Welcome to our guide to kick-starting your own indoor herb garden! In this article, we’ll take you through planting, growing, and harvesting five of the must-have herbs every cook should have on hand.
Herb gardens are often called kitchen gardens, for very good reason: one of the best, most convenient places to grow your herbs is right in your kitchen. (Bonus points for being able to care from them indoors in any season or weather.)
While dried herbs are just fine, many cooks naturally want to grow their own plants for the freshest possible dishes–and you don’t have to have the greenest thumb to have fresh herbs, or a lot of space!
Based on Angela England’s article (used with permission.)
Getting started is easy. Fill up the containers that will be housing your herbs with potting soil. We suggest using two parts potting mixture and one part coarse sand for your herbs. You can use any kind of container you want: pots, cups, or plastic containers. Just be sure that you’ve selected a container that will be large enough to house the plant, and that it has drainage holes in the bottom.
Next, soak your seeds in water for a few hours before you plant them. You’ll be planting the seeds about three times deeper than the width of the seed. After planting, put your containers in a south or west facing area with plenty of windows to ensure the plants get enough sunlight.
You’ll know when to water your plants when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.
After a few weeks of careful watering and plenty of sunlight, your herbs will be ready for harvest. You’ll know they’re ready when the first buds appear, and are best until just before the flowers fully open.
This is because the leaves contain the most flavor during this period, which translates into a very yummy dish for you.
When you harvest the plant, make sure you aren’t cutting too much away. The herbs will continually produce over a long period of time, and that way you’ll have fresh herbs whenever you need them. So snip only a couple leaves or sprigs from each plant. The more you leave, the faster your plants will recover, and the more herbs you’ll have on hand.
Tip: Try to harvest your herbs in the morning or evening, if at all possible. Harvesting leaves sections of your plant vulnerable to the sun, which can dry out the oils that give the herbs their flavor.
Tip: Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the sprigs away from the plant, about four to six inches from the base.
The following five herbs are our favorite herbs to grow in an indoor garden for their flavor, utility, and ease in growing indoors.
1. Thyme: outdoors, thyme is semi-evergreen and is a beautiful ground cover, perfect for tucking beneath larger plants or herbs. If you’re planting outdoors, sprinkle seeds in early spring or fall, or plant starts in the spring.
Thyme leaves have excellent flavor and delicate leaves. Cut stems off as you need them. When used for cooking, thyme is one of the most flexible herbs. Regular thyme is great in tea, jellies, stuffing, meatloaf, and in vegetable dishes. If you plant another variety, Lemon Thyme, try the citrusy leaves on fish as well.
2. Chives: chives can be harvested throughout the entire growing season, without waiting for blooms to appear. They’re easy to grow: either start the plants from seeds yourself, or get transplants from other gardeners. They’re pretty easy to keep alive too: just don’t let them get too hot.
Chives have a mild onion flavor, and are great in stir-fry, in cream cheese, mixed into butter, on soups. You’ve probably had chives on baked potatoes.
Tip: even the little purple flowers are edible! Pick a few and crush them to add flavor to a potato soup or a salad.
3. Mint: as one of the easiest herbs to grow, this really wouldn’t be a complete guide without mint. Mint is actually so easy to grow that in an outdoor garden, it tends to spread to any semi-shade areas of the garden. Growing it in a container is one of the few ways to keep mint in one place.
Add mint to desserts, liqueurs, homemade teas, and in jellies. Try making a plum and mint jelly, or flavoring sun tea in the summer with a few sprigs of mint for a light, natural flavor.
4. Sage: sage belongs in every herb garden. It’s a tolerant plant that doesn’t need to be watered very often, and won’t croak if you forget to water it for a day or two. Sage is available in varied colors and forms, which makes it an attractive addition to any outdoor garden.
Sage has an earthy, rich flavor that is really pumped up when it’s fresh from the garden. It’s a must-have for stuffing and poultry dishes. We love to add it to a big pot of Chicken and Dumplings in the winter for a warm meal.
Tip: If you harvest more than a fourth of the plant’s leaves at one time, you risk killing the plant, so be mindful of how many you harvest and let the rest grow.
5. Basil: we just love basil! It’s an attractive herb that, like sage, comes in many color varieties. Basil is a classic ingredient in many Italian dishes, so add it to your spaghetti sauces or lasagnas. It’s also an ingredient in homemade pesto.
Tip: If you don’t pinch off the blooms you’ll have pretty flowers to go along with your herbs, but pinching basil blooms off will increase the flavor in the leaves.
Although these are our favorite herbs to grow indoors, there are many, many others to explore using in your garden and in the kitchen. Whether you choose to grow them indoors or outdoors, they’ll add texture and color to your garden, and a boost of fresh flavor to your favorite dishes.
Images and content used with permission by Fix.com
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