Garden and Orchard - Self Reliance

How to Increase Self-Reliance by Growing Herbs

herbs for self-sufficiency
Oregano has antibacterial properties.

Grow Herbs for Self-Reliance

Herbs make a wonderful addition to your home garden. They add fresh flavor to your food in summer, allow you to preserve frugal seasonings for winter, and provide nectar for pollinators. Herbs also contain healthful nutrients and some even have healing properties. In addition, growing your own herbs for self-sufficiency saves money and can reduce your exposure to pesticides.

Planting herbs in your garden gives you complete control over what is sprayed on them. You will never find fresher herbs than the ones you harvest and chop straight into your salad or dinner. The fresher your food is, the more nutrients it contains, so growing your own is healthier for you too!

For more ways to increase your self-sufficiency and save money, check out 105 Ways to be More Self-Reliant!

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drying bunches of herbs

Provide Fresh and Dried Herbs Year-round

From spring through fall you can harvest fresh herbs from your garden to use in your salads and meals. Oregano and mint are some of the first fresh greens in my garden as the ground warms in spring. Cilantro, dill, and borage (among others) readily self-sow and provide fresh flavor soon after. Warm-season herbs such as basil and summer savory thrive all summer long.

Harvesting and preserving your fresh herbs throughout the season is a great way to stash some away for the winter and reduce your reliance on the grocery store. Harvest leaves before the plant begins to flower for the best flavor and texture. Harvest seeds after they’ve matured and dried out a bit.

Why not harvest extra and make your own little herbal gift kits for your friends and family? They will savor these homegrown goodies. Plus, you can save some money on gift-giving!

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Planting Herbs for Self-Sufficiency

How to Plant Herbs for Self-Sufficiency

Plant varieties that do well in your area and you will be rewarded with plenty of lovely fresh and dried herbs. If your climate is cold and wet, try mint and cilantro. Hot and dry climates are great for thyme, rosemary, and lavender. Of course, many herbs are versatile and will do well most anywhere with care.

Choose a sunny area with well-drained soil for your herbs. Take time to prepare garden beds well, especially when planting perennials because they will be in the same spot for years to come. Remove weeds, loosen soil, add a bit of compost, then plant your seeds or potted plants. Keep the soil moist until seeds have germinated and plants are established.

Some herbs, such as cilantro, are fairly short-lived. Try planting in succession (at intervals) to provide a longer harvest. Others will continue to produce tasty leaves if the flower buds are pinched off.

Keep herbs watered in hot dry weather but be sure the roots aren’t constantly wet. Many herbs are susceptible to root rot if the soil holds moisture too long.

Herbs that are harvested for their flavorful leaves will benefit from side-dressing with compost or watering with a bit of fish emulsion during the growing season. However, most herbs will grow well without any additional fertilizer and too much can cause weak, leggy plants.

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oregano growing on a window sill

Pot Up Some Herbs for Your Windowsill

Many herbs grow well in containers on your patio, a balcony, or even in a sunny windowsill. With a bit of care, you may even keep basil, parsley, and other herbs for fresh use over the winter.

They will make a welcome addition to soups and salads at a time of year when fresh herbs are a treat (and really pricey at the store).

Use a good quality potting soil, a pot with drainage holes, and place a saucer under the pot to catch any runoff to protect surfaces.

You may want to start a new pot of herbs every week or two if you use them a lot. They go pretty fast when you start clipping them every day!


Perennial Herbs – Plant Once!

Many herbs are perennials that you only need to plant once. They are usually quite hardy and will happily co-exist with the ornamentals in your flower garden. My favorites are sage, thyme (lemon thyme is very nice), oregano, chives, rosemary (plant in a pot and bring indoors in northern climates), and marjoram.

Some herbs will benefit from a bit of rejuvenation each year. Sage should be trimmed back a bit to keep new growth coming. You can also let it flop and the branches will root and form new plants.

Oregano, thyme, and marjoram will spread out and tend to die in the center, so transplanting sections will help keep it neat looking.

Some plants will die back in hard winters, so mulch well in fall to help protect them.

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Don’t let your little plants stay wet!

Annual Herbs – Plant a Variety Each Season

Herbs like basil, calendula, dill, and cilantro are annuals and will need to be planted each season. Try planting different varieties from year to year to see which flavors you like best or which ones grow well in your area.

There are many different varieties of basil to suit different tastes. Sweet basil is the most common but you can also choose lemon, lime, lettuce leaf, Thai, purple, and opal basil, to name a few.

There are also varieties of herbs that are slower to bolt, more disease-resistant, or have an unusual flavor. Chocolate mint, pineapple sage, and garlic chives are just a sample of different herbs you may wish to try!

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soft cheese rolled in herbs

Grow Versatile Herbs for Many Purposes

Of course, homegrown herbs are wonderful for flavoring salads, soups, and many other foods. Try making herbed cheeses and butter, infused oil and vinegar, herbal salts, and rubs for meat, poultry, and fish.

Culinary herbs not only add flavor and nutrients to your foods, but some herbs also promote digestion and freshen breath. Parsley and mint are favorites for these purposes.

To increase self-reliance even further, try growing your own herbs to use in bath and body products, salves, cough syrup, insect repellents, and natural cleaning products for your home. Dried herbs and flowers may be infused in oils to add a fresh scent to furniture polish, healing hand salves, and many other items for your personal and household needs.

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Many flowers, such as chamomile, are included in an herbal apothecary.

Healthy Herbs for Minor Ailments

We all know that herbs are a wonderful addition to our food. They make everything taste better and reduce the amount of salt we sprinkle on our plate. You can also harvest many herbs to make your own home remedies for common ailments.

Some common herbal remedies:

Chamomile – promotes sleep and relieves anxiety and muscle pains

Lavender – helps relieve tension and headaches, calming

Echinacea – helps boost the immune system

Ginseng – provides a natural energy boost

Calendula – topical antibiotic

Cayenne Pepper – improves blood circulation, helps relieve congestion and aid digestion

Comfrey – used topically to aid healing of small wounds

Oregano – has antibiotic properties

Peppermint – invigorating, aids digestion

These are just a few herbal remedies that might be of use to you. This information is not intended for treating medical conditions. Please see a medical professional if you are sick or injured. 

herbal tea

Make Your Own Herbal Tea

Many herbs can be combined to make herbal teas that taste wonderful hot or iced. Lavender, peppermint, chamomile, echinacea, pineapple sage, lemon balm, and bee balm are all delicious when steeped. Try combining herbs and edible flowers to make new flavors. Dry herbs and store for making your own tea all year, or give herbal teas as gifts in fancy tins.

With a bit of research, you can even create your own medicinal teas for sore throats, sleeplessness, indigestion, and other minor maladies.


Save Herb Seeds for Self-Reliance

It is easy to save seeds from a wide variety of herbs, allowing you to increase your self-reliance and save even more cash. Many herbs are open-pollinated, which means they grow true from seed each generation. There are a few hybrid varieties on the market and you can save seed from these, however, they won’t be exactly the same as the parent plant.

Be sure to dry the seeds from your herbs and store them in a cool dry place. Learn how to store seeds in a seed bank! Label the packets with calligraphy and add to those herbal gift kits we talked about earlier.

Saving your own seed allows you to select plants that do better in your growing conditions. It’s also a great project for kids.

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Be More Self-Reliant with Herbs!

Growing our own food allows us to save money on the freshest, healthiest foods. By planting fruits, vegetables, and herbs we are reducing our carbon footprint (reducing our plastic and fuel ‘consumption’) and taking control of what we put in our bodies.

This article shares some great ways to increase your self-reliance by raising herbs for your table and other needs. I’m sure you can think of a few ways to use herbs that we haven’t even covered!

So why not plant your own herbs this year? You will enjoy the freshest flavor in your cooking and save some green while you’re at it. 🙂

Do you grow herbs? How do you use them for self-sufficiency? Leave a comment!

10 Comments on “How to Increase Self-Reliance by Growing Herbs

  1. The bigger my herb garden gets, the more uses I have for them. I cut and freeze chives and they thaw instantly on a baked potato. I’ll take you advice and try using herbs more in a medicinal way. Great post!

  2. This reminds me I need to get my herbs replanted. If you recall, my indoor attempt to get them started didn’t turn out very well. A job for today since it is rainy.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      I hope this planting comes out better! I find that once my seedlings have sprouted I have to be careful not to over water. The soil needs to dry out just a bit and then I have better luck with them.

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