Whether or not you have a green thumb in the garden, cultivating your own herb garden in your kitchen can be a great project to undertake. Not only will it allow you to add fresh and delicious flavors to your culinary creations, but it will add color and life to your kitchen. From customized plant pots to window sill planters, you can have fun tailoring the garden to fit your décor. There are plenty of herbs to try, all of which can be mixed and matched to suit your palate and grown all year round. Cut off sprigs of herbs when you need them for your dish or hang them to dry and fill up a pot of your own home-grown dried herbs. Here are some tips for successfully growing your herbs.
Lots of Sunlight
Herbs like a lot of sunlight, so you will want to place them on a windowsill that receives around 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day, ideally a south facing window, which will receive the most light. Light is not only important for strong growth, but like many sun-loving vegetations, the flavor of the herbs will be improved with lots of sunlight. If you don’t have a bright enough window you can buy additional light sources from garden or hardware stores. If you don’t have much space on your window sill, suction cup shelves can stick to the window and add another trendy level of space.
Herbs are particularly suited to growing indoors as they are not subject to cold winds and the temperature often stays consistent. Ensure your herbs are not near any drafts or air-conditioning vents or even heaters that will fluctuate the temperature too harshly. The ideal temperature for your herb garden is between 65-70 degrees in the day. 60-65 degrees is also suitable if you want to slow the growth of your herbs. Placing the herbs next to a window will magnify the heat from the sun, but ensure their leaves are not touching the glass to avoid risk of burning.
Country Living advises that you water your plants with water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks according to the package instructions. How to Culinary Herb Garden also advises that infrequent watering is ideal, advising between 2-3 times a week, not daily. Allowing the tops of the soil to dry out a little first before watering, this will encourage the roots to establish a strong and healthy system by growing deep down into their pots. You can test if the plants are ready to water with your finger, if the soil is dry roughly two inches below the top, they can be watered again. Water your herbs slowly. If you pour lots of water in quickly, it will flush through the plant and out of the bottom. If you are finding that you need to water your herbs daily, the pot could be too small, the heat too high or the humidity too low.
By all means customise your herb pots as much as you like, but there are a few essential elements to take into consideration. The first is drainage – herb pots need adequate drainage holes to release excess water, they are not happy to sit in stagnant water. Adding a saucer or flat tray underneath your pots can be a nice way to keep soil and water from leaking over or into your counters or windowsills. You will also need to consider the size of the pot for the herb you are growing. Some will need deeper pots, others larger. Try not to combine herbs in one container, rather separate them into their own individual containers for optimum growth.
Some universal herb options to get you started:
Basil – A wonderful universal flavor that can be used to augment many different dishes, pairs beautifully with tomatoes making it a must-have for Italian cooking. It can be grown from seeds and prefers lots of light, warmth and a deep pot.
Oregano – Another punchy and universal herb that is a must for Italian, Mexican, American and middle eastern dishes. These herbs can be grown from seeds and work really well when they are dried. Prefers moderate light and infrequent watering – but ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Parsley – Pairs great with fish, chicken and in fresh sauces. It is often used as a garnish but it also enhances the flavors in many different dishes. Parsley also needs strong light and a deep pot.
Chives – This oniony flavor herb is the king of garnish adding a subtle flavor to soups, sauces and salads. Their spiky leaves can be snipped off as needed. Beginning with a purchased plant is easiest, and grow them in rich soil and bright light.
There are many more herbs that can be grown from home, depending on what your tastes are. Mint or Chamomile for herbal teas, Bay laurel, Chervil, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage and so on. Mix and match to create your own customized herb garden.