Category Archives: Herbs

Beautiful Monarda Attracts Beneficials

Brillant beautiful Monarda lands in many places in my gardens as a favorite perennial.  This easy to care for perennial has a lot going for it!  Besides its easy care, it attracts nectar seeking hummingbirds, butterflies, honey bees and the humble bumble bee.

Monarda is commonly known as bee balm, but is also known as wild bergamot, bergamot mint, horsemint, wild oregano and Oswego tea.  It comes in an array of pink, red, white and purple colors and some even have double-flowers.

Monarda is not to persnickety in our garden, but in hot climates light shade keeps the leaves from burning out and it does best if it isn’t allowed to dry out the first year while establishing its root system.  Most Monarda varieties seem to adapt to most soil conditions, but bloom better in well-drained rich soil.  Prepare planting site by loosening soil to the depth of 12-15 inches with a digging fork, then add a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost.  Each spring add a new layer of compost to retain moisture.  Remove spent flowers to keep plants looking tidy.  After frost arrives in fall or winter, plants will die back to the ground and it’s time to cut back to one or two inches above soil line.  Plants can be divided in early spring to keep them looking healthy and the bonus…More plants!

My favorite herb garden has a nice clump of Monarda of various sizes and colors.  I suggest a chair nearby to take a few minutes and enjoy the bumblebees and other flying friends that come and visit!  Now if that doesn’t relax you, I don’t know what would!

Monarda isn’t just for looks though, it’s a fabulous remedy for a sore throat.  Harvest a handful of leaves and flowers and let them wilt. Once they have wilted (12 hours will work), infuse/submerge them into some local raw honey and let them sit for at least 4 weeks.  Strain out the plant material after the four weeks and transfer honey into a dry bottle and label. Take 1-2 teaspoons as needed for sore throats and coughs.



Filed under Bees, Flower Gardens, Gardening, Herbs

Herbs for Chickens

If you were to walk around our chicken and goat pins, you would find all kinds of herbs growing.  They not only help with a bit of fly control in the summer months, but we collect and dry them for not only teas and tisanes for us, but the animals as well.

Nettle, top of my list for a couple of reasons.  Our chicks love dried nettle!  It is a wonderful source for nutrients, containing essential minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium.  Be sure to grow this in the “outback” safe away from brushing up against.  Ours is right up against the coop, behind a little picket fence.  It never gets very big or out of control because I am always harvesting it.

Red Clover is an excellent laying stimulant.  While it’s great dried tossed in with the chicks daily ration of food, they love it fresh.  I pick a couple of handfuls every night and toss around their bedding in the evening.  It is also a good respiratory system helper and a nutrition powerhouse. Even the two week old babies are really enjoying this treat.

Peppermint smells great and helps repel pests and insects.  Just like for us humans, it helps our chicks have a healthy digestive tract.  However, we grow this in pots near the coop rather than let it get out of hand.  This stuff is easy to grow, but sometimes not hard to control once it is established.

Calendula flowers are an anti-fungal and an anti-bacterial.  So why wouldn’t you give your feathered friends a taste of these?  Calendula can deepen the color of yolks.  My girls like this best dried.

Comfrey leaf, one of the best healing herbs I know.  It’s protein rich, and also helps with digestive issues.

Lavender Flower are aromatic and help reduce stress, improve blood circulation and it is an effective insecticide, including lice!  And what’s prettier than a bunch of lavender plants growing around the yard and coop area?

Chamomile is gentle and calming.  It’s another herb that is excellent for digestive systems, but it’s also good for growth.  This is great for chicks!

Raspberry leaf can stimulate reproductive systems while providing a good source of nutrition.  We have a raspberry patch not far away from the coop, and they love a fresh handful tossed in their mix.

Fennel is a super pest repellent.  It’s helpful to the digestive and reproductive systems.  It can increase appetite and egg laying.  I plant fennel in my garden and let it go to seed.  The bees love the blooms an then once totally dry I  chop the seed heads off and toss the whole thing in the coop.  They love picking off the seeds.  I also save some for later in the year.

Rosemary is so easy to grow, it smells terrific and helps with respiratory health as well as being an                                                                        effective insecticide.  This can be picked year round because it’s an evergreen here.

Lemonbalm!  This could get out of control if I didn’t feed it to the chickens and goats!  Lemonbalm can help repel rodents, it’s an inti-inflammatory, and an anti-microbial herb.  My chickens like it best dried, but they will eat it fresh when it’s flowering.

Thyme is an antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic.  It’s another herb that helps with the digestive and respiratory systems.

All of these herbs are wonderful dried and mixed together to feed chickens every few days.  I toss a handful in their feed and even a couple of tablespoons in each nesting box. If you don’t have the time or space to grow these herbs but still want to give them a try you can still buy organic herb mixes for laying chickens.



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Filed under Chickens, Herbs, Life on the Farm

Natural Energy Booster!

I’m always looking for ways to keep myself up and running during the summer time when it’s hot an I’m dragging.  Out back I grow a little patch of Stinging Nettle.  It’s not the friendliest plant (hence it’s name), but it has many uses to give it home here at our little farm.  Remember, this is stinging nettle and it can cause skin irritation.  So harvesting with tongs or gloves is a good idea!

This plant has deep green leaves, which indicates “energy”.  Put a handful of fresh nettle leaves or 1 oz of dried in a teapot of 2-3 cups of boiling water, turn off heat and let it steep for at least 4 hours.  Strain.  Use within 36 hours.  Sweeten with honey, agave or even a few leaves of stevia plant if desired.

I drink this daily when I need an energy boost without wiring my nerves.

Ayurvedic medicine uses an infusion of nettle tea as a spring tonic and rejuvenator.

For more information on Stinging Nettle Click HERE



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Filed under Herbs, Recipes from the Garden

Anise Hyssop

Growing & Using Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop Flowering

It’s Fall!  Well not technically, but around here when the monsoons come in and the temps cool just a little and mornings are crisp, I know it’s time to start planting fall crops, whether it be vegetables, herbs, annual or perennial flowers.  Anise hyssop is first on my list.  It’s a member of Agastache genus and is a favorite herb to attract hummingbirds. But more than that it’s a great mosquito repellant plant (perfect for fall monsoon weather).  Bees love Anise Hyssop!  I see bees hover over its flowers more than any other herb in the garden.  Any help with pollination in the garden these days…I’m on it!

Agastache (Anise Hyssop) comes in a variety of colors from purple-blue to the ornamental varieties coral, apricot and pink.  Culinary Anise Hyssop makes a delicious tea.  The leaves and blossoms can both be used and they have the fragrance of anise.  Add the leafy stem to flavor a pitcher of water.  Scatter the blossoms over a cooked vegetable like beets, or a plate of slice peaches.  Add color to a lettuce salad.  Be creative.

Anise Hyssop is a very showy plant, blooming from June to September.  Giving a bit of care by deadheading will insure larger blooms for a longer duration.  Some plants will reach 32 inches tall or taller and they make a great accent in the background of herb or perennial beds.  Once established, Anise Hyssop is very drought tolerant and most varieties are hardy to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant is a winner in my book because it’s soil needs are minimal.  Good soil drainage and a little compost upon planting is all it seems to need.  A great plant for dry-land gardeners.  You can also divide in the early spring with ease.

Anise Hyssop Tea: Bruise a small handful of leaves by crumpling them in your hand, then add to a teapot, pour boiling water over the leaves, cover the pot and let it steep for 10 minutes. Easy as tea!

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Filed under Bees, Flower Gardens, Gardening, Herbs