Growing herbs in your kitchen can be a great hobby with some great benefits for you and your family. There will not be a shortage of fresh herbs in your home, all year round. The best part is that you can create your kitchen garden no matter where you live.
There is a surprising number of herbs that thrive indoors. All it takes is a bright space, a few well-chosen varieties and an imagination to top it all off. So how do you get started?
First, you will have to choose a suitable location for your herbs. This location needs to be bright like a sunny window sill or a room with skylights and have a temperature of around 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit (13-24 °C). The room also has to have good air circulation and preferably be close to the kitchen.
Keep in mind that a window sill may be too cold for culinary herbs in winter. Most herbs grow best with at least five to six hours of bright light. Some, like mint and parsley, however, do fine with four. If your plants reach for the light, you might need to consider either moving them to a brighter location or supplement with artificial grow lights.
Selecting Your Herbs
Herbs grown indoors are usually less productive than those grown outside in the garden. Regardless of where you grow them, they will still provide you with delicious flavors for your food. Here are five herbs worth mentioning when it comes to growing an indoor herb garden.
Basil is known as a short-lived perennial or an annual. It likes bright light for at least 6 hours a day. Basil is a herb that prefers that its soil stays moist, but drains well.
There are a few cultivars to try when it comes to basil such as Genovese (for the classic aroma and flavor of basil), Lemon (for a hint of citrus), Spicy Globe (for a compact, bushy plant with a strong flavor) and Siam Queen (for a unique, spicy flavor). Basil can grow to about 24 inches (60.96 cm) high, so pinching back the top is recommended if you would like your plant to grow bushier instead.
Oregano is a hardy perennial that can produce a good harvest for two years or more despite preferring warm weather. It can grow to about 12 inches (30.48 cm) in pots. This plant prefers moderate to strong light conditions.
Oregano is part of the mint family and should be treated the same as basil when watering, never let these plants dry out completely. Oregano has a pungent, spicy and slightly bitter flavor that pairs well with most vegetables.
Parsley is a biennial plant which means it needs to be replaced every two years. Parsley does well in full and half sun conditions, so when grown indoors make sure to place them near a bright sunny window. Parsley is used in a large variety of cuisines to tie the flavors together.
When harvesting, cut leaves from the outside, this will promote new growth from the center making this plant productive for several months to two years.
Rosemary is a perennial that comes in a compact, an upright and a trailing form. Even though this plant prefers drier conditions, don’t ever let the soil dry out completely since the plant may die. Rosemary prefers sun but will grow in most positions.
For the best flavor, choose a more upright variety like Taylor’s Blue or Salem. Rosemary can be used for more than just cooking, being known for its use in alternative medicine as well.
Sage is a hardy perennial in cooler climate areas and usually an annual in climates with hot, humid summers. For growing sage indoors, dwarf sage is recommended. Dwarf sage only grows about 12 inches (30.48 cm) and the flavor remains the same as the normal sage plant.
Unlike most herbs, sage retains its flavor after flowering and the flavor actually intensifies as the leaves grow bigger. Sage will grow almost anywhere, but is the tastiest if it receives some sunlight. Sage is used in a variety of dishes, but the flavor is so strong that only a dash is sufficient.
Selecting Your Containers
Almost any container that is at least six inches (15.24 cm) or larger can be used to grow herbs indoors. The only requirement is that they have to have drainage holes. It is best to choose the biggest practical sized pot to allow for more root growth which allows for a bigger plant to harvest from.
Watering will vary depending on the size and type of herb you are growing, the size and type of container and the season. Most plants grow slower or become dormant during winter months and thus require less water during this season.
For most herbs allow the soil to dry slightly after each watering. Basil, chives, mint and parsley prefer slightly moist soil. The best way to tell if your herbs need water is to stick your finger about 1 inch (2.54 cm) into the soil. If the soil feels dry, water your herbs.
In spring, when your herbs are actively growing, it is advised to supply them with either a liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks or fertilizer granules every other month. The granules can be scratched into the surface of the potting soil.
Check out why bone meal fertilizers could be a good use for your garden.
A fast-draining potting mix is recommended for indoor herbs. Garden soil does not work well due to the fact that it will compact and smother the roots of your herbs. It is best to look for a soil mix that includes lightweight ingredients like perlite or vermiculite
Now, this is the part you have been waiting for, the harvest. You can start harvesting from your plant as soon as it matures. Take note of how much you harvest at a time. If you harvest more than a third of the plant, it will take more time for the plant to recover and form new foliage.
If you would like to promote branching, trim the tops of your plant regularly during the early growing season. If you take care not to harvest too much at a time, your plant will be good for harvesting for several months. Take note that herbs taste better if harvested in the morning and are more flavorful before they bloom.
It is advised to check your plants yearly and remove those that are short-lived or have become woody.