of an all rounder.
6. Rose Hip
You can use the petals of your roses, the taste is a delicate sweet one packed with vitamin C. However you will need a lot of petals and I think it is a subtle flavour. However if you wait until after your roses have been pollinated a rosehip will develop. You can harvest your rose hip once the bud has started to turn dark orange to red.
A few rose hips in a pot of tea works very well and is sweet and juicy. Packed with nutrients as this is where the seeds are developed. Use rose hips in herbal tea that has a bitter after taste. It is a nice alternative to honey or sugar.
Echinacea is easy to grow as it is a member of the sunflower family and will grow to around 4 foot high. It can be quite a sprawling plant so make sure to grow as part of a larger flower bed.
You can start seeds off in winter indoors. First give them 4-6 weeks in the fridge in a sealed container. This process followed by a few hours soaking in water is enough to crack the outer casing of the seed and allows for a much higher germination rate.
Plant out in average soil but with good drainage. You will find that they also have a long tap root which means that they can survive a degree of drought. Storing and searching for moisture from a lower level.
Echinacea is a perennial and will fill any garden space with no need for division, although you can gather root stock and propagate from there.
To harvest the leaves for herbal tea you can pick as you go. Echinacea leaves also dry very well so over the winter months you can use a few teaspoons of dried leaves in your tea pot infuser.
8. Cardamon / Cardamom
This herb is not for everyone! It is from the ginger family and as such grows from those rhizomes that ginger does. You can grow from seed and flowering can take up to two years. This herb will need to be brought inside once the weather turns cold as it originates from India and needs heat, but also partial shade. It will grow to around 10 feet in height and the leaves can be around 2 foot long. So as I said – not for everyone!
We got our cardamom plant from a nursery at around two years in age. This is a cheats way I know but extremely helpful in getting a head start with the garden. The seeds come from the flowers so we had another year to love and look after this architecturally pleasing plant. We keep ours in the poly tunnel in Summer and bring into the conservatory for winter, complete with some fleece to keep the base warm.
For care we ensure that every two years we repot with fresh humus rich soil. Drainage is key and the cardamom plant will not tolerate drought. Although too much water can also cause issues.
You can plant from seed and will need a rich loamy compost mix. Thinly sow and then cover very lightly with soil. Water thoroughly and keep the seeds warm until germination occurs and then move to a well lit area without direct sunlight.
The harvest the seeds you will need to wait until the flowers have gone over. Then remove the stem and hang the flowers inside with a paper bag over the main flower head. This will allow the seeds to fall into the bag and be harvested. Store in a sealed mason jar and when you want to use them in herbal tea you can crush the seeds between two teaspoons to release the aroma.
So a bit of a tricky one to grow in the UK and really it may be easier to buy the seeds and crush them, however the plant itself is beautiful and a real joy. Maybe give it a go!
Really simple to grow rosemary in the UK and propagation is by far the easiest and cheapest method. You can buy rosemary as a young shrub and you can find the local nurseries sell it pretty much all year round. Or use one online.
With rosemary you will need adequate drainage and plenty of sunshine. It is the sunshine that helps it to release the essential oils that create the aroma and taste profile.
Use the leaves as they are fresh and slightly lighter in colour. Pinch out from new growth and add directly to the tea pot, or use dried. We like to pair rosemary with other lighter flavours like rosehip or borage. But here is the beauty – you can grow whichever herb you like and combine it in whichever way suits you for the best herbal tea!
Secretly this is why tea bags are okay, but growing your own herbal tea is so satisfying.
10. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is similar to mint but not quite so invasive. You can plant from seed and sow into a prepared seed tray. Make sure to wet the soil first as the seeds are quite small and will be washed together with a watering can. Cover with a light layer of soil and then use a water mister to moisten the surface.
You can grow lemon balm in pots and it makes for a nice lower level herb, that can fill in gaps. It likes a bit more moisture than he likes of rosemary so you would not plant them in the same pot. Lemon balm will be ready to harvest within a few months of planting.
Lemon balm has a gentle taste so you can harvest fresh leaves and add them to your teapot or you can dry the leaves and use them that way.
Ginger can take the best part of a year to grow from its rhizomes. It will grow in the UK but you will need to protect it from frosts. It grows best in pots and can be started off in later Spring.
You can buy rhizomes from reputable online sellers and simple grow them in pots. A good root should have plenty of those horns on it which are the starts of shoots.
You can bury these and rely on them to start growing, however a lot of the work takes place underground. So be patient.
- Improve your soil to make it more humus rich. I use large pots as this means i can chase the sunshine in the hotter months and protect the roots in the colder nights that sneak up on us in the UK
- You will want to plant a ‘knuckle’ of ginger in each pot. This means perhaps between 2-3 inches of rhizome in each one, make sure to have those horns in several places though.
- If you are slicing the rhizome you will need the cut to ‘heal’ or dry out a little. That is because placing wet ginger into the ground is the best way to make sure it rots and does not produce any leaves.
- Plant them at around 1 inch deep, using a mulch on the surface once the leaves come through in about a weeks time.
- Keep it well watered but do rely on a natural mulch to both keep it weed free, but also free from the chances of drying out. You may want to think about a passive watering system.
- harvest about 8-9 months later.
Again this is a really lovely plant to grow yourself and it is an unusual one for sure. In the UK it can be quite a talking point, but you will have ginger for free forever as a result!
Top tip- do not try to do this with supermarket ginger as they tend to spray it with chemicals to deter the growth of those green buds. That seems to be the case with the ‘normal’ ginger, but you might want to try the organic ones.
How To Make Fresh Herbal Tea
Go right back to basics and take a handful of the fresh leaves, twist them together to help release the oils. Leaves like mint, basil and even lemon verbena can be twisted together. This will give you the perfect blend for yourself. Then steep them in boiling water until you are ready to enjoy. I love a stronger cup of tea so I will leave for over ten minutes, so that may be too strong for the beginner to fresh tea! You will soon find out that fresh herbs are much better in taste and performance than the dried variety, however we will also be using some stronger flavours like ginger, so they will need a different approach.
There is a difference to making a hot herbal infusion to a decoction and this is important when dealing with different herbs and botanicals. We have a free guide available here.
One word of caution is that some herbs can have strong medicinal qualities, use them but be aware of possible side effects.
Everything You Need To Get Brewing Herbal Tea
We have a simple Clear Glass Teapot that we bought from Amazon. It is easy to clean and it is nice to see how well infused your drink is, the darker the color the stronger the taste.
You will also need to be confident to grow each of these herbs. But really it is so relaxing to grow your own herbal tea garden that you get the benefits twice!
Enjoy your garden and enjoy drinking your own herbal tea too.
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