Fresh herbs liven up just about everything—from pasta sauces to mojitos—in the kitchen or on the grill. The great news is, even if you have no experience gardening, you can grow your own herbs. In fact, you don’t even need an outdoor garden. With some sunlight, the right amount of water, and room to sprout, your indoor container garden will practically grow itself.
First, choose your herbs. No need to go crazy here, the idea is to grow something and enjoy it, not to impress anyone. (With that in mind, rather than posting your indoor gardening photos on social media every step of the way, you could wait and post them later, using a before and after app.) Pick an herb that you know you’ll use (that’s mint in those mojitos) or one that grows best indoors, like basil or rosemary. From Rodale’s Organic Life, here is a list of 10 herbs that grow well indoors, along with tips for each.
Next, find a container. Indoor gardening is, by its nature, “container gardening” (unless you have a really, really big house!). You probably have the perfect container already in your kitchen. While you’re there, clear off a spot on the window sill for your new herb garden. The space you have will determine what size the containers should be. The containers should have a wide “mouth” for watering. You can use a coffee cup, the bottom half of a soda bottle, an empty tin—from tea, coffee, cocoa or oatmeal—or the ever-popular mason jar.
Prepare the soil. Start with an inch or two of marbles, sea glass, shells or gravel in the bottom on your container. You can find soil at your local nursery and most hardware stores. I like Nature’s Way soil mix, which I buy at Home Depot. As you’re choosing your potting soil remember that you and your friends are going to be eating what grows in it—now that’s an argument for choosing organic.
Plant your herbs. This is the fun part. You can use seeds or sprouts or buy a potted herb plant at the grocery store. If you need some guidance, here’s a starter kit of culinary herbs that you can grow into seedlings, then transfer into your containers (with 12 different herbs, you can use the time while the seedlings are sprouting to get your containers ready). Water the herbs when the soil looks dry on top. If you are using a see-through container, like a jar, you can easily see whether there’s water in the bottom of the container. The idea is to give the plant enough to drink without drowning it. Start with a tablespoon of water every day.
Enjoy the harvest. How will you know when you can use the herbs? It depends on the herb. As a rule of thumb, I like to wait until the plant has three or more bunches of leaves, then I pinch off the largest ones, just above the “joint” (that is, where the stems meet) at the base of the leaves. Now I realize that’s not a very scientific approach, so I refer you to people who know a lot more about herbs than I do: the Herb Society of America.
Growing your own herbs is fun and relatively simple. And perhaps the best part of indoor gardening is the freshness: you can pick your herbs as you cook, just moments before adding them to the meal. It doesn’t get fresher than that.
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