|Posted by Felicia on September 12, 2009 at 8:51 AM|
This is the first ever post of the new website blog. Each week I'll be adding a new article on various things to do with Wicca, and there will also be an extra post for each of the Sabbats.
Growing Your Own Herbs
At some point in their life most Wiccans will want to grow herbs, even if it is just a little pot of sage on a south facing windowsill. This post is here to help start you off.
Where Will They Go?
The first thing you need to do is choose which herbs you will be growing. Look at where you will be growing the herbs, indoors, or outdoors, how much sun will they be getting? If growing herbs indoors its best to keep them on a windowsill that recieves sun throughout the majority of the day. If the herbs are outdoors, then you will have to go for the right herbs for the space you can work with, shade loving herbs for shady spots, and sun loving herbs (such as sage) for sun loving spots. Also you need to decide if they will be in pots or planted straight into the garden. Personally I like to grow my herbs in pots, its easier to keep them from overrunning other plants (especially the fast growing mint) and they can be moved indoors to avoid frost if needed.
Buying or Growing your Plants
When you have decided what herbs to go for its time to either buy or grow them. When growing herbs from seeds or cuttings its vital to make sure they are of good quality. Use cutting taken from a healthy plant (or in the case of mint, a healthy offset with a decent amount of the runner root it grew from attatched), and when useing seeds make sure they are fairly new, don't use ones from a dusty old packet from the back of an obscure shelf. Always make sure seedlings or cuttings have grown to a good size and developed strong roots before planting into larger pots or the garden.
If you are buying your herbs from a garden center there are many things you should look out for. First, check that the soil is moist, if it is dry reject the plant. Look for plants with healthy leaves that are not drooping, strong sturdy stems (never go for a plant that is tall and leggy with spindley stems, it has not recieved enough sunlight) and new shoots forming. Plants with white waxy or powdery covering on the leaves or stems should be rejected, as well as any that have lots of bugs on them, fluffy cotton like stuff forming anywhere, yellow blotches on the leaves, or damage such as a stem has been broken off. Also check to see if there are roots coming out of the bottom of the pot, and if possible take a look at the root ball. If any roots are starting to come out of the bottom, or there are lots wound roung and round the rootball then reject it, as it has been in a pot for to long and should have been put in a bigger one long ago. Try to go for organic herbs if possible.
These are the herbs that in my experience are the best for beginners, and make good staples for a Wiccan herb collection.
The one herb I say should feature in any Wiccan's home or garden is Sage, it features very heavily in most rituals, and may well be the most used herb in Wicca. There are many different types of Sage, I'd advise going for white Sage as this seems to grow best. Sage likes warm sunny spots, and is very easy to care for, as long as it has sunlight and water it should do fine. It can often be cut back twice a year, wait till it gets to a good size then trim it back, drying anything you cut off by hanging it upside down in bundles (make sure any herbs you dry are out of sunlight and draughts). Never cut sage back when it is flowering, as the plant won't have enough energy to begin to grow much more.
Mint is one of the fastest growing herbs, it sends out loads of little "runners" (roots) which can extend far across any garden or patch of soil, and each of these runners can have many shoots pop up. Mint is best grown in a pot alone, as it soon overwhelms other plants. It is easy to grow more plants from Mint, simpely dig down around one of the runners shoots and carefully remove it with a good sized piece of root, then plant into its own pot and keep well watered while new roots grow and establish themselves. Only cut Mint back once a year, allow it to get very large then cut it back, leaving most of the center untouched. Make sure you cut it back before it flowers, and when flowers appear remove them.
Thyme is a hardy little plant with beautiful plesantly scented flowers. It does not gain much height, but spreads pretty far across the soils surface. It can be cut back for drying more than once a year, as longs as it is given enough time to recover and regrow.
Rosemary is a hardy evergreen with two main types. The best to go for is the shorter more bushy type, although if you don't have much room for wide plants the less bushy taller version is fine. Often used in beauty spells, Rosemary is also good for headaches, rub a little of its oil on the back of the neck and the temples to increase circulation. Rosmary can be gathered for drying twice a year.
Lavender is a lovely plant to have, with a soothing fragrance and pretty flowers it is wonderful for aiding relaxation and sleep. There are actually many types available, but for drying french Lavender is best as it has the strongest scent. Cut Lavender to dry when the flowers are only just opened, if you allow them to be pollinated then produce seeds your drying area will soon be covered in them. Lavender should be cut back in winter if it is starting to develop any thick woody stems.
Most commonly used in wealth and abundance spells, Basil is a fragrant little herb with round green leaves that are a beautiful shiny emerald colour. Like most soft stemmed herbs it can only be cut from in a decent sized amount for drying once a year.
Gathering for Drying and Taking The Odd Little Bit For Spells
Gathering for drying, or cutting back, is when you take a large amount from a plant in order to sry and store it. Depending on the plant this should only be done three times a year at most, otherwise the plant may not recover. It should never be done when the herb is flowering as most of the plants energies are going towards that, so there won't be much left for it to begin to regrow with. It is fine however to take a couple of leaves from the plant every now and then, even if you've already gathered a large amount from it for drying, as long as its not a huge amount.
Over the years I've gotten into the habit of burying apple peel underneath the roots of my herbs, the slow release of nutrients keeps the plants happy for ages, and apples are sacred, so there is a two in one benifit. Plus its organic, so there is no need to use unnatural chemicals.