DENVER, Colo. – 150 million Americans take at least one vitamin a day, spending a total of more than 22 billion dollars each year. But instead of popping more pills every day to get vitamins and nutrients, some people are growing their supplements right outside their back door. It's what Hillary Hilliard does.
"I prefer to find an array of vitamins and minerals from these plants. Pills are just boring and dead," she said.
Hilliard dries her own herbals for tea, makes her own herbal tinctures, flower essence, herbal honey and salad dressings.
"This is great for digestion. This is a great cold and flu remedy," she explained.
Hilliard is just one of many people growing vitamins in their backyard. Gardeners at a community supported agriculture group get to the root of herbal benefits.
"It's a lot less expensive but also the benefits of eating them are that I think your body absorbs them a lot better," said CSA gardener, Jamie Wickler.
So which herbs are right for you? Basil is rich in vitamin K and A, iron, and calcium. Dill provides calcium, copper, zinc and iron. Oregano has antioxidant properties, along with potassium, and folate. Parsley enhances the antioxidant capacity of the blood. It also provides folic acid, a critical nutrient to fight against cancer. Peppermint is rich in vitamin A, C, iron and zinc. Thyme is high in magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. Sage is believed to improve brain function. For Hilliard, home grown vitamins are a no brainer.
"The best you can get is in your backyard," said Hilliard.
For her, herbs are for physical health as well as emotional and spiritual.
"Nothing has brought me so much joy as my plants," she added.
If you're interested in creating your own herb garden, starter plants can be purchased at your local garden center or greenhouse. Begin with transplants versus seeds and make sure plants have plenty of sunlight. Also, use well-drained soil and don't cut plants the first year.
Herbs can be the most sufficient way to receive the nutrients you need. There are many benefits of growing an herb garden, including the natural elements that are better for your body, as well as how a little bit of work can give you years of plants. Your herb garden can have a variety or just contain herbs that you want to have all the time. They can be used for eating, but also for perfumes, scents around the home, decoration or remedies to illness.
When starting your herb garden you may want to take into consideration a few variables, first there is if they grow in the sun or the shade. Herbs like basil, oregano, garlic, fennel, chamomile and cilantro grow in the sun, while herbs like parsley, chives, sage, ginger, mints, and dill grow in the shade. Think about their origins and this can help figure out where they belong. Another question is if they grow in wet or dry areas. Make sure they are in the right area, and make sure you have a hose accessible so that you can water ones regularly that need it. When planting your garden, make sure that the height of certain plants doesn't affect other plants from view, or from the sun. Cross-pollination can also be a problem when it comes to an herb garden. Make sure you don't plant plants that could affect each other close together. For example, plants like chives and garlic don't grow well with other garden plants. Make sure you know the appropriate time to plant each herb. Most herbs are from warm regions so planting in the colder months won't help.
Garden soil can be hard to come by, but is a very important part of gardening. The soil should be deep and easy to work with. Vegetables and herbs often aren't able to grow in the same type of soil. Herbs work well in normal garden soil or container mixes. Don't plant all of your plants very close together because air circulation is important. Overcrowding can also cause pest problems. By just doing research on the plants you want to grow, your herb garden should be a very simple task with a lot of benefits.