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With the right conditions, growing a DIY indoor herb garden can be an incredibly rewarding venture. Fresh basil or oregano is delicious on pizza, rosemary and thyme tea helps soothe congestion, and homegrown chives in an omelet taste so good! Growing herbs indoors can also be frugal. For example, packages of thyme at the grocery store will cost you anywhere from $2.99 – $5.99 and will only last a short while. But growing your own herbs in a pot on your windowsill keeps a continual harvest at your fingertips for as low as the cost of a package of seeds.
Many people are intimidated by growing their own herbs, but with a little planning and upkeep, you can have a successful indoor herb garden to enjoy year-round.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you begin, take some time to research and decide which herbs you would like to grow in your indoor garden. Think about which herbs you use most frequently in cooking or home preparations. Do you find yourself reaching for basil often? Is dried parsley a must-have ingredient for weekly dinners? Keep in mind that some dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor, so you will need to use more fresh herbs to achieve the same flavors you are used to.
A quick Google search will generate a host of gardening sites that will provide all the information you’ll need for growing each herb. When researching, take note of the care requirements of each herb you wish to grow. Consider the following:
- Will you purchase established plants or start them from seed?
- How much sun will the plant need each day?
- How often will it need to be watered?
- What kind of soil is required for optimal growth?
- Will it need fertilizer treatments at certain intervals?
- What size pot will you need? Will this plant require repotting after so many weeks of growth?
- How must the plant be harvested to ensure it continues to thrive?
Gathering this information beforehand will give you the best possible chance of success for your garden and save you time, money, and stress. It’s no fun to bring home a plant only to have it die a few weeks later!
GATHER YOUR DIY INDOOR HERB GARDENING SUPPLIES
You will need to gather your supplies and ensure certain conditions are met before you plant your seeds or pot your seedlings. These may include:
PLANT YOUR INDOOR HERB GARDEN
1. Prepare Your Garden Area
Your chosen area won’t need much room to begin. Most people start with a small 6-inch pot for each herb they are growing. You can save room near your window by incorporating hangers for some of your herbs (macramé hangers are really beautiful to hang plants from!) or a shelf that catches the light from the window.
2. Prepare Your Pots
Some herbs do well with a standard all-purpose potting mix; some thrive best in sandy soil, like a cactus potting mix—but all require adequate drainage. Adding potting soil pebbles or broken pieces of pottery to the bottom of the pot will help, as will choosing pots that have drainage holes in the bottom and include a tray to catch excess water. Add a little water to the soil before planting your herbs to help it settle a bit.
3. Plant Your Herbs
This, of course, is the fun part! If you choose to begin your DIY herb garden with starter herbs, rather than seeds, carefully lift your herb plant out of its store-bought container, and gently break up the soil around the roots to loosen. Make a well in the potting soil and place the plant in the center, then add more soil on top and pat the soil down around the stem to keep the plant sturdy. Water it a little more, and place it in its sunny spot. (If you are planting from seed, just follow the instructions on the seed packet.)
4. Care For Your Herbs
Each herb has its own sun and watering requirements. It can be helpful to make a chart to put near your herb garden or make some cute markers to stick in each plant (check out our own gorgeous DIY clay garden markers in our summer 2021 print issue, REST) so that you remember what your plants need. Thyme, for example, needs 6 hours of sun per day and to be watered only when the top 2-3 inches of soil dry out. Parsley, like thyme, needs 6 hours of sun per day but needs to be watered twice a week to keep from drying out. If you live in a place where limited sunlight or warmth is an issue, don’t let that discourage you! You can successfully grow plants with an affordable warming mat and fluorescent light.
5. Harvest Your Herbs
Just like their growth requirements, some herbs have specific harvesting requirements in order to ensure continual growth. When harvesting rosemary, you must leave at least one-third of the plant in order to see regrowth. Basil needs 3 inches of remaining stem in order to keep growing. Making a chart that shows how each herb should be harvested could be a helpful way to remember these details.
6. Storing Your Herbs
Fresh cut herbs that you will not be using right away can be stored in the refrigerator between two paper towels folded in half in an airtight container. Herbs can also be preserved by chopping them and freezing them in ice cube trays with a little water. After they are frozen, store them in a freezer bag and pull out the desired amount as needed for sauces, soups, stews, and various dishes. More hardy herbs, such as rosemary, can be dried by bundling and hanging upside down in a place with good ventilation. After a couple weeks, take down and store in an airtight container.
ENJOY YOUR GARDEN
Herbs have nutritional and medicinal qualities that add value to any home kitchen. Investing some time into herb research and giving close attention to their care requirements will ensure that you’ll be well equipped to enjoy fresh herbs year-round!
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