Friday, January 21, 2011

How to grow a Witch's or Classical Medicinal Herb Garden -- Let's all learn together!

This blog is my attempt to organize and execute a garden in the style of a classic "witch's" garden, or more realistically, a medicinal herb garden. The barriers in this project are space, money and time.

And before I go any further, I wish to make one statement and make it very clearly:  DON'T EAT ANYTHING YOU READ ABOUT IN THIS BLOG.  Don't be stupid.

Unlike other sites that may seem similar to mine, I will not be telling you to bless this or smudge that.  No wands will be waved.  What I will tell you is my experiences in growing the lovely herbs that you would use to do your smudging (wonderful stuff like White Sage and Sweet Grass).  This is going to be the real deal, practical and organic. I am striving for the kind of garden a peasant or farmer of ancient times would have grown and relied on for everyday use and for medicinal purposes. 

I also have a penchant for the unusual, and wish to grow lovely dangerous herbs like Nightshade, Henbane, Monkshood and Mandrake.  I have grown some of these plants in the past, but I have never had the use of garden space for more than a few years at a stretch.  I am a city dweller, and like most city dwellers, I do not have outdoor space to grow anything.  And lots of flower pots around the apartment is not realistic, so...what to do?

Question number one: How can I grow a witch's garden when I have no garden?  The answer, for me, is in renting garden space.  Many cities have "victory" gardens, "pea patches" or community gardens that can be rented by the season for a nominal fee.  And you can grow whatever you wish, provided it can be cleared away at the end of the growing season.  And, luckily, most of the herbs I will attempt to grow are annual, which means they grow only one season, so that is not a problem.  I will also look into container growing as well for those who really, really can't get to a community garden.

But if you think you cannot afford to rent space, think again. It's really cheap, usually an annual fee of only 20 to 40 dollars. I'll bet you spend more every month on cable or phone bills.  Spend it once on your garden and you will reap rewards all summer and fall.

The second obvious question is: Where on earth would I get these amazing herbs?  That lovely big garden nursery might have some unusual plants, but it is not likely that they will carry Atropa Belladonna (nightshade), or Aconite (monkshood aka wolfbane), or Mandragora Officinarum (Mandrake).  Don't bother looking for something as fun as Artemisia Absinthium (Wormwood), and don't even think that something as easy to obtain as Salvia Apiana (White Sage) will be available at Lowe's garden center.  And if you want to make a Walmart employee cry, try asking them if they have any Hyoscyamus Niger (Henbane).  I don't think so.   No, you won't find any of these in your local nursery.  Where then?

Long before the miracle of the internet, it would have been a bit of a problem to locate and obtain these herbs.  Now however, there are various sites that offer to sell you the seeds to grow these marvelous herbs for yourself.  Isn't that nice?  At this time, I cannot recommend any sites from which to purchase these herbs, I will be finding out for myself if they are reliable or not.  And I will report here my experiences in this quest.

A third question might be: How hard/expensive will this project be?  Starting any plants from seed will take a little effort, but hopefully not a lot of money.  And since you won't find them as seedlings the way you can with veggies over at the ole garden store, you'll have to start the seeds early. Like around now.  You should be able to pick up some herb seeds at the large hardware outlets around about now, so start looking at what they have, but don't buy anything until at least February. Make a list, make a plan.

Your initial expense will be the seeds themselves, along with potting medium like potting soil, or starter kits. You'll also spend a few bucks on garden tools, but go with the cheapest you can get if you're just starting out. No need to go broke if you're not sure you can follow through.

The more unusual seeds are not readily available and so will run you a few dollars more than average.  But, there are plenty of mainstream herbs that are perfect candidates for your witch's medicinal garden, so no worries.  Average cost of mainstream plant seeds can be anywhere from fifty cents to $2.59 for a packet of 50 seeds, give or take.  The type I will be searching for will probably average $3.50 to 5 or 6 bucks, and I may only get a few seeds.  Once your seeds have sprouted and you've transferred them to the ground, all it takes is keeping an eye on them a few times a week and making sure they get enough water.  Even weeding does not have to be that big a deal.

I tend to get carried away with my projects, there are so many fabulous herbs to try raising, its easy to over do it and try to plant too many.  So keeping myself in check and  not over doing it will be at the top of my list of "don't's'.   Keeping the garden limited in size and/or number of herbs, will help me succeed in growing herbs of quality and keep me sane.  And, hopefully, I will have a place to go and relax and enjoy the view of my herbs blooming throughout the summer.


Alexa said...

Hello, Just thought I'd let you know that I love your site :)

I am endeavoring to create a virtually identical garden this year and include veggies. My apartment has a disused and ivy-covered garden that I will attempt to use and your research into all these plants has helped enormously. Went through the site and saw that you label yourself as a procrastinator, no way.. I was planning on doing a blog too but here I am on yours instead ;] Anyhow keep up the good work, good pictures and informative site!

The Gardener said...

Thanks for your comment, Alexa. Glad you like my site, good luck putting your garden together.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled that I found your blog- I want to see more on your "witch's garden"!

Bookmonger99 said...

Just stumbled onto your site and your site to stumblupon... But having done that I'm wondering how your garden did? Or is doing? I moved this last year and lost my hard work on my herb garden, so am starting over this year on a much smaller scale. I hope you update soon.
Bright Blessings xx