Fresh herbs add so much to a meal. Think tomato and mozzarella salad topped with basil. Would you rather it was topped with dried basil flakes from a jar, or fragrant, curled basil leaves? Think drinks topped with fresh sprigs of mint, pulled pork tacos with cilantro sprinkled on top, pasta with fresh tomatoes and chopped oregano, or a nice mug of relaxing herbal tea.
Heavenly. Unfortunately, not all of us have backyards with ample space for a garden. Apartment and condo-dwellers with minimal or no outdoor areas can't enjoy the process of growing bushels of tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash and other veggies. However, all is not lost. We still can enjoy nature's bounty -- even in the city. Herbs don't take up a lot of space, grow relatively easily, and provide taste and flavor all season long.
You can plant your herbs in a window box, one big pot, or a bunch of little pots. And your planters can be unconventional, if you so desire -- use old pieces of china, thrift store crockery, broken teacups, anything that can hold some dirt. The only thing your home really needs for an indoor herb garden is a source of light -- and we're hoping you're at least lucky enough to have a window.
Saving Space -- Growing Indoors
Most herbs can be grown right on your windowsill, and the best part about growing an indoor herb garden is that you're not a slave to the seasons. If you decide to grow from seed, you can start your garden any time you want. If you're new to the gardening process, though, we advise you start your herb garden by purchasing seedlings from a local plant store. This way your plants are already somewhat established and you won't have to worry about treating them with kid gloves in the beginning.
After you've chosen how you're going to grow your herbs (small individual pots, one big pot, other types of containers), set them up in a window area that gets a good amount of light during the day. Make sure you put something under the pots for excess water drainage. You can buy plastic drainage plates, use old mismatched plates, or round cork trivets from a kitchen supply store. And remember, if you decide to use clay pots, your herbs will need to be watered more often because clay tends to suck up excess water.
So, what kind of herbs do you want to grow? Ultimately it's up to you, but here's a handy list of herbs in order of ease of maintenance (easiest to more difficult). We advise following the growing directions you'll find with the plant when you purchase it.
You may have to make adjustments to your setup if you have an inquisitive or mischievous cat. A well-placed spray bottle may do the trick, and help with watering duties. Win, win.
Next up, growing herbs with a theme.
Types of Herb Gardens
Once you've decided on growing an herb garden and know where you're going to place it, think about what kind of herb garden you want. Give your garden a theme. You'll be sure to use all the herbs you plant, and can plan meals and drinks around what you know you've got growing.
Here a few ideas for some themed herb gardens:
- Italian -- basil, parsley, oregano, fennel, rosemary, garlic, sage
- Medicinal -- echinacea, milk thistle, peppermint, yarrow, chamomile, St. Johns wort, fever few, lemon balm, valerian, cayenne
- Salad -- mesclun (technically a lettuce, but grows well in shallow herb gardens), parsley, fennel, chives, dandelion, sorrel, mustard greens, endive
- Tea -- chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, orange mint, thyme, lemongrass, cardamom, lemongrass, marigold, peppermint
So, now that you know what you want to grow, here are a few general tips on indoor gardening: Herbs don't do well with soaking wet soil; it'll cause the roots to rot. Make sure you don't over- or under-water your plants. Also ensure you have adequate drainage in your pots. If you don't, drill holes in the bottom. Water the plants when they're dry to the touch.
You can use plant fertilizer, but be sure to check the label -- different plants require different types and different applications. And remember, most of your herbs will want about six hours of sunlight a day. Some herbs can survive in partial shade -- mint, thyme, parsley, and rosemary, for example. If you don't think your herbs will get enough light, you can supplement with fluorescent lights as well.
For more about gardening and cooking, check out the links on the next page.
- Bold, Cambria. "Grow Your Own Medicinal Herb Garden." Re-nest. April 30, 2009. (April 28, 2011) http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/personal-health/apothecary-garden-grow-your-own-medicinal-herbs-body-soul-may-2009-083450
- Corder, Connie. "How to Grow an Indoor Herb Garden." HousePlantsForYou.com. 2008. (April 28, 2011) http://www.houseplantsforyou.com/how-to-grow-an-indoor-herb-garden/
- "Create Your Very Own Italian Herb Garden." Gardening With Herbs. 2011. (April 28, 2011) http://www.gardeningwithherbs.com/italian-herb-garden/
- Durand, Faith. "How To: Make a One-Pot Indoor Herb Garden." Re-nest. July 24, 2009. (April 28, 2011) http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/cooking/how-to-make-a-onepot-indoor-herb-garden-035198
- Fitzpatrick, Jason. "Get Started Growing Indoor Herbs." Lifehacker. April 8, 2009. (April 28, 2011) http://lifehacker.com/#!5204086/get-started-growing-indoor-herbs
- Webber, Roxanne. "How to Grow Herbs Indoors." Chow. March 16, 2009. (April 28, 2011) http://www.chow.com/food-news/54973/how-to-grow-herbs-indoors/