Get your garden tools at the ready and grow your own medicine. Here’s your homegrown health cabinet
VISITING A HERBALIST has become more mainstream, with many of us happy to pop a garlic tablet in winter to keep colds at bay. A type of medicine that was once considered quackery is now thought of as quite conventional, as it was in the past. Doctors of old were often botanists with an expert knowledge of herbs and their healing – or poisonous – properties. Many modern medicines have their origins in these herbal treatments, too. The great news is, whether you have a small pot or a large plot, you can grow your own.
EAT IT CITRUS
Lemons, oranges, mandarins and grapefruit are all loaded with vitamin C – and ripen over winter, just when you need a good dose. You can buy citrus that is grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock, called flying dragon. This keeps them two-thirds the size of the standard types. There are also citrus varieties called Pipsqueak, which grow to about 1.5m, but can be clipped smaller if you’re going to keep them in a container. Also, a portion of the sales of Pipsqueaks goes to Cystic Fibrosis Australia. For more info visit Pipsqueak.net.au GROW YOUR OWN 1 Find a sunny spot in the garden that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day. 2 Plant out – or leave in a pot (see “Notes”) – in autumn or winter. If you’re planting your citrus out simply dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and a little bit deeper. The rootball should be slightly elevated above ground level. 3 Backfill the hole with soil so the roots are covered. Raising the tree like this into a mound helps with drainage. But make sure you don’t bury any of the trunk because this can cause collar rot. 4 Spread mulch around the plant. NOTES If you’re planting citrus in a pot, make sure the pot is at least 40cm high and 40cm in diameter, or larger if you like. Use premium, Australian-standard potting mix (look for the bags with the red ticks), which has good drainage.
CHEW IT GINGER
Ginger is a tropical plant, the root of which is often used in herbal remedies for nausea. Whether you use it in tea, or simply peeled fresh and chewed – a small piece at a time – it can be safely taken for morning or motion sickness, as well as an upset tummy. GROW YOUR OWN 1 Buy You can plant a piece of ginger that you’ve bought from the supermarket, or buy a root from a mail order company that specialises in edible plants such as Green Harvest. 2 Plant roots out now in a sunny, frost-free position, cleared of weeds and dug over with cow, sheep or poultry manure. 3 Place ginger about 15cm in the ground and backfill with soil. NOTES The ginger will start to shoot in spring, and you can harvest the fresh roots the following winter. Simply dig them up and store them in the fridge. So easy!
BREW IT SAGE
There is an old proverb along the lines of: “Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?” Fresh-cut sage sprigs infused in boiling water make a simple healing tea – great for coughs and colds. Add a little cider vinegar to the brew, and the liquid can be gargled for sore throats, tonsillitis and laryngitis, or relieve mouth ulcers and gum infections. It’s recommended not to drink sage tea for more than a week at a time, as there could be side effects. Consult a doctor before drinking sage.
GROW YOUR OWN 1 Pots of sage can be planted out all year round. Find a sunny, well-drained position and wait two to three months before picking too many leaves as it needs a chance to grow. 2 You can propagate new plants in winter – just cover the lower part of shoots with soil or mulch around it with straw to encourage it to send our fresh roots. NOTES Sage is a perennial herb that lasts about three years. It stops growing fresh leaves in winter