The concept of themed gardens, which incorporate a selection of plants dedicated to a particular theme, have become quite popular. Some examples include goth gardens, pizza gardens, or edible gardens. One excellent themed garden is a tea garden, ideal for gardeners who enjoy tea – whether as a connoisseur or a casual drinker. Harkening back to quaint cottages and idyllic pastoral settings, tea gardens hold the cozy appeal of a bygone era. Similar to apothecary and medicinal herb gardens, they offer many medicinal and restorative properties.
Although tea is traditionally cultivated at high altitudes in humid, tropical environments, you do not need similar conditions to start growing your own tea garden. Many plants in tea gardens are easy to maintain, allowing you to grow a tea garden almost anywhere, from an apartment balcony to the backyard, as long as the location receives 6 hours of sunlight and has well-drained soil. If your soil is of subpar composition, plant in a raised garden bed. Vego Garden has metal beds that come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from a small herb bed suited for growing herbs to special L and U-shaped beds.
What Can You Plant in a Tea Garden?
In addition to the common herbal tea plants and herbs, there are many other plants you can grow in your tea garden, including hibiscus, rose, and elderberries. Below is a list of common plants to consider, as well as some more exotic choices.
Known for its soothing properties that can help relieve stress and insomnia and ease indigestion, chamomile is one of the most popular herbal plants that has been extensively used throughout history. The two main types of chamomiles that are used in tea are Roman chamomile and German chamomile, with the latter being more widely cultivated. Roman chamomile is a perennial with a light apple fragrance while German chamomile has a scent similar to fresh grass. Though they can be grown in either full sun or partial shade, they prefer cool conditions with rich soil.
With its lovely petals and fragrance, roses have come to signify beauty and youth. Although it may sound strange to some, edible roses are a great way to add flavor to your teas. By using the fragrant buds, petals, and hips of rose flowers, you can easily make an aromatic rose tea blend. When picking roses to grow, look for those that have a pleasant scent, such as older heirloom varieties. Red and pink roses have a more traditional ‘rose’ smell while yellow and paler colored roses often release a fruity scent. Roses prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil. As they can be tricky to grow, look for options that are resilient and disease-resistant. Check regularly for pests and disease, and remember to prune.
Mint varieties are great for making tea due to its refreshing crisp taste and antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Mint tea can be prepared using spearmint, chocolate peppermint, orange mint, and more. Try experimenting with different flavors to see which you prefer. As mint has a tendency to become invasive, make sure you keep the plants in containers or raised garden beds to prevent them from overtaking the rest of your garden. A vigorous growing herb, minimal care is needed as long as the soil has good drainage.
All members of the basil family can be used for tea, depending on personal preference. Sweet basil, lemon basil, and cinnamon basil are recommended for those that drink for enjoyment and seek a lighter, milder flavor. For those that are looking to access the medicinal benefits of basil, consider stronger varieties such as holy basil, which provides a sharper flavor. Known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, basil is used to treat infectious disease and to reduce stress and anxiety. Plant basil in nutrient rich soil for best results.
5. Lemon balm
Often paired with lemon juice and honey, lemon balm adds a comforting, citrus flavor to teas. Traditionally, lemon balm has been used to help insomnia, treat viral infections, and improve mood disorders. A hardy perennial plant, lemon balm can be invasive and encroach upon your garden, so remember to harvest and prune it regularly. If this becomes an issue, select a container or raised garden bed to contain it. It prefers a cooler, moist environment reminiscent of the Mediterranean, its native habitat. Like many other herbs, refrain from using fertilizers, which can affect the potency.
The conspicuous blooms of the hibiscus flower add elegance and color to any garden. Hibiscus primarily fall into two main categories: hardy hibiscus and tropical hibiscus. Native to North America, hardy hibiscus can be grown indoors and can withstand winters. Commonly used in cold beverages, where its cranberry color imparts a refreshing taste, hibiscus is also used in tea. Note that only certain types can be used, such as H. sabdariffa and H. acetosella.
Other ingredients can be also used to make tea:
- Fruit leaves such as raspberry and strawberry leaves
- Herbs such as thyme, echinacea, lavender, and lemongrass
Plant your Tea Garden
Regardless of your region or type of residence, you will need a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sunlight. Before planting, it is important to plan out which plants you want to grow and the possible arrangements. Mix and match colors and textures of various species to create an aesthetic growing space. Chamomile and other low-lying plants can help brighten eyesores in the yard and provide ground cover.
After you are satisfied with the arrangement of your plants, follow the instructions on the seed packet or search online regarding proper care. When growing herbs for tea, refrain from using pesticides, which can affect the flavor and be detrimental to health. Like with all types of gardens, make sure that your plants receive adequate water, light, and space requirements.
To plant your tea garden, it is recommended that you use raised garden beds for ease of planting. Designed to be long-lasting and durable, metal raised garden beds are suitable choices for those seeking a modern, convenient option to display your plants. Raised garden beds offer many useful benefits including pest deterrence, optimal drainage, and improved soil quality.
How to Harvest and Prepare your Plants
Once your herbs are ready to harvest, you can start preparing your teas. Leafy varieties should be harvested before they bloom, which can cause the flavor to become bitter and unpalatable. Gather flowering varieties such as chamomiles as soon as they bloom to maintain optimal freshness. Cut your plants during the morning, after the dew has dried from the leaves and when the temperature is still cool.
1.Dry your Herbs
While fresh herbs can be steeped in water, dried herbs have a more pungent flavor. To dry your plants, tie them into small bundles and hang them upside down in a cool, dry room for several weeks. You can also use a food dehydrator or wicker trays to dry your herbs. Avoid exposure to sunlight, which can cause degradation, or humid environments, which can promote mold growth. Afterwards, strip the flowers and leaves from the stems and store in airtight glass containers that are kept away from direct sunlight.
2. Try out Recipes
To create your own herbal teas, first chop up your ingredients into pieces. Generally, you should use about one tablespoon of dried herbs per teacup – double the amount if fresh. For most herbs, steep in boiling water for around 10 minutes. There are many online resources you can utilize for help creating your own custom recipes. Feel free to alter the ratios and customize if needed. Many tea makers enjoy adding additional ingredients such as honey, orange and lemon peels, cinnamon bark, and dried rose hips for more flavor.