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March 16, 2015

Growing a tea garden

Many of the best tea herbs are easy to grow and beautiful

According to the United States League of Tea Growers, consumers want more transparency in their tea purchases, and want to know that tea was grown with fair labor practices.

A simple solution? Grow it yourself.

Hershey, Pa.-based gardening blogger Amy Renea shares her tips for growing and brewing a bountiful herbal tea garden on her blog, Nest for All Seasons.

“I simply grab a steak knife and head into the garden,” Renea writes. "I chop off big hunks of whatever is growing in bulk -- various mints, lemon balm, chamomile and sometimes stevia.”

Fellow tea connoisseur Tess Pennington, who writes for Ready Nutrition, adds that growing herbal tea is almost effortless, even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs.

 Many herbs prefer to be on the 'dry' side during the growing season, so you can skip a few waterings and they will be OK,” Pennington said.

Note for urban dwellers: Tea herbs can be grown in containers, so no excuses.

Tips for Growing and Harvesting Tea

Prune the herbs regularly to harvest the tender leaves, Pennington advises.

“This will also keep plants bushy and discourage them from blooming as blooming will change the flavor of the leaves."

Tea leaves can be steeped fresh or dried, but drying them is a good way to keep your tea cupboard stocked.  You can also easily make homemade tea bags out of coffee filters. Get a DIY lesson, here.

Getting started:

Below are three easy-to-grow plants that make ideal options for tea-growing beginners.

1. Mint

Mint is an ideal container crop, and quickly grows into a large bushy plant that will give you a constant supply of leaves from April to November, year after year, according to The Guardian’s gardening writer. 

Mint also stands up well to drying and steeping, making for a refreshing iced tea option.

Get a simple mint tea recipe here.

2. Lavender

Sipping lavender tea is a great way to distress after a hectic day and the purple-hued plant also helps to relax muscles, bust bloating and prevent dry, itchy skin, Health Magazine reports.

 Get a simple lavender tea recipe here.

3. Chamomile

Much like lavender, chamomile can be used to cure a number of health problems, from insomnia to anxiety and menstrual cramps.

The active ingredient in chamomile essential oil is known as bisabolol, which has a number of anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.

 Get a simple chamomile tea recipe here.