Grow · Indoor Gardening · Outdoor Gardening

Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Garden

I don’t know about you, but as winter drags on and on (it seriously does feel like January 74th), I can’t help but spend the majority of my spare time dreaming up my spring garden.  Most winter nights, you can find me with a glass of wine in one hand and a seed catalogue in the other, leafing through all of the colourful pages and fantasizing about the gorgeous varieties of flowers and vegetables I want to grow.
One of the most rewarding and productive parts of my little garden last year were my herb containers, both culinary and medicinal.  And the best part about that is that I’ve been enjoying my dried herbs all through the winter, mostly in herbal teas.
Today, I want to share my top 5 must-have plants in my herbal tea garden, and hopefully inspire you to grow something this spring that you can use for months to come.
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Top 5 Herbs for your Herbal Tea Garden

 

1. Lavender

It wasn’t until I became a gardener that I fully learned to appreciate real, pure, fragrant lavender – which smells nothing like the synthetic, commercial perfumes that sometimes use the same name.  Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties, but did you know that you can also add dried lavender to your favourite tea blend?  It adds a delicious floral flavour and a deeply calming aroma.
Lavender can be a bit finicky to start from seed, so I prefer to buy organic starts from my local garden centre.  English lavender is my favourite – it attracts beneficial insects to the garden, looks gorgeous whether planted in the ground or in a large pot, and, oh, did I mention the smell?
Harvest your lavender as soon as the tiny purple buds appear, before the flowers open.  Closed buds will retain aroma and colour better, and also fall off the stem much easier once dried.

2. Catnip

We all know that cats go crazy for catnip – it’s a powerful stimulant for them – but did you know that catnip acts as a moderate sedative for humans?  Catnip (also sometimes called catmint) is my personal favourite herb to add to my night time “sleepy” teas.  It’s gentle enough that it won’t make you feel overly drowsy, just relaxed and ready for a good night’s rest.
Catnip is extremely easy to start from seed.  Follow the directions on your seed packet and harvest the leaves frequently for continuous growth.  The leaves can then be dried and stored in an air-tight container for optimal freshness.
Fresh Catnip
Freshly Harvested Catnip

3. Mint

Last summer, I had a bit of a love affair with mint.  At one point, I was growing peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and strawberry mint.  I became obsessed with infusing them into my water during the summer.
There are so many amazing varieties of mint available – both as seeds and as plants at the garden centre.  Feel free to experiment with as many varieties as you want – just be sure to keep them in their own container, as mint has a tendency to take over everything in its path!
Stems can be cut and dried as often as needed.  Store the leaves in an air-tight container and enjoy the comforting, minty freshness well into the winter months.
Pineapple Mint
Pineapple Mint

4. Chamomile

I began drinking a lot of chamomile tea a few years ago to aid in the management of my anxiety, but, like so many other things, I didn’t fully appreciate these incredible little flowers until I began to grow them myself.  A fresh chamomile flower smells like crisp, sweet apples, and there is absolutely no comparison to store-bought teas.
Chamomile is a totally fool-proof annual that grows well in most conditions.  I had a small window box full of it last summer on my back fence, and I was harvesting about 1/4 cup of mature flowers every single day at the height of the summer.  It was unbelievable.
Once flowers begin to appear, they can be pinched off, or cut off at the stem – whichever you prefer.  Once dried, they will still smell like fresh apples, and you won’t believe the taste when you steep these whole flowers in hot water.
Fresh Chamomile
Fresh Chamomile Flowers

5. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm makes a fantastic base for almost any herbal tea.  Its mild, citrusy flavour lends itself well to most other herbs, and its uplifting, calming effects are a welcome addition to whatever you’re in the mood for.  It’s also flavourful enough to stand on its own as a herbal tea if you’re after something simple.
Easy to grow from seed, lemon balm grows beautifully in containers and thrives in part to full sun.  Harvest, dry and store lemon balm much the same way you would mint or catnip.

Herb Storage Tips

Label, label, label!

You may think you’ll be able to remember what’s what based solely on appearance or aroma, but you’d be surprised how similar some herbs can seem when they’re just crusty, dry leaves.  Labeling everything you harvest and store from your garden is a really good habit to practice.

Ensure dryness before storing.

Most herbs should be dry enough that they crack / crumble when bent in half.  Herbs with residual moisture are susceptible to mould, and nobody wants a mouldy tea.  I like to use my Nesco Dehydrator, but herbs can also be dried by hanging or spreading out in the sun.
Dehydrating Herbal Tea
Drying Catnip in the Dehydrator

Mason jars = life.

Whether you’re an urban gardener or a full-on homesteader, soon enough you will realize that mason jars are the best way to store pretty much everything in your kitchen.  They’re see-through, air-tight, and come in a variety of sizes – you can never have too many mason jars.

Store whole when possible.

Storing whole, intact leaves will preserve freshness, flavour, and seal in every last bit of those aromatic and medicinal oils that the plants hold.  If space is an issue, the dried leaves can be crushed and stored, but I personally prefer to crush them up right before I use them for maximum quality.
Chocolate Mint Herbal Tea
Dried Chocolate Mint

Continue reading “Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Garden”

Cook · Grow · Indoor Gardening · Learning & Media · Lifestyle · Outdoor Gardening · Skills & Techniques

8 Homesteading Podcasts You Need In Your Life

When I first began my journey into modern homesteading, I was like a sponge. I could not get my hands, eyes and ears on enough information to satisfy my appetite for learning. It was around this time that I discovered the wonderful world of podcasts…a brilliant form of media that I had been previously unacquainted with.

If you’re not familiar with podcasts – let me first say, welcome to your new addiction. A podcast is essentially a series of radio-style audio recordings, usually on a specific topic, available entirely free through outlets such as Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Podcasts exist on literally every topic you could ever imagine – I listen to food and wine podcasts, dog training podcasts, running podcasts, business podcasts, sex and relationships podcasts, and of course – homesteading and gardening podcasts.

Below is a list of my current favourite podcasts related to the topic of homesteading. There are many more available, and even some that aren’t recording anymore, but are still full of great information. I encourage you to use this list as a starting point as you explore the wonderful world of podcasts for yourself – there is an unbelievable amount of information out there.

1. The Modern Homesteading Podcast with Harold Thornbro

This was the very first homesteading podcast I ever listened to, and it holds such a special place in my heart. In fact, this show was my true introduction to modern homesteading, as I was looking for gardening podcasts at the time.

Harold is just your standard, regular guy – he loves his family and his grandkids, he works a regular job, he lives in a regular house in a small town…but what he does in his free time is extraordinary. He experiments in gardening, building, raising small livestock such as meat rabbits and coturnix quail, aquaponics, making his own kombucha, canning…you name it. He is a true inspiration and I’m not sure where he finds time for it all!

On top of all that, Harold is a cancer survivor who attributes much of his recovery to beginning to take responsibility for his health through the food that he was eating. He is a passionate teacher and shares his knowledge generously.

(Check out The Modern Homesteading Podcast)

2. The Beginner’s Garden with Jill McSheehy

Whether you’re a brand new gardener or you’ve been growing your own food for decades, Jill has something to teach you. She breaks down gardening in simple, no-nonsense, easy-to-understand terms for the newbie. When I was planning my first garden two years ago, Jill’s podcast was my bible.

A busy wife and mom, Jill keeps it real. She records less in the summertime when she’s busiest, and I respect her boundaries and self-awareness so much. She also interviews some fascinating guests, and together they answer all of the gardening questions that you never even knew you wanted to ask.

(Check out The Beginner’s Garden Podcast)

3. Encyclopedia Botanica with Hilary Dahl

This podcast is my go-to, nerd-out, in-depth explanation of individual plant species, pests, processes and gardening techniques. Episodes are around half an hour each, and may focus on topics such as JUST potatoes, JUST pollination, or JUST tomato horn worms. It’s a really great way to hone in on one particular garden topic and learn all about it in a simple, easy-to-digest way.

Hilary is a wealth of knowledge based out of Seattle, so she is especially relevant to anyone living in the PNW.

(Check out the Encyclopedia Botanica Podcast)

4. The Joe Gardener Show with Joe Lamp’l

If you’re familiar with the TV show Growing A Greener World, then you’ll recognize Joe Lamp’l as the creator and host. Joe has a very accomplished career in the world of organic gardening and horticulture, and he is a massive wealth of knowledge. On his podcast, he breaks down relevant and seasonal gardening topics, both on his own and through interviewing experts in each field.

The best part about The Joe Gardener Show is the way that Joe and his guests are able to take even the most complicated gardening topics, and translate them into simple language that even the newest gardener is able to understand.

(Check out The Joe Gardener Show)

5. Living Homegrown Podcast with Theresa Loe

Also from Growing A Greener World, but on the production side, Theresa Loe is an urban homesteader living in Los Angeles. Her show is professionally produced and covers a wide variety of topics that help you to – in her words – “live farm fresh without the farm”. These topics include growing your own food, preserving the harvest, and exploring artisan food crafts such as baking your own bread.

Theresa has brought on experts in fermentation, the “locavore” movement, keeping backyard chickens, and more. She is also a canning expert and runs a variety of online courses and academies through her website. I always find something inspiring to take away from Theresa’s show, and she is the sole reason that I finally found the courage to begin my canning journey!

(Check out the Living Homegrown Podcast)

6. The Grow Guide Podcast by Gardens Manitoba

This podcast is especially close to my heart because it is Canadian! Hosted by Sage Garden Greenhouses’ master grower, Dave Hanson, and “rookie grower” Maggie Wysocki, this podcast tackles seasonal garden topics mostly relevant to Manitoba, but really, all Canadians (and northern growers) will love this podcast. The reality is, our season is short, and our conditions can be harsh. Dave and Maggie are full of tips and tricks to help you thrive in our unique northern climate.

Sage Garden Greenhouse also hosts a variety of really cool events in and around Winnipeg, so if you’re in the area, you’ll have even more to gain from this awesome show.

(Check out The Grow Guide Podcast)

7. The Pioneering Today Podcast with Melissa K Norris

Melissa is something of a celebrity in the world of modern homesteading. She runs a huge facebook group, an online academy, and produces her podcast that covers all kinds of fascinating topics. Melissa is passionate about old-fashioned skill sets and wisdom, and dedicates much of her content to things such as natural house cleaners, organic gardening, cooking without electricity, interviewing off-grid homesteaders, cooking in cast iron, and implementing frugality while still maintaining a healthy diet. Let’s just say, you wont find a topic that Melissa hasn’t covered on her podcast or her blog.

At the end of each podcast, Melissa usually spends a few minutes on her “verse of the week” from the bible – which isn’t necessarily my thing, but I almost always glean something from her wisdom nonetheless. I look forward to her episodes every week.

(Check out The Pioneering Today Podcast)

8. The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast with Tom Rosenbauer

First of all, I have to admit that I definitely don’t consider myself a fly fisherman (fisherworman?) by any stretch of the imagination. I went fly fishing for the first time this summer, and then went out again a few weeks later. I loved it, but I haven’t been making it much of a priority lately. That being said, I have been listening to The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast in my spare time, which has been a massive part of my education on all things Fly Fishing.

The host of the show, Tom, is a friendly, funny, realistic guy who breaks down the ins and outs of fly fishing so that even the most novice (ahem, me) angler can understand what the heck he’s talking about. Fishing – and fly fishing especially – can be incredibly intimidating when you’re first starting out, so I’ve found that learning about terms and techniques when I’m off the water has helped me to build my confidence.

(Check out The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast)


I hope this list provided you with a few podcasts that you haven’t heard of before, and hopefully you’re inspired to give them a try! There’s nothing better than learning something new while you’re stuck in traffic, walking the dog, or cleaning the house – and that’s what I love so much about podcasts. Happy listening!

Talk soon,

-Ashley


Do you have any favourite podcasts that weren’t included on this list? Please share them in the comments below, or join the conversation on Instagram or Facebook!