Herbal teas; also known as "tisanes" are a must-have for any tea drinker. But if you live in a small space, you may not realize how easy it is to have a small tea garden with herbs. Many herbs do quite well in containers and they make a great little display as well. I like my herbs in containers because I can locate them wherever I want and not have to create an flower bed for them. I also don't have to weed them either.
I wouldn't recommend putting all your tea herbs in one small pot. They will grow into beautiful large plants if you separate them and not stuff them into one spot. Also, when you grow them all together, the more vigorous plants tend to overtake the smaller ones and you can potentially lose an herb this way. Even though those pots with several kinds of herbs look really cute - if you're growing your plants for harvest, this one pot/many herb method really doesn't work well.
1. Start with the Basics.
There are quite a few herbs to choose for your tea garden and the list goes on and depending on what you like. The basic herbs you will want to include for sure are the mints and chamomile. When I started drinking herbals, chamomile was my first tea. It wasn't my favorite but that was because I was drinking it in tea bags (yuk) and using older flowers from herb shops. Growing your own is a totally different taste sensation. The taste is fresher, brighter and all around better. It easy to grow too. I started mine in the fall in containers and let it overwinter. It came up fine on its own and I didn't have to do anything really. Or you can purchase a few plants to get your garden started. If you leave a few flowers on the plant toward the end of the season, it will easily self-sow. Just don't empty out the soil from the container.
2. Grow Herbs that Will be the Base Flavor for your Own Tea Blends.
For me that is the mints. I have been growing two different peppermints as well as spearmint for years in pots. I have found that the best way to keep the strains and flavor of peppermints pure and contained is to grow them this way. I have a wonderful chocolate mint and a blue balsam mint. I also keep the mints flavors intact by keeping them from flowering by keeping the leaves picked. I harvest the top portion of the stem on each stalk and let them air dry or gently dry them in my dehydrator.
Growing them in the containers makes it easy for me to keep them harvested regularly than if left in a garden bed where they tend to spread and it becomes easy to let them go. By regularly harvesting the leaves and not letting them flower, they don't cross pollinate, set seed and produce a new diluted mint flavored plant as my other mints have.
Growing mints and chamomile gives you two great flavor profiles in which to add in other herbs from the garden. Especially if you are growing herbs for medicine. Many of the medicinal herbs are bitter tasting by themselves so it's great to add mint and/or chamomile to flavor your own blend. They also taste great by themselves.
4. Remember to Feed your Container Herbs and Water
Because these plants are living in pots you need to make sure to use a fish emulsion or other organic food once or twice in the summer. I find I don't need to do much except water the pots if they look a bit wilt-y. If the summer is really hot, I often move them to a part shade location until they begin to perk up a bit. Mints tend to like some shade and this is a bonus to growing in containers.
So don't let a lack of space limit you from making your own herbal teas. Even if you have smaller pots on a patio space or porch, just make sure they get some decent sun and keep them watered for your own fresh teas. You'll definitely taste the difference.
What are your favorite tea herbs?
More posts on growing plants in containers: Container Plant How-To's and How to Plant a Cottage-Style Window Box
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