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Introduction to Herbs for Kids
2 Apr 2015

Introduction To Herbs For Kids: Start Your Herb Garden

Make a home for your new best friends!

Have you ever watched a little seed sprout into life? Have you seen a baby plant grow into a big, beautiful plant? It is magical! You can be a gardener and help little plants grow! Invite some of your newly found herb friends to grow in your garden and take care of them so they will grow up healthy and strong.

If you have been following along with our Introduction to Herbs for Kids series, then you know that we have already explored a lot of the herbal world together. We have learned about making special friends with herbs as well as how to make some wonderful, fun things from our herbal friends plus much more. Growing herbs is also a wonderful way to work with plants and add to your herbal knowledge. Growing your own herbs is another way to learn about the plants in which you get to interact with them while they are fresh and vital. Using fresh herbs is a true delight because they are full of life, fragrance and flavor. Are you ready to start your own garden? Let’s go!

Special Herbal Terms:

When learning about herbalism, you may encounter some interesting and even strange words. Here is a key to help you understand these words!

Chlorophyll: A substance inside plants that makes them green and catches the sun’s energy (which the plant uses to make food).
Culinary Herb: An herb commonly used to flavor food.
Edible: This means that it is okay to eat. However, always check with an adult before eating plants.
Insomnia: Not being able to sleep or having a hard time falling asleep.

How To Grow A Garden

Your garden can be as big as a large plot of land or as small as a little garden pot. Whatever space you have to offer is the perfect space. There are some basic guidelines to follow when planting and caring for a garden. We will talk about a few of them. If you want more information about how to have a beautiful herb garden, there are plenty of books to read that are full of useful tips. You can also ask folks working at your local plant nursery and at your local extension county office for help.

Helpful gardening books:

Step One: Make A Plan

Before you get outside and start digging, it is a good idea to do a little planning. What kind of space do you have for a garden? What herbs are you interested in growing? Will those herbs grow well in the space you have available? Draw your plan out on a piece of paper or use the activity sheet below to help you make your plan. Also remember to get your parent’s permission and help before starting your garden!

Herbs For Kids- Start Your Very Own Herb Garden

Step Two: Know What Your Herb Friend Needs

What are the basics things that a plant needs to grow happily in your garden? From our botany lesson we know that plants have roots for drinking up water, minerals, and vitamins from the soil. Plants also have leaves that are rich in green chlorophyll that catches energy from the sun to help the plant make its own food. So we know that in order for our herb friends to grow successfully they need to have enough sunlight, water, vitamins and minerals.

Plants need more or less of each of these things depending on where they like to grow. Some plants like to grow right out in the hot sun while some prefer to live in a cool shady area. Some plants need lots of water and other like less water. Doing a little research about what your plant needs to grow healthy and strong will help you pick the best place for planting. Look at the chart below to see what the herbs you want to plant need to be happy and then pick a spot in your garden for them that they will like.

Making an Herb Garden with Children

Step Three: Make Your Bed

Have you heard of a garden bed? This is the special place where your plants will grow. It is important to make sure the soil you have in your bed is ready for the plants. You will need to dig up the soil especially if it is compacted down. The soil in my yard is hard and thick with clay. So every time I plant something in a new area, I start by spending time digging up the soil and turning it over. Then I add things to the soil that plants like such as topsoil, compost, egg shells, coffee grounds, and even manure. You can find out what the soil in your area needs to make a great garden bed by visiting your local plant nursery. Also, before you start digging be sure to have your parent’s permission.

Step Four: Plant Your Garden

You can buy little seedling plants or grow herbs from seed. You may be able to find seeds and seedlings in your local area. If you can’t find them from local folks, here are some wonderful places to purchase them online.

Online resources for seeds and plants:

When you buy seeds to sprout or plants to grow there is usually information on the seed packet or with the plant that will tell you about the plant’s water, light and soil requirements. Reading this information is a great way to find out what your plant friend needs to be healthy and happy. In our next lesson we will talk about some fun ways to sprout seeds at home.

Tools For The Garden

When growing a garden, it is helpful to have some handy tools to help you get the job done right. You and your parent may want to gather up some of these tools before you make your bed or plant your plants so that you will be well prepared. Tools to consider having on hand include: a hose or watering can, spade, shovel, garden fork, hand weeder, and a basket or bucket for moving around large amounts of material such as soil, mulch and eventually your harvested plants!

Step Five: Take Care!

Once your garden is planted, be sure to take good care of your herb friends. Visit your garden every day to give your herbs water and to pull up any unwanted plants that may have found their way into your garden bed. While you are there, take some time to say “hi” to your herb friends. Do you notice how is the garden changing day to day? You may want to draw the plants, take pictures over time or make some notes about their growth.

For Kids - Start Your Very Own Herb Garden

Favorite Plants For A Child’s Herb Garden

Here is some very basic information to help guide you towards herbs you may want to invite to grow in your garden. Visit your local nursery or look at gardening books for further information about the herbs you want to grow.

Herb Light Needs Water Needs Common Uses Fun Kid Uses
Anise Hyssop – Agastache foeniculum full sun to part shade dry to moderate helps upset tummies & coughs munch tasty licorice flavored leaves
Basil – Ocimum spp. full sun dry to moderate delicious pesto add leaves to salads and even orange juice
Borage – Borago officinalis full sun to part shade moderate cooling and good for healing skin issues tasty fairy flowers, add them to salads, freeze them in ice cubes or just munch on them
Calendula – Calendula officinalis full sun dry to moderate best known for skin and wound healing the seeds are really neat and it is fun to add the petals to baked goods
California Poppy – Eschscholzia californica full sun to part shade dry to moderate gently relaxing for the nervous system the seed pods are very cool looking, see if you can find them growing
Catnip – Nepeta cataria full sun to shade dry to moderate best known for driving kitties crazy leaves are gently relaxing, add them to your bedtime bath
Chamomile – Matricaria chamomilla full sun to part shade moderate great for upset tummies and nerves the beautiful flowers have an apple-y smell and are fun to harvest
Chickweed – Stellaria media part shade to shade moist tasty spring green makes a great spit poultice for stings and bites
Chives – Allium schoenoprasum full sun to part shade moderate mild onion flavored culinary herb flowers are a neat ball-like shape that are fun to pull apart and eat
Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare full sun dry to moderate the seeds are used to help digestion munch on a stalk of fennel for a juicy licorice flavored treat
Hollyhock – Alcea rosea full sun to part shade moderate helps to ease dry coughs make pretty flower dolls with  hollyhock’s flowers
Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia full sun dry wonderful for easing stress and insomnia use the flowering stalks to make beautiful, fragrant  wands
Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis full sun to part shade moderate helps with colds and also calming add a few stalks of fresh lemon balm to a pitcher of water for a delightfully flavored drink
Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis Full sun to shade moderateto damp used for sore throats, coughs and digestive issues make your own herbal marshmallows with the roots
Mints – Mentha spp. Full sun to shade moderate to moist used for digestive problems cooling and yummy, munch the leaves or add them to fruit salad
Mullein – Verbascum thapsus full sun dry to moderate used to help soothe earaches the leaves are soft, sweet and make great fairy blankets
Oat – Avena sativa full sun moderate used to nourish and heal the nervous system harvest the milky tops to make delicious tea
Pansies – Viola tricolor full sun to part shade moderate used for coughs edible fairy flowers to eat, play with, and crystalize in sugar
Rosemary – Rosmarinus spp.   full sun dry to moderate can be help to soothe headaches and belly aches chop up the fragrant leaves for a pizza topping, yum
Sage – Salvia spp. full sun dry to moderate wonderful for sore throat make into a healing compress
Self Heal – Prunella vulgaris full sun to part shade moderate to moist used as a wonderful skin healing herb make into a compress or poultice
St. John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum full sun moderate helps to heal damaged nerves and to help people feel happy make an infused oil from fresh yellow flowers and watch as the oil turns red
Sunflower – Helianthus annuus full sun dry to moderate most well known as a tasty food plant a sunflower house
Thyme – Thymus vulgaris full sun to part shade dry to moderate used for infections wonderful ground cover for fairy or dragon gardens
Violet – Viola odorata part shade to shade moderate to moist helps ease coughs and soothe the skin edible fairy flowers to eat, play with, and crystalize in sugar

This chart was generated with growing information from: Tammi Hartung, Richo Cech, and Patricia Michalak.

 

An Extra Special Note About Mints, Sages, and Thymes

There are a great many varieties of mints, sages and thymes to choose from when planning your garden.

Mints – Beyond peppermint and spearmint, our favorite mint is apple mint. It has the sweetest fuzzy leaves and a wonderful flavor. We also love chocolate mint, orange mint, pineapple mint, and ginger mint.

Sages – Regular garden sage is a wonderful plant to grow but you might also want to consider pineapple sage or the lovely tricolor sage.

Thymes – Lovely thymes to consider are delightful lemon thyme, golden lemon thyme, orange thyme, French and English thyme, the super tiny minus thyme, and wooly thyme.

Be aware that mints spread readily and will gladly expand into whatever garden space is available to them.

Skin Care Remedies with Foraged Herbs

Step Six: Leave It Alone

There maybe be some helpful plants growing in your yard already that can be used as herbs! Sometimes these plants are considered to be weeds but herbalists know better. If you find any of these plants and they are growing in a place that is okay for them to stay and grow, then you may want to just leave them alone.

Some examples of helpful plants to keep an eye out for are:

  • Dandelion
  • Plantain
  • Red Clover
  • Alfalfa
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Thistles
  • Wild Lettuce
  • Chicory
  • Nettle

What is a weed?

One of my wise teachers once told me that a weed is any plant that is growing in a place where you don’t want it to be. Perhaps it is just a new friend that we don’t know enough about yet?

Activities For Kids Of All Ages

Garden Planning Activity

Garden Planning Sheet Printable - Kid's Herb Series

It’s time to plan your garden! Download the Garden Planning Sheet to get started! 

Note To Parents:

Dear Parents,
Thank you so much for joining us!

This week’s lesson is about more than simply growing herbs. Gifting your child with their own little plot of land to grow plants is a great way to teach them about much more than just herbs — gardening is a way to ignite that magic spark that all children have for the Earth and its beauty.

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself-consciously to the soughing of the trees.

– Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

Keep It Safe! While your child explores in their very own garden, please be sure to keep your little ones safe. Remind them that not all plants are safe to touch, play with, and eat. They should always check with a knowledgeable adult about the safety of plants before touching or eating them.

During this exciting time be sure to have your child take care of their own little plot of land. Encourage them to check it each day and notice the changes occurring. Perhaps they can keep a notebook to help them record what is happening.

Resources for herb gardening and how to steward this incredible Earth on which we all live:

Gardening How To’s:

Herb Gardening Resources:

Insects In The Garden

Did you know that The Herbal Academy Of New England offers affordable online courses in herbalism? The Introductory Herbal Course is perfect for anyone new to herbalism while the Intermediate Herbal Course will help to increase knowledge and sharpen the skills of those who already have a knowledge base. We also offer a beautiful and extensive Herbarium for in-depth research.

REFERENCES: 

Andrews, Valerie. (1990). A Passion For This Earth: Exploring A New Partnership Or Man, Woman And Nature. New York: Harpercollins.

Cech, Richo. Growing Information Retrieved from https://www.horizonherbs.com/

Hartung, Tammi. (2000). Growing 101 Herbs That Heal. Vermont: Storey Books.

Michalak, Patricia S. (1993) Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Herbs. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press.