Planning for a tea garden

Having a perennial herb garden is a wonderful thing, and I am grateful for the space that I call mine. It is currently sitting quietly waiting for my return to ME, desperately needing a good weeding session and a lot of tender care. And while I mourn the inability to dig my hands in the dirt this growing season, I am trying to use the time away to plan the next stage of its life.

There is an entire section of untouched space just waiting for new vegetable beds, and I believe I can add at least four new beds to the existing garden for more herbs. My end goal is not only growing our vegetable and fruit needs, but growing a sustainable tea garden. While actual tea (Camellia sinensis) plants do not thrive in my planting zone, there are many herbs that do which can be mixed into wonderful herbal tisanes and blends.

Sage, chamomile, echinacea, yarrow, thyme, lavender and hyssop are already thriving in my current garden and I can usually find plenty of elderberries in the woods along the edges of the yard to dry for teas and syrups. St. John’s Wort can be foraged in the clearings and there are raspberry and blackberry bushes to content anyone’s heart. But there are so many more herbs that can be used in teas and tisanes. I’ve avoided growing mint unless potted as it takes over any space you give it, but I think an entire bed dedicated to all the different types of mint would be amazing. Apple mint, chocolate mint, lavender mint, spearmint and peppermint all growing in one spot would be a culinary delight if done right!

As I plan the beds, I’ve been using a few books to aid me in my research on herbs and their uses. I wanted to share some titles, as I have found them all very valuable and educational. Definitely check these out if you are planning your own herbal adventure!

I began with The Modern Herbal Dispensatory – A Medicine-Making Guide by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne (978-1-62317-079-0 North Atlantic Books). There is a ton of information contained in the pages of this book and I am still working my way through it. While not specifically for herbal tea blends, the knowledge I am gaining from reading this book has been significant. It is like a textbook of herbal preparations, uses, formulations and recipes. I recommend this book to anyone looking to grow their knowledge of herbs and herbal remedies.

The second book I have found to be extremely helpful is Growing Your Own Tea Garden – The Guide to Growing and Harvesting Flavorful Teas in Your Backyard by Jodi Helmer (978-1-62008-322-2 Fox Chapel Publishing). This entire book is dedicated to creating a garden of herbs that make delicious and healthy tea/tisane blends. The list of herbs, roots, flowers and fruits is quite long and there are wonderful tips throughout the book offering advice for the best brews, and how to make them. The beginning of the book offers a quick history of tea and the growing of tea, and then jumps right into the herbs, separating them by the part of the plant used. This is one of my go-to books as I plan the new beds.

The third book I’ve been reading is a little different and focuses on more magical uses for herbs and plants and their mythology. It is The Illustrated Herbiary – Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals by Maia Toll (978-1-61212-968-6 Storey Publishing). The artwork and illustrated plant oracle cards that came with it are simply beautiful, and if this is your path I would recommend acquiring this book. I love the little secrets and historical uses the author adds into the plant descriptions and illustrations. I have enjoyed reading this book and using the oracle cards, gaining more knowledge as I go along.

I am sure there are so many more books I will find along the way, and I will be sure to share them all with you. Once I am able to start the physical work in the gardens, making the beds, planting the herbs and vegetables, plus setting up a drying & processing space I will share pictures. At some point I will be packaging and selling my own herbal tea blends, so check back with me in a year!

I also hope you will check out the books I mentioned above, and share your comments and thoughts!