Herbs for a Tea Garden
Is there anything more refreshing on a hot summer day than a tall
glass of iced tea with a sprig of fresh mint? Or a more calming end
to a long day than a steaming infusion with chamomile or mint? A tea
garden can ensure that you have a steady supply of your favorite
herbs and its surprisingly easy to grow.
Most tea herbs grow quite happily in moderate sun, so choose a spot
that gets about 6 hours of full sun a day. If you choose to grow your
tea herbs directly in the ground, be aware that many of them will
spread voraciously, choking out any other plants nearby. To prevent
that, sink bottomless buckets or baskets into the ground and plant
the herb plant inside it to help control the roots. Of course, if you
choose to garden in containers, that wont be a problem at all.
Chamomile is a very pretty, lacy annual (though there is one variety
that is a perennial) that grows about 2 feet high. It likes partial
shade to full sun, and sandy, dry soil. The tea is made from
chamomile flowers rather than leaves. Harvest regularly once the
plants start to flower. To dry chamomile, cut stems back to new leaf
growth and tie in loose bunches. Hang upside down in a dry, dark
place till the leaves are crumbly. Or: dry just the flower heads on
drying screens in the oven or in the sun.
Catnip has been used for medicinal teas for colds and stomach upsets
since ancient times. Its most often combined with other herbs
lemon balm and lemon grass are particular favorites. The plant is a
perennial that grows readily in dry, sandy conditions, but can be
coaxed along in nearly any sort of soil or light conditions. Added
bonus: catnip is a natural pest repellant, both in the garden and
dried. To take advantage of its pest repellant properties, dry and
place in cloth pouches and tuck under baseboards or closets. Tea is
made from dry or fresh leaves, combined with chamomile, comfrey or
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A hardy, drought-resistant perennial, lemon balm grows so readily
that it is actually considered a pest plant in some parts of the
United States. The plant looks a lot like mint to which
its related and has a hint of minty flavor to it. Like
most other tea herbs, it can be used either dried or fresh, though
the dried leaves have a more intense flavor. The plant grows about 24
inches tall, and must be pinched back and pruned often to keep it
Ah, mint! There are so many varieties of mint that you could easily
plant a mint garden with no other plants at all. At last count, there
were an estimated 6,000 varieties and growing, since the plant
cross-pollinates so easily. Its also the most pernicious
spreader of all the herbs. One plant will take over an entire garden
within two seasons if its not contained. Mint likes rich soil
and light shade, but will grow in almost any conditions. It also
makes a great, easy to maintain house plant.
Some favorite mint varieties for tea are:
Peppermint of course! Peppermint is the most popular of
all the mints, with its sharp, spicy, cooling tastes.
Spearmint the mint of mint juleps. Spearmint grows
readily in any climate.
Apple mint a hint of fruity flavor underlying the cool,
fresh taste of mint
Chocolate mint yes, chocolate! This one is far better
with dessert than as a tea. Crush the leaves and whirl in a blender
with vanilla ice cream for an incredible treat.