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Your First Magical Herb Garden
As a pagan, you know it is important to have a close connection with nature. Unless you are lucky enough to work outdoors with animals or plants, you may wonder how you can offset the effects of too much time spent in a sterile corporate, office, school, or urban environment. Growing your own herbs for your Wiccan rituals and spellwork is an excellent start.
Fortunately, you need very few basics to get started. At a minimum, you need the following: sunlight, dirt, containers, water, and starter plants or seeds.
Sunlight. Most important is exposure to six hours minimum of sunlight per day. A small area in your yard, on your stoop or balcony, or in a sunny windowsill should provide that. You can also use artificial lighting, but that goes beyond the scope of this article.
Dirt. Since herbs are as tenacious and adaptable as any weed, your herbs will probably thrive in whatever quality of soil you dig up from your backyard or along the roadside. For best results, buy a bag of basic potting soil from your local garden center.
Containers. You could just plant your herbs directly into the ground in your yard. Or you could build a raised bed with two-by-fours or paving stones, which you fill with potting soil. Another method is to dig a hole in the ground and fill that with potting soil. However, I would recommend starting with containers to give you some flexibility. You can move the containers indoors or outdoors to experiment with different locations.
Any containers will do. You can buy some decorative pots at your local garden center when you pick up potting soil. Or you could use a scrubbed-out milk carton or plastic yogurt container. The important thing is that your herbs grow in well-drained soil. No herbs, not even mint, enjoy waterlogged roots. Overwatering is a common mistake that can kill your herbs.
Make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom. Poke more in the plastic if you need to. You can always line the inside of your container with a coffee filter, paper towel, or piece of newspaper before you add the potting soil to make sure that it does not wash through the drainage holes when you water your herbs. Put a plant saucer or aluminum pie pan underneath your container to catch water that drains from the pot.
You can also put gravel in the bottom of your pot (within the coffee filter or piece of newspaper) and put the herb in its potting soil on top of that. This will elevate your plant and keep its roots dry if its drinking water drains through and fills the saucer.
Water. Use tap water or hose water to irrigate unless you are uncertain about the local water quality. You can get distilled water at any grocery store for about 0.99 cents per gallon. Give each of your plants eight ounces of water each day, but make sure there is drainage through the pots.
If the water seems to be draining through the soil too quickly and filling the saucer, you can try watering the plant by immersion. Lower the herb, pot and all, into a bucket of water. Submerge it, holding it down until the air bubbles stop rising to the surface. Pull it out and hold it over the bucket to drain before replacing it in its saucer. Many gardeners claim that this is the best way to water small houseplants to make sure they get enough water.
Herbs or Seeds. You can start your herb garden from seeds or starter plants which you can buy from your local garden center, especially during the growing season. Both methods are easy. Some herbs such as mint can be propagated with a cutting from a friend’s garden. Be sure you get a stem cutting with at least three or four leaves. Stick it into a glass of water, change the water every other day, and you should see roots sprouting within a week. You can then plant the mint in potting soil.
Which herbs should you start with? I would advise sticking to only a few at first – nothing toxic, nothing too obscure (and therefore hard to obtain), or too complicated to grow (for example trees such as rowan). Browse your local garden center and see which culinary herbs catch your eye. All will have additional applications in spellwork and ritual.
Three good choices are mint, sage, and rosemary. All are common herbs, all are easy to grow, and all are used in cooking and are therefore non-toxic. All three are used in spells for protection, but that is a subject for another article. For now, give them a try as an experiment in growing your own herbs.
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