Ditch the tea bags with questionable ingredients and brew your own tea from your tea garden!
Beginner gardeners will find it easier to start with a metal raised garden bed and as their skills and confidence grow they can experiment with seedling trays and tougher crops.
1. Why should you grow your own tea?
A tea garden is a great way to invest in your health, and the best part is that it can be done by begginer gardeners. Understanding why it's important to know what's in your tea and how it's grown and harvested will help you make better choices for the tea you bring home.
Farmers use pesticides to protect their crops from insects, fungi and weeds because it's a profitable and practical solution,
There are farmers in certain regions who lack information, training, or resources on sustainable and organic farming practices.
Different countries have different regulations and standards for pesticide use in agriculture. Some countries have less stringent regulations or enforcement mechanisms for monitoring and controlling pesticide use in tea production.
Tea produced in countries with less stringent pesticide regulations can still make it to international markets and to your home.
2. Easiest Tea Herbs To Grow for Beginners
Mint needs to be planted alone as it's invasive and will likely take over your garden bed. Mint grows in harsh conditions, needs partial shade to full sun, benefits from consistent moisture and is drought tolerant. Its flowering season is summer and the leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season. Other mint varieties include peppermint and spearmint. Mint aids digestion, relieves headaches and has positive effects on PCO symptoms.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla):
Chamomile is a crowd pleaser. It needs full sun to partial shade, tolerates heat and drought, but needs moderate watering. It blooms from late spring to early summer and can be harvested when the flowers are fully open. Chamomile has delicate, daisy-like flowers with a pleasant aroma. Chamomile tea promotes relaxation, relieves stress and supports better sleep.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):
Lemon Balm needs full sun to partial shade and regular watering, but can tolerate dry heat and drought. It blooms in summer and the leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season. Lemon balm has light green leaves with a lemony fragrance. Lemon balm tea has a calming effect, aids digestion and can help reduce anxiety.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
Rosemary needs full sun and moderate watering, but can tolerate heat and drought typical of Texas summers. It blooms from spring to early summer and the leaves can be harvested year-round. Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen herb with needle-like leaves. Rosemary tea helps digestion, promotes memory, has antioxidant properties and is popular for improving hair growth.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus):
Lemongrass is another plant that can withstand the harsh Texas weather. It requires full sun to partial shade and regular watering. It blooms in late summer and the stalks can be harvested when they're about 1/2 inch in diameter. Lemongrass has long, slender stalks with a lemony flavor and fragrance. Lemongrass tea has digestive, anti-anxiety, antioxidant, analgesic and decongestant properties, improves sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood, stimulates the uterus and menstrual flow.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis):
Calendula is an herb native to Texas that prefers sun to partial shade, tolerates mild winters, prefers cool to moderate temperatures and requires regular watering. The blooming season is from spring to summer. The flowers can be harvested when they're fully open. Calendula is a flowering plant with bright orange and yellow flowers. In addition, the flowers are edible and have a slightly spicy, floral flavor. Calendula tea is known for its soothing properties and can aid in digestion and skin health.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare):
Fennel loves full sun, needs moderate amounts of water, tolerates heat and prefers warm climates, which is why it's native to Texas. They bloom during the summer and the seeds can be harvested when fully mature and dried. Fennel is an herb with pinnate leaves and yellow flowers. The seeds have a licorice-like flavor that is perfect for an herbal tea with a bit of lemon. Fennel tea is known for its digestive properties that relieve upset stomach, bloating and flatulence.
Sage (Salvia officinalis):
Sage needs full sun and moderate watering, it can tolerate heat and prefers mild temperatures. It blooms in summer and the leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season. Sage is a perennial herb with gray-green leaves that are soft to the touch and small purple or blue flowers. It has an earthy, slightly minty flavor. Sage tea is known for its cognitive properties that help memory and concentration. It also has antibacterial properties and can aid digestion. Note that sage has been linked to miscarriages and high blood pressure in pregnant women.
3. Proper location
Once you know what plants you want to grow, determine the location of your raised garden bed based on sun position, shade, and more.
4. Prepare the garden bed
Raised garden beds are low maintenance and drought tolerant. They're also easy to manage in case of pest infestations, weeds, and bad weather, and they preserve soil quality.
To fill your raised garden bed, fill the bottom with flattened cardboard. Next, add rotting logs from hardwood trees such as oak, poplar, ash, acacia, apple, beech, alder and maple. Add a layer of woodchips, sticks, and branches, followed by a layer of mulch, grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen scraps, then organic and nutrient-rich compost and topsoil, mix around to see if your seeds need fertilizer, and finally add your seeds according to the planting layout recommended for each seed. This method of filling a raised bed is called the Hugelkultur method.
5. Tips to succeed
Watering and Maintenance:
Follow the water needs of individual plants and make sure the soil stays evenly moist but doesn't become waterlogged. Adjust watering frequency depending on weather conditions. If you're unsure how to read your plants' water needs, use a soil meter. Trim and prune plants as needed and remove weeds to promote healthy growth.
Use organic fertilizer such as worm castings and create a compost bin at home from kitchen scraps to use on your raised bed as needed.
6. Make your tea
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to dry tea herbs for tea bags:
Harvest your tea herbs preferably in the morning, after the dew has dried, when the plant's essential oils are at their peak. Choose healthy leaves or flowers to get the best flavor.
Gently rinse harvested herbs under cold water to remove dirt and insects. Pat them dry with a clean towel or paper towels.
Hang your herbs in bundles upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight to preserve the herbs' color and flavor to allow the herbs to dry completely. They should feel dry and brittle to the touch. The herbs are ready when they can be easily crushed between your fingers.
Store dried herbs in canning jars in a cool, dark place away from moisture, heat, and light to preserve their quality. Make your own blends or store them separately and mix as needed.
Which tea herb are you planting in your garden bed?