You do not necessarily need a garden to grow herbs though, if you do, they are a delightful addition to any kitchen garden. If you live in an apartment, or when the winter months set it, clay pots lined up in front of a window that gets direct sunlight, plenty of water, and a bit of loving care, will give you the same result. Easiest of all is to buy a pot of herbs that are full-grown and ready-to-pick, and nurture them on your window sill to reproduce.
Herbs, as we have learned in Skincare in Ancient Times and Skincare Down Through the Ages in this week’s theme on skincare, has been integral since Egyptian times and most likely, long before. They can be prepared in many ways: finely grounded with a mortar and pestle and mixed with an oil or cream, applied directly on the skin, as ingredients in your recipes, or compounded into healing oils. Here are common herbs you can grow at home—whether it’s indoors or out.
▪ BASIL is an antiseptic that is effective in the treatment of acne and skin blemishes. Growing basil in your garden requires moist, well-drained soil tilled with compost (pH 6.0-7.0 with a soil tester) and 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. If you plant from seeds, you must wait till after the frost and the soil is between 65- and 70-degrees F. Plant 6 to 12 inches apart.
Growing basil indoors requires just as much sunlight and does best in a south-facing window. If you have artificial grow lights, the plants will require 10 hours. Once seedlings reach a height of 6-inches, transplant into a larger container, preferably a clay pot with a drainage plate underneath. Clay retains moisture.
▪ ALOE VERA is called “the plant of immortality” because of its many benefits to the skin. Some people will apply its syrup directly onto a wound or sunburn. Its anti-inflammatory properties not only heal the skin, but treats blemishes and acne, and cleanses away dead skin.
Growing aloe vera plants. Ideally, you will grow an aloe vera plant in a terra cotta clay pot because, as just stated, clay keeps the soil moist and healthy. Aloe plants thrive in dry, well-drained conditions—clay pots have a hole on the bottom and can be bought with a clay dish that fits— and should not be planted in organic potting soil. This plant is akin to cactus. Too much water and leads to root rot. You can grow your aloe vera outdoors, if you wish, but you must be in a Level 9 Zone and
planted in a sandy area that drains quickly after a rain.
▪ TURMERIC has long been known in the Middle East for its healthful properties. As a powerful antioxidant, its anti-inflammatory properties help heal the skin of rosacea and eczema.
Grow turmeric indoors. Turmeric takes a long time to grow and for that reason, it’s best planted indoors in late winter. If you have room, get a planter’s box—the wooden kind you would normally keep outdoors on a patio—because turmeric roots need a lot of space and humidity to grow. Remember when you were in elementary school, and you grew a lima bean plant from a lima bean? The same theory applies here. Turmeric grows from a root, or rhizome—think of ginger. If you plant the rhizome in a clay pot, make sure it has excellent drainage and is at least 12 inches tall. Planting requires specific directions, which you’ll find here.
▪ LAVENDER is perhaps the most popular of all plants. It is fragrant and soothing, and its oil calms and nourishes the skin, penetrating deep into the pores and tempering flareups.
Plant lavender outdoors in the spring, after the frost has passed. Space the individual plants 12- to 18-inches apart in a well-drained, sandy soil mixed with rich organic matter, and where they will get plenty of sunshine. Once lavender blooms, cut the long stems, gather several together, bind them with twine, and hang them upside down to dry. Their marvelous scent will last a long time—even longer if the buds are gathered and sewn into a sachet to keep under your pillow or in your drawers. Lavender oils are readily available in stores. Add a couple of drops to a base oil or cream and smooth onto your skin. Do not apply lavender drops directly onto the skin as it is very condensed.
▪ CILANTRO, with its strong smell and taste, is packed with antioxidants, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Its juice can cure acne outbreaks and is an effective disinfectant and detoxifier. Cilantro can make your skin soft and supple.
▪ PARSLEY is a longtime remedy in Mediterranean countries for skincare. It can diminish wrinkles, prevent skin discoloration, fight inflammation, and it’s an essential ingredient in meatballs.
Growing cilantro and parsley in the garden is much the same and requires rich, well-drained soil in full or partial shade Plant parsley five weeks before the projected date of the last spring frost. Seeds are very slow to germinate. Compost or a slow-release fertilizer will encourage growth.
▪ GARLIC is rich in iron, calcium vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and is Nature’s antifungal cure. Its antibacterial properties purify the skin and prevent premature aging. Women “in the know” know that commercial beauty products can cause more damage than good to skin and though you can always tell when someone’s eaten garlic, it’s a small price to pay for healthy skin.
Garlic is the last vegetable of the season to be planted in the garden. Aim for late summer when temperatures begin to cool. Garlic will continue to grow through the winter and should be protected with a layer of mulch to insulate it from the snow and cold. Your seed is actually a clove of garlic. Plant them 4- to 8- inches apart in rows, about 3-inches deep, with the head of the garlic clove pointing up. Garlic is low maintenance but does require about an inch of water every week. Garlic scapes should emerge in early spring and be ready to harvest from late June into August. Be sure to stop watering garlic 2- to 3-weeks before you harvest it.