This week we had an amazing warm streak of weather; beautiful 70 degree weather, the sun was shining, we traded our thermal shirts for short sleeves, I even think I saw a fly! Hell, I was about to put on my swimsuit and jump in the swimming hole but quickly realized that would be a bad idea… the water does NOT feel like summertime. And the forecast is calling for snow tomorrow. Thanks Missouri! But anyway, one of my favorite things about spring/summer is making a nice glass of sun tea out on our back porch. I love experimenting with flavors and herbs for either iced tea or making my own hot tea from loose herbs, dried fruit and whatnot. And what’s better than making your own tea? Growing it yourself, thats what! That gives you bonus points when company comes over and tastes your delicious tea and they’re all like “Daaamn homie, this sun tea is some good shit, my dude! Namsayin. How’d you make this delicious and refreshing beverage, b?” And then you can be all like, “Thank you very much Ghostface Killah, I grew it myself.”
Planting and creating your own tea garden is easy to do and the possibilities are frigg’n endless. This is the perfect time of year to start planning and planting! We dedicated a section of our perennial garden strictly for herbs. We have a mix of culinary herbs, tea/cocktail herbs, perennial and annuals. Here’s what we have planned for our tea/herb garden and what we have planted so far.
Chamomile:Â German Chamomile is a hella beautiful, delicate plant that produces flowers that look like little daisies. The flowers can be harvested, dried and made into a soothing, relaxing tea for sleepy time. Chamomile also has mad game and re-seeds itself like a boss! Â However, for the first few years we plan to start some in the greenhouse just to be sure that we have plenty if need be. We started these in 1″x1″ cells and surface sowed the seeds. To surface sow, sprinkle the seeds directly on top of the soil then let the water settle them in. Chamomile needs light to germinate so this ensures that they get plenty of it!
Roselle (Hibiscus):Â I’m really excited to grow roselle this year! In fact, I may rename 2014 as “the year of the Hibiscus.” When brewed, hibiscus makes a beautiful red-ish pink color and is so, freakin tasty in tea or boiled into a syrup. Hibiscus brings the ruckus to any dish! WORD UP!… Hibiscus tea, Hibiscus syrup, Hibiscus jam, Hibiscus salads, Hibiscus soda, Hibiscus pancakes… Hibiscus in EVERYTHING!!! We sowed the seeds and two days later they germinated, by a week they were three inches tall and ready to be up-potted. If you’re starting these from seed, I recommend sowing them into a 4″ pot to begin with. Duly noted for next year! But as I was saying… Roselle hibiscus is amazing, not only to drink, but to look at too!
Anise Hyssop:Â Anise hyssop is one of our perennial herbs that will work well for your tea garden, but also as a pollinator attractant. Honeybees and butterflies freak out for the beautiful flowers, and so do we! We’re planning on putting some hives near our perennial garden eventually because so many herbs (like hyssop) are great at attracting bees. Killah bees on the swarm! It’s a super slow starter so plan on starting this one early in the greenhouse for year one. You can harvest the licorice flavored leaves for tea, but if you’re not into the licorice flavor, they make beautiful landscaping and the flowers would be beautiful in a wildflower bouquet with a fresh Shaolin style.
And now for the basils…
Lemon Basil:Â We’re primarily growing this as a culinary herb but a few leaves of lemon basil with lemon balm and lemon verbena in a glass of tea or even cold water would be mega heavenly.
Sweet Basil:Â Again, mainly for culinary uses but it would make an excellent garnish. Or pair it with some strawberries for a strawberry-basil cocktail! Mmmmm…booze.
Sacred Tulsi Basil:Â Ok guys, this is probably in my top five of my “I’m really excited to grow this year” list. What is tulsi you ask? Well, tulsi originates from India. For thousands of years, Indians have used tulsi as a means for spiritual purification and also for medicinal purposes. Many Indian homes have a tulsi plant to purify the atmosphere in the house. In terms of energy and literally… it’s supposed to repel mosquitos and flies, and bad mojo. It’s also said to aid in common ailments such as the common cold, fever, sore throat, headaches, stress, ice cream brain freeze and wack-ass emcees. Basically, it’s the ultimate feel good plant that will heal you inside and out. It’s a great base for an herbal tea, too! Yep, yep, yep!
Growing basil from seed is pretty simple. We lightly covered the seeds with soil, keep the soil temperature between 70-90 degrees and give them lots of light right off the bat. Some basil has a low germination rate (like, less than 70%) so don’t be afraid to sow heavily. Plant them heavy, and protect your neck! We planted four seeds per cell and 30% more cells than we need to. Remember, you can always thin out extra seedlings if you need to. Better to have too many seedlings and keep the strong plants than to not have enough then be mad at yourself in a few months when you could be enjoying amazing homegrown, handmade tea, but are not!! Don’t be that guy.
So that’s what we have planted so far in the greenhouse. It’s a great place to start if you’re thinking about planting an herb, tea or cocktail garden. With a little bit of planning and prep work, you too can have a dope tea garden with the potential to impress members of the Wu-Tang clan. WU-TANG FOREVER, SON!! We’ll be planting more next week so keep checking back for multiple installments on the progress of our tea garden. And if you have a tea garden of your own, let us know what you have growing in yours. We’d love to hear from you! Drink up sucka! Word is bond, yo.