Planning an herb garden.


Heres how to start and what you need to keep in mind.


So you want to grow herbs for your horse or better still you want to grow herbs so your horse will self medicate!!

Sounds like a fabulous idea doesn’t it??

I’m afraid the stark reality of this is herbs growing (if you’re lucky to get them that far) that your horse doesn’t even look at, or herbs that are completely savaged by your horse and are now gone or dead, nothing but a stick in the ground. I think most of the time you will end up doing the work/ preparing the herb yourself. Yes, there are times when my horses nibble on my hawthorn hedges or the meadow sweet but not to the extent id like.. So be prepared to harvest the herbs your self and make good use of them.

The idea below works well as the horse can only eat what will grow out through the hanging basket gaps.

 source of photo -

herbs hanging baskets


Mistake No 1

Buying/ planting herbs you’ll never use or that your horse will never eat.. Herbs that come to mind are pungent/bitter herbs like rosemary or thyme. These are ideal for YOU to harvest and make tea to dampen down your horses feed, but not too many horses will self medicate on these herbs. You need to grow herbs that are specific to you and your family- including your animal family, so make a list of your ailments & your horses ailments and grow specific herbs for them.

 horse cough

Mistake No 2

If you are not green fingered don’t waste your time trying to grow herbs from seeds (life’s to short) go to the garden centre/organic centre and buy the readymade product- at a later stage you can try some cuttings to propagate the herb of choice so you will have more of it. Follow the guide lines for planting on the herb label. It will advise on it icluding full sun, damp area or shade. you will have a ready made herb garden.

 herb pot


Mistake No 3

Following a list of herbs that someone else put together and rushing out and spending a fortune on seeds. I’ve seen numerous lists online and most of them just mention one herb for an issue and it sounds great, but you’ve no idea if your horse will eat it or how you would use it for the future (certain herbs- the roots may need to be harvested in the winter). Again grow herbs that are specific to you and your familes issues. Look around you and see what growing and what’s free- rosehips, hawthorn, nettles, plantain, chickweed, comfrey, cleavers, meadowsweet just to name a few free herbs to get you started.


 Where to start


Options 1. Make a list of ailments your horse and family may have (or usually picks up), and pick one specific herbs for each ailment that will grow in your climate (your local garden centre/nursery will help you with information about how to plant and where the herb will be happiest, or the seed packet will tell you.


Cuts & wounds- thyme, yarrow, calendula.

Headaches- skullcap, Limeflowers (tree)

Earache- garlic, goldenseal

Diarrhea- raspberry leaf, meadowsweet

Cold & flu’s- ginger, Echinacea, yarrow

Inflammation- tumeric, white willow, boswellia

Breaks& sprains- comfrey, white willow (tree), arnica


Option 2. Pick one herb that will grow in your climate (local garden centre will tell you this) for each system of the body. No harm in doing some Research on the herb you have picked every herbs has something unique to offer some kidney herbs are soothing while others are antiseptics.


Digestive system- fennel seed, peppermint, ginger, meadowsweet. So which one would you pick??

For me- Ginger won’t grow for me, our climate is to cold. Fennel seed will grow but I will have to harvest the seeds & dry them and grind for use. Peppermint will grow but it’s invasive and I will probably have to harvest it myself I do believe they will nibble when its cut and dried on the ground for a few days, but not necessarily again depends on the horse. Meadowsweet will grow no problem with me and my horses enjoy the early young leaves but I will end up harvesting 80% of this herb for use during the year adding it to their feed when needed.

Respiratory system- mullein, elderflower, thyme, elecampane.

Nervous system- valerian, chamomile, skullcap, passionflower.

Circulatory system – hawthorn (makes a great hedge), dandelion leaf, nettle leaf.

Joints- nettles, turmeric, willow bark, meadowsweet, comfrey.

Allergies- eyebright, elderflower (tree)

Skin- chickweed, calendula, thyme, aloe Vera, arnica, cleavers.

Urinary herbs- dandelion leaf, parsley, goldenrod.

Immune system- Elderberry (tree), Echinacea.



Some ways to prepare your herbs:


de      hanging herbs   tincture


Dry the herbs –bunch the herbs; hang in a dry airy place. They must be crisp dry, store in brown paper bags.

Tincture them- tinctures can be made from fresh or dried herbs in apple cider vinegar.

Make fresh tea- pour an amount of boiling water over fresh or dried herbs.

Decoctions- harder plant material barks & berries

Poultices and compresses- ointments and flower essences.



What will my horse self medicate on?  That will depend on the horse. At times they will eat dandelions, meadow sweet, plantain, nettles that are cut down and left on the ground to dry, hawthorn leaves, bramble leaves, thistle leaves. It’s definitely worth growing different things in their pasture; remember all these weed/ herbs contain minerals. Some of the larger herbs like hawthorn can actually be used as hedges and they will nibble on them. All my hedges are hawthorn so I make good use of the free organic herbs they supply me with through the year new leaves & flowers in spring and berries in the autumn.


Growing herbs

Depending on how green fingered you are, and how much space you have will determine what you can grow and where. my advice keep is keep it simple and start with 5 to 10 different herbs of your choice. you can use grow bags, bath tubs, pots and containers, or the ground, happy planting.
herb swirl


R. kelly   keep it real

Rachel Kelly Equine Herbalist - Graney Road - Lower Plunketstown - Castledermot , Co Kildare, Ireland
Mobile: 085 746 7386 - Telephone: 059 9144 997 -
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