Learn to Grow and Use Herbs at Home
- A broad based 6 lesson course for beginners to herb growing.
- Learn about the history of herb use, herb culture, and identification of the major herbs.
- Learn how to grow herbs effectively.
- An ideal course for the amateur who likes to use herbs at home.
- This course involves about 100 hours of study with an emphasis on growing and using herbs as a hobby. Thirty different herbs are studied in detail and a systematic method of identifying herbs is emphasised.
This course aims to familiarise you with the use and culture of what are traditionally the most common herb plants. It should provide you with a sound framework upon which you will be able to develop your knowledge of herbs.
DURATION: The course requires around 100 hours of self-paced study.
START DATE: You can start the course at anytime - to suit you.
The course is divided into 6 lessons as follows:
1. Introduction to Herbs. Plant identification, plant names, general characteristics of herbs, the history of herbs, and herb resources (nurseries, seeds, clubs, etc).
2. Herb Gardening. Planting, propagation, soils, plant nutrition, and container growing.
3. Complimentary (Companion) Planting. Introduction to companion planting, herb garden design.
4. Growing Herbs to Harvest. Herb products, setting up a herb farm, making compost.
5. Herbs for Cooking. Herb crafts, herb ingredients, cooking with herbs.
6. Herbs for fragrance, health and beauty. Dyes, mordants, oils, other herb crafts.
During the course, the student will learn how to:
- Define “herb”
- Identify herbs suitable for hanging baskets, indoor growing, and appropriate methods of propagation for at least 50 herb species
- Define “companion planting”
- Give examples of appropriate companion planting
- Build an efficient compost heap
- Identify appropriate herbs for culinary uses
- Identify some medicinal uses for herbs
WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THIS COURSE?
During the course, the student will:
- Collect and identify 30 different herb specimens
- Learn the basics of plant identification
- Make contact with herb farms to ask about their operation
- Propagate herbs by cuttings
- Prepare a soil suitable for growing herbs
- Design and plant a herb garden
- Visit retailers to investigate the types of herb products available
- Prepare food containing herbs
- Harvest and dry a herb correctly
- Prepare one other type of herb product
What are Herbs Used for?
The word 'herb' in the context of this course, and in the context it is commonly used today, refers to those plants which are useful because of their aromatic, medicinal, cosmetic, flavouring or repellent qualities. Herbs are plants which are used for 'food, medicine, scent, flavour etc.'
Herbs have been used by man for thousands of years; and continue to be part of our daily life today -more than what most people realize. They provide the perfumes in our soaps and deodorants; the flavourings in our food, and are an integral part of many of the pharmaceuticals we use. Herbs flavour our toothpaste, and appear as garden plants in more places than what one might imagine.
The first medicines ever used were those derived from the plant kingdom (and also from animal organs). In olden times, bitters were a usual accompaniment to the meal, made from herbs containing ample supplies of potash they acted as particularly good tonics (potassium aiding muscle and nerve tissue growth). Bitter tonics were also used to overcome temporary loss of appetite, and were thought to stimulate the flow of saliva and gastric juices, assisting in the process of digestion. "Colombo root" and chamomile were both used as bitters.
Herbs were also used in rituals associated with superstitions, birth and death. The development of the use of poisonous plants as medicines is not clearly understood, however as illness and evil were considered to be connected, bitter and nauseous medicines were associated with the driving of demons out of the body. Chemistry later gave scientists the ability to extract alkaloids such as morphine from the opium poppy, glycoside such as Digitalis (from the foxglove) and essential plant oils such as thymol. These chemicals although poisonous are used in very small amounts to treat disease today.
Official schools for herbalists were set up in Egypt around 3000BC. A paper dated around 2000BC lists 85 different herbs used by the Egyptians including castor oil, dill, lettuce, mint and poppy. The Egyptians also used herbs in burial. The king of Babylon (720 BC) was recorded to be growing 70 different herbs in his garden including thyme, mint and poppy.
Suggested Herbs to Try
For fast-growing, low herbs try:
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbandensis) - a succulent with rosette leaves to 1m tall. Very drought-tolerant, suited to dry, gravelly soils in full sun. Propagate by dividing small offshoots from main stem. It is great in pots too or for those dry spots in the garden. It needs winter protection from frosts.
Cat Mint (Nepeta x faassenii syn. N. mussinii) - a tough fast-growing, sun-loving, herbaceous perennial that is a profusion of purple flowers throughout spring and summer. Withstands dry conditions – and works well under other plants such as roses, as an edging plant or to quickly fill gaps. Many cultivars available that range in height and spread but ‘N. ‘Walkers’ Low’ is a great low-growing variety.
Curry Bush (Helichrysum italicum syn. H. angustifolium) - perennial to 60cm, compact bush with small silvery, curry flavoured foliage. Or Helichrysum italicum subsp. microphyllum a smaller growing, plant to 30cm tall and better variety that is less prone to woodiness. Both are frost and drought-tolerant. Yellow flowers appear in summer. Grow in well-drained soil in a sunny position. Prune straight after flowering to promote bushiness.
Creeping Thyme (Thymus spp.) – there are numerous species of thyme – enough to fill an entire garden! A profusion of bee-attracting flowers appears in early summer and range from white to pink, purples to magenta. Tolerates dry, sandy or stony soils but will also grow well in loams and clays
Orris Root (Iris pallida) - this is a very hardy perennial rhizomatous plant, with sword-shaped leaves to about 80cm high. The lovely mauve-blue flowers appear in summer. The rhizome is used as a fixative in perfumery and also potpourri. Soils should be well-drained and it doesn’t mind baking sun in summer. Note: Some other species are also called “orris root” and used similarly.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) - smaller varieties such as Lavandula ‘Hidcote’ and Lavandula ‘Rosea’ are preferable. Lavenders need full sun. All are drought-tolerant, tough reliable plants that usually flower in spring but hold the flowers into summer. Prune by one third at the end of summer. In humid climates L. dentata often flowers best. They like alkaline soils; so annual doses of lime can improve plants (particularly if you are applying organic mulches that can make soils acidic).
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) - this is the common oregano. It has mauve flowers in summer and grows to about 45cm. Origanum vulgare ‘Polyphant’ (a variegated variety with white flowers grows to only 30cm high). Origanum vulgare var. aureum (Golden Oregano) to 45cm tall with pale mauve flowers - best in full sun or the plant reverts back to green if in a more shaded position. Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum) is a very spicy version with white flowers in summer to 45cm tall. All oreganos perform best in full sun but they do grow quite happily in semi-shade too. Will grow in tough hot spots on sandy, gravelly and clay soils (but not water-logged). Prune back foliage regularly and also after flowering. Divide every 3 years or so.
Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cineraifolium) - this plant has lovely dissected foliage and grows to about 40cm high with a similar spread. It will grow in tough dry spots in full sun, but will still perform very well in part shade. The daisy flowers appear in summer and these are dried and used for insecticides.
Prostrate Rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.) – again there are several cultivars some growing taller than others. Rosmarinus ‘Huntington Carpet’ is an exceptional example only growing to about 30cm high. Rosemary plants flower in late winter through to early spring but the foliage is a delight at any time of the year. Prostrate rosemary competes well with weeds and tends to smother them. Grows in well-drained soils, prefers full sun but will grow in semi-shade and under trees, and is drought tolerant.
Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile syn. Anthemis nobilis) - a prostrate creeping form of chamomile that is often used as a medicinal herb. It makes flat, thick growth and can cover an area quite quickly as a weed-smothering groundcover. Flowers start in spring and last right through summer. Cool through to temperate climates are preferred. They will grow on sands through to well-draining clays, and in dry positions. Cut back flowers to encourage a thick mat.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) - a perennial plant to 50cm tall with attractive blue to grey-green, lacy leaves. The cultivar ‘Jackman Blue’ is well worth seeking out for its stunning blue foliage. Although it prefers moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil in a sunny but protected position, it will also do well during dry spells over summer and is a lot tougher than it looks Propagated by seeds or by cuttings which strike easily. This is a lovely plant (especially the cultivars) to fill spaces in between other plants - which offer it wind protection.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) - also S. o. ‘Purpurascens’ - a purple leafed variety (variegated yellow/green and tricolour purple/green and white leafed versions are also worth trying). Sage is woody perennial shrub to 70cm tall in ideal conditions, though often smaller. The purple variety tends to be slightly lower growing but is great as a foil for plants in the perennial border, or tumbling down a wall or embankment. Susceptible to extremes of cold, heat, wind or moisture, it prefers full sun and a well-drained but moist soil. Once established, it can be drought-tolerant. It's propagated by seeds or cuttings.
Cotton Lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus) - a small woody shrub growing to 60cm tall with silver-grey foliage. It is hardy and drought-resistant, preferring sun and good drainage but is highly adaptable, particularly in temperate climates. It also tolerates dry salt-infected soils. Mulch it to insulate the roots in cold climates. It propagates easily from cuttings. Plants are excellent as a hedge.
Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) - a low twiggy sub-shrub growing to 40cm x 40cm, that is smothered in white flowers in summer. It tolerates dry conditions and poor soils but is at its best with a little moisture now and then.
Winter Savory (Satureja montana) - a lovely little spreading, easy care, sub-shrub to 40cm high. It is semi-evergreen during winter. Terminal spikes of white flowers appear in mid-summer right through to autumn. It's a tough little plant for well-drained soils in direct sun, and a great edging plant. Cut back dead foliage in winter.
For wet spots or damp conditions try: Mints (e.g. Common Mint, Pennyroyal), Chervil, Comfrey, Horseradish (best contained), Iris, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Solomon’s Seal, Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Lily-of-the-Valley, Ajuga and Valerian.
For moist semi shade try: Angelica, Pennyroyal, Bergamot, Mint, Iris, Foxglove, Chervil, Chives, Orach, Skullcap, Goldenrod, Parsley, Sweet Woodruff, Lemon Balm and Sorrel.
For dry, semi-shade try: Aloe Vera, Bay Laurel, Anise, Hyssop, Lemon Verbena (grows better with some moisture), Rosemary, and Mexican Tarragon (shrub).
For full shade try: Mints, Lemon Balm (can be invasive), Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, and Wild Ginger.
As edging plants try: Chives (Garlic Chives are evergreen, Onion Chives die down in winter in cool areas), Parsley, Savory, and Thyme.
For dry, sunny, hot spots try: Aloe Vera, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary.
For spilling over garden walls or down embankments try: Rosemary, Thymes, and Oregano.
HOW THE COURSE WORKS
You can start the course at any time.
It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies. Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way. If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.
THE ADVANTAGES OF STUDYING WITH ACS
- You can start the course at any time and study at your own pace.
- Fit your studies around your own busy lifestyle - we provide full tutor support for all the time you are studying.
- Study where you want to - online studies offer the flexibility for you to determine where and when you study.
" I wanted to study herbs .... ACS offered the best option - study at home, at my own pace and still tutor contact when I needed it. I was undecided in the facet of herbs that I wanted to specialise in - that was until I completed an assignment to produce three herbal products. My tutor tested my products and encouraged me to set up a small business making and distributing a range of natural herbal cosmetic and household products. His guidance has helped me establish an interesting and profitable business from my studies"
- Catherine, studying Certificate in Applied Management Herbs
- Study this course to explore more about herbs, how to grow them and how to use them.
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