Indoor Herb Garden Basics to Spice Up Your Recipes
Whether it’s a dash of cilantro, a pinch of rosemary or a sprinkle of thyme, fresh herbs enhance any dish and transform a boring meal into something extraordinary. A well stocked spice rack is an investment every chef should make, but an even better way to ensure a fresh stock of your favorite herbs is by growing them yourself. An indoor herb garden is affordable, easy to grow and requires only a minimal amount of space. Herbs will enhance your home with beautiful green sprigs of freshness and an enticing aroma drifting though the air, and they might even entice you to spend a little more time in the kitchen.
To start your own indoor herb garden, first, select a few containers. From store bought pots to mason jars or recycled plastic bottles, almost anything can be used to house herbs. Choose planters that are at least 8” in diameter or larger, and add holes for drainage if your containers do not already have them. Many different varieties of herbs can grow well when planted together, so combine several of your plants into larger pots if that works better for your space. Keep in mind that some herbs like basil grow quite large and can grow quickly, so you might need to transplant to larger pots before too long.
Starting Your Herbs
Fill your containers with a high quality potting mix, preferably one that contains perlite or another lightweight substance to allow for proper aeration. You can either choose to start your herbs from seeds, purchase young plants or transplant cuttings from an outdoor garden into pots to create your indoor herb garden. While starting with purchased plants is the easiest option, some gardeners find great joy in watching their seeds as they grow and transform. Some excellent herb choices to start with include:
Provide Lots of Sunshine
Most herbs are from the Mediterranean and other sunny areas, and they have developed into plants that require a lot of sunlight. Place your indoor herb garden in a window (preferably south-facing), sunroom or on a patio that gives them access to direct sunlight at least 6 to 8 hours a day.
Humidity and Watering
Herbs thrive when there is a lot of humidity in the air, but they prefer not to sit in overly soggy soil. In most parts of the country and especially indoors, the humidity level is less than ideal for these plants. Resolve this problem by placing your herb garden in one of the more humid rooms of the house – the bathroom or kitchen. You can also trick your plants into thinking the air is more humid while enhancing the look of your herb garden by placing a shallow tray filled with pebbles underneath the pots that house your herbs. Fill the tray with water that sits below the top of your pebbles to keep your plants happy and avoid saturating the roots.
Whether or not you choose to try the pebble method listed above, always check your soil to make sure you are providing your herb plants with enough water but avoid over watering. If the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface, it’s time to add more water. To avoid shocking your plants, always use room temperature water. During the winter months, you may find that your plants need less water. This is their dormant time, and they do not use as much energy during colder months. As spring approaches, your plants water consumption will increase, and it will likely continue to increase in the warmest months of summer.
If you’re brand new to indoor herb gardening, it can be helpful to label your plants. Many herbs look alike, and it is easy to confuse them and change the flavor of your favorite recipe by picking the wrong one. Use sticks in your plants for labeling, or color your pots with a chalkboard style paint that you can write on. Get creative and add an artistic touch to make your garden complete.
Harvesting Fresh Herbs
Once your plants are about 6” tall, you can start harvesting them. Remember that all plants should be cut back regularly to ensure continued growth, and any herb that starts to flower is not being clipped often enough. Harvest your herbs by cutting about one-third of the branches off. A trick to promoting healthy re-growth is to cut near a leaf intersection. The entire portion of the plant that you cut can be used in your favorite recipes either fresh or dried depending on the flavor you are after. If you are unsure, a little trial and error goes a long way toward tweaking your culinary skills to perfection.
Growing an indoor herb garden is a simple and rewarding way to enhance your kitchen skills, discover a fun hobby and create tasty recipes your family is sure to enjoy. With a little time and a bit of attention, you’ll soon experience all the benefits of having fresh herbs right in your home and available to you anytime.