How to Grow Your Own Tea Garden
Drinking tea can be therapeutic and relaxing. Making a cup of tea can be mediative, too — from selecting your mug from the cupboard, choosing your tea while waiting for the water to boil, and then pouring over and allowing time for the tea to steep. For some, it's the best way to begin the morning.
Take a quick browse through the grocery store tea aisle, and you'll find an overflowing assortment of brands and flavors of dried tea to choose from, making it easy to have an ample collection on hand. But did you know growing your own herbs to make your own tea or infusion is easy?
The wonderful thing about growing herbs to make infusions is they don't require a lot of garden space or supplies. You can sow seeds or seedlings directly into the ground — space permitting — or use pots. In fact, herbs from the mint family, including lemon balm, are better off in containers since they love to spread out and will easily dominate in the garden. Other herbs can be grown together, if you wish. Just give each plant its needed space to grow and thrive.
Here's what you'll need:
In the United States, we tend to not differentiate between the wordx tea and herbal infusion. Tea comes from a specific plant, Camellia Sinensis, which is known as the tea plant. All other "teas" are actually herbal infusions and often referred to as tisanes. An infusion is using plant material, typically leaves and flowers, and "infusing" or steeping them in hot water for several minutes to upwards of 15 minutes.
How to Make an Herbal Infusion
Once your plant is growing and producing plenty of new foliage, you can start harvesting the leaves. For most of your infusions, you'll use the leaves, and occasionally the flowers, such is the case with Chamomile.
When you're ready for tea time, you'll pick leaves (usually around two to three teaspoons), rinse the leaves or flowers, and then place them in your favorite cup and pour boiling water over them. You'll steep for at least five minutes, and it can be up to 15 minutes if you want to reap more of the benefits of the herb as well as have a stronger flavor. Then, add your favorite additions, whether it's sugar or honey, milk or lemon, or just as it is, and enjoy.
Five Easy Herbs to Grow Your Own for Tea
Why It's Good: Chamomile is a common go-to for upset stomachs or to ease digestion — and for good reason, as it's carminative properties help with reducing gases. Chamomile also helps with relaxation, as it calms the nervous system and can also help you drift off to sleep. With its mild flavor, chamomile is great for kids and adults alike.
Parts Used: Flowers
How to Grow: Chamomile is an annual that grows well from seed and enjoys rich, well-drained soil. It does well in warm climates and needs plenty of sun. Keep in mind that too much heat can be too much of a good thing and can cause the plant to go to seed, instead of blooming.
Note: There are many varieties of chamomile, but you'll typically find two types: English or Roman chamomile, or German chamomile (Matricaria Recutita).
For your herbal infusion, you'll use the pretty white and yellow flowers. They're ready to pick when the flowers are open and fragrant.
2. Lemon Balm
Why It's Good: Lemon balm, also known as bee balm, is a great herb to help soothe and relax the nervous system. It's also known to reduce stress and anxiety while simultaneously boosting your spirits. Lemon balm, as the name implies, offers a lemon aroma and combines well with mint or thyme.
Parts Used: Leaves
How to Grow: Sow seeds in pots or directly into the ground in the spring after a chance of frost or in the fall. Lemon balm grows rather quickly and will continue to come back year after year since it's a perennial. (This can depend on your growing zone.) Bee balm enjoys plenty of sun but also appreciates some shade. You can harvest the leaves anytime, though typically they are most fragrant right before the flowers bloom.
Keep in mind that lemon balm is part of the mint family, which means it loves to spread out and will easily take over other garden areas if not maintained or contained.
3. Lemon Verbena
Why It's Good: Lemon verbena is known for easing and reducing muscle cramps because of its antispasmodic properties. It's also a nice digestive aid as well as calming for the nervous system.The leaves have a lemon aroma that offer a nice citrusy flavor.
Parts Used: Leaves
How to Grow: Grow from seeds or buy a starter plant, typically after the last frost in spring or start indoors. Lemon verbena loves the sun and does best in warm to hot climates. It prefers well-drained, loose soil with compost added occasionally. In colder months, you'll likely need to bring the plant indoors, depending on your geographical zone. In the springtime, this perennial herb should start showing signs of life again.
Related: Try this Lemon Verbena Mint Detox Tea.
Why It's Good: Peppermint is known to aid digestion and can help with stomach cramps, thanks to its antispasmodic properties. It can also help in reducing headaches that are related to indigestion issues because of its anodyne properties. Peppermint is the classic mint tea but you can opt for different varieties in your garden and see if you notice any differences between chocolate mint or spearmint.
Part Used: Leaves
How to Grow: Sow from seeds or buy seedlings. Peppermint does well with partial shade but does like the sun and loose, well drained soil. A relatively easy herb to grow and requires little maintenance, it thrives in most climates. And as a perennial, it will come back year after year.
Related: Try this Sun-Brewed Mint Tea.
Why It's Good: Thyme helps calm the nervous system, allowing your body to relax more easily. It's also great for digestion. Known as a great herb for the immune system because of its many properties, including antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, thyme helps ward off coughs, colds, and infections. There are several varieties of thyme, but the typical ones are thyme or lemon thyme, which adds a nice citrus touch to your herbal infusion.
Part Used: Leaves and flowers
How to Grow: Sow seeds in late spring directly into the soil or in a pot. You can also purchase seedlings, if you prefer to get a jump start on the growing process. Thyme grows well in most climates and enjoys plenty of sunlight. It's perennial, meaning it will grow year after year, too, so won't need to plant new seeds each year.
Where to Buy Supplies for Growing Herbs
Purchase seeds and soil online from your local garden center. You can also order from these garden retailers for all your gardening needs. Botanical Interests has everything a home gardener needs. Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers an abundance of seeds and supplies for gardeners to farmers. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds specializes in heirloom seeds and difficult-to-find varieties. Gardener's Supply Company has you covered for everything garden related.