Chamomile is a pretty herb to grow in the garden. Its delicate daisy-like flowers appear in summer amongst its spiky green foliage. Both the flowers and leaves are edible though the leaves have a slightly bitter taste.
Chamomile originates in Europe but grows well in British soils. It is most commonly used to make a refreshing herbal tea and is widely believed to combat insomnia. It is also thought to ease stomach pains and toothache. Regular use of chamomile could improve your immune system and may help to ward off colds and other infections.
Varieties of ChamomileThere are two main varieties of chamomile available:
- German chamomile – the most common variety, it is an annual plant and grows to about 1m tall.
- Roman chamomile – this variety is perennial and grows to just 30cm tall.
How to Grow ChamomileChamomile is an easy herb to grow, and self-seeds happily. This means it will sprout up from the ground in the same place each year without the trouble of you having to save seed and re-sow them. The plants grow up to 1m tall, depending on the variety you choose. It is a great choice for a container garden, or to have growing in a window box. The flowers have a sweet, delicate scent and a pot of chamomile next to the bed is thought to help get you off to a sleep.
Chamomile prefers a sunny position in well-drained soil with a fair amount of organic matter (if the soil hasn’t been cultivated for a while or is over cultivated, mix in plenty of rich, organic matter such as well-rotted animal manure or homemade compost when preparing the bed). The best way to grow chamomile is to sow it from seed in late spring. Seeds are very sensitive to light, so can simply be scattered over the surface of a well-prepared bed that is free from weeds. Cover with a very thin layer of soil and water well. The seedlings should sprout within a couple of weeks. Thin young plants can grow 30cm apart to allow them the space to grow to their full size.
Caring for ChamomileChamomile requires very little attention if given good conditions to grow in. Water plants regularly in very hot weather, especially if growing it in pots, and feed with an organic liquid fertiliser if the plants appear to be struggling.
Harvesting and Using ChamomileThe flowers are ready to harvest when they are in full bloom. They can be used fresh in teas or as a fun addition to salads, or dried for use in the winter. To dry the flowers spread them out on a tray and leave in a cool, ventilated area. The dried flowers can then be stored in a sterile jar and used to make tea – simply pour hot water over a handful of dried flowers in a mug and leave to steep for five minutes.
Whether you fancy the idea of growing and making your own soothing chamomile tea or you just appreciate pretty flowers in the garden, chamomile is a fantastic herb to grow. It requires very little maintenance and will pop up year after year, producing beautiful flowers for you to enjoy both in the kitchen and garden.