Fresh herbs can make the best spaghetti sauce even better but it's the middle of January and the fresh herbs at the store are so expensive. What is a cook supposed to do?
Why, grown your own, of course! Any window sill, kitchen counter, or even a well-lit shelf can be turned into an indoor herbal garden to grow your next crop of oregano or basil – you just have to be inventive!
(This is also a great little project to do with your kids – not only do you get herbs all year long but you'll be teaching your kids some valuable science concepts!)
Herbs are pretty hearty plants that will grow just about anywhere as long as its basic needs are met. The most important thing that plants need is a good light source. Any first grader will tell you that plants need sun light to grow – the same goes for indoor herb plants too. The easiest place to grow plants is on a windowsill that gets at least eight hours of sun a day. In the winter time, this would probably be any window that faces the south.
If you don't have a window with southern exposure, then look into purchasing a small indoor grow light that could be placed above the plants. These grow lights may cost you a little but the payoff in herbs and other vegetables will be well worth it.
The next important thing to have when it comes to growing herbs indoors is to have good soil. Since your plants will be potted and won't have the benefit of insects and worms to keep its soil at the correct Ph and nutritional levels, it's important that you use the best soil you can find. There are many on the market especially designed for potted plants. They are formulated to ensure that you have the right nutrition and drainage to grow happy, healthy plants.
You will also want to find a container that your herb garden can be planted in. When looking at the wide array of pots and planters, it's important to keep these four things in mind –
1) need to have enough room for your plants to grown,
2) be small enough to safety sit in the window without falling out,
3) have adequate drainage holes in the bottom, and
4) that the drip pan under the pot is large enough to catch any overflow – the last thing you want is for your little plants to pee all over your carpet!
Once you have your location, soil, and planter picked out, plant the seeds or seedlings as directed, making sure to include a little fertilizer or compost to help it grow.
After they're planted, water the soil well and leave it alone. Yes, you heard me right – leave it alone! If you planted seeds, it's going to take a few days (or even a week) for the little shoots to come up. If you planted seedlings, the plants might go through a period of "shock" as they get used to their new surroundings and soil. Do no pick or cut anything off during this time or you run the risk of damaging them.
Check the soil every few days to ensure that it has enough water. You want the soil to start to get dry before you water it again BUT not so dry that it clumps up or looks like the Sahara Desert. Overwatering is the number one killer of house plants so keep a close eye on it and don't go overboard.
Some plants like a humid environment but most home heating systems are known to dry the air, making it hard for some plants to grow. Add moisture to the air by misting the plants with a spray bottle full of water on a daily basis. Your plants will thank you!
As the temperature drops outside, you'll want to take your plants' temperature. See, plants like to be warm and well, winter….winter is cold! The cold temps from outside can weep through the window and frostburn your plants' tender leaves. So, it's important that you watch the temp outside and remove your plants from the windowsill on the coldest nights of the year.
When you want to harvest some of your herbs for that night's linguini, there are a few special tips to keep in mind. First of all, use restraint when clipping from your plants. Don't take more than half of the plant - you'll stunt its growth or possibly kill it off. Also, pay attention to new growth and make sure not to clip just from one spot all the time. If you find that you need more than you plants can give, it's time to plant more plants.
As you can see, growing an indoor herbal garden is as easy as 1-2-3. With a little time, love, patience you can have a little bit of herbal bliss in your house too!