Having fresh herbs readily available for all your cooking needs is always a treat. With fresh herbs, food just tastes a lot better. But did you know that you can grow an herb garden right inside your kitchen? All you need is a few garden pots plus, some knowledge on container gardening, and a window with morning sunlight.
Planting basil indoors
Basil is one of the best spices to have in your kitchen garden. Italians love basil. Put it in pasta and other tomato and cheese-based dishes. Basil is also good for many Thai dishes.
Planting basil is easy. It is virtually resistant to pests and plant diseases. You can start from seeds and you can plant these outdoors for the meantime. After 2 weeks, the seedlings should be ready for transplant. You can move them to a 4-inch pot and you can move them in your kitchen making sure you position them near a window so they still get sunlight. Basil prefers four hours of sunlight per day so if you have an east facing or west facing window, they should be getting plenty. Watering basil is also not a complicated matter. You only need to water it around once a week but be wary if the soil appears dry. For basil to thrive, the soil should always be moist.
Once you move the plant to the pot, you should prune it right away to encourage more leaf growth. Basil responds well to pruning so don’t worry about taking the leaves whenever you need some fresh basil for whipping up some pesto. The plant will start to flower after around 75 days. You should be wary of this and cut off the flower buds right away. Once the flowers bloom, the basil will start to taste bitter. But if you cut them off right away, you can prolong the plant’s usage.
Planting rosemary indoors
Rosemary is fragrant and is perfect with chicken, lamb, and fish dishes. Simply getting to smell the fresh rosemary in your kitchen is a treat; even better when you use it fresh for cooking. Rosemary is very resistant to harsh climates. It does not need a lot of watering. In fact, it is more prone to dying from overwatering rather than underwatering.
Rosemary takes a while to grow so it is recommended to get your seedlings at a nursery rather than sowing the seeds yourself. Also, when planted outside, rosemary plants can grow tall but you can control how tall it grows by planting it indoors in a pot. When moving the rosemary to its permanent pot, cut off 1/3 of the roots to control its growth. Don’t worry. You won’t run out of leaves to use. If however you want a bigger plant, don’t prune the roots and find a bigger pot to use. Rosemary thrives when placed beside a window with morning or afternoon sun with little watering just to keep the soil moist.
Despite being a hardy plant, rosemary is prone to powdery mildew. When you start seeing some powdery white stuff on the stems and leaves, it’s time to act. Remove all the affected parts and place them in zip-lock bags before disposing so they don’t spread anymore. Be wary of using chemical pesticides since you’ll most likely be using the leaves for your cooking. You don’t want getting any pesticides on your food now wouldn’t you?
Planting thyme indoors
Thyme is your best friend when making steaks. Other than steak, there’s an endless array of uses for this fragrant herb from marinades and sauces to salad dressings and stews. And like most herbs, thyme is very easy to grow indoors. All you need is a window with some sunlight shining through it and regular but not excessive watering.
You can grow thyme from seeds and transfer the seedlings to a bigger pot soon after. A 4-inch pot is good enough for thyme. Getting a bigger pot means the plant can develop woody stems a lot faster. There is no real reason why you should go with a bigger pot if you’re planting indoors so it is best to stick with the 4-inch pot. When you have an adult plant, growing more thyme should be relatively easy as you can cut stems, stick them on the ground and they’ll grow their own roots to become a new plant.
Thyme is however prone to some pests, particularly whiteflies and mealy bugs. Be wary of using pesticides for herbs like thyme since you use the leaves for cooking. Notably, these pests can be controlled with neem oil.
Planting sage indoors
Sage is best used for poultry dishes and stuffing and they’re easy to grow outdoors, and even indoors. One sage plant can supply you a lot of leaves to use for your cooking for years on end.
Planting sage is easy. Just like with any other herb, you’ll need a few hours of sunlight peeking from a window. Also, make sure you are using the right kind of soil which should drain easily. Water moderately. Ideally, you should position your sage plant in a warm area away from cold air drafts. In the absence of cold air, your sage plant will mature much quicker and grow tender and good flavored leaves. And just like basil, you don’t want sage to flower because that will start to affect the flavor of the leaves. When flower buds start to appear, nip them off right away.
The flavor of most herbs, sage included, is best brought out when it is dried. Harvest leaves by cutting leaf stems six inches long. Using a pair of small shears, snip off the leaves and spread them on a piece of clean cloth and place them over light. When the leaves are dry, store them in an airtight container away from light.
Here are a few general tips to keep in mind when caring for indoor herbs.
- You’ll want to use clay pots since clay pots help in drainage.
- If you are lacking natural sunlight, you can use artificial light sources but expose the plant twice the amount of time that it would require on full sunlight. So if basil requires 4 hours of full sunlight, they’ll do well with 8 hours of artificial light.
- Dry your herbs for longer storage and better flavor. Normally, when using fresh herbs for cooking, you should use double the amount that you would normally use if you were using dried herbs.
- Different herbs have different watering needs so take note of that.
- Herbs don’t require a lot of fertilizer but putting some is certainly helpful. Use fertilizer sparingly.
- Putting a tray under the pots will help control any overflow coming from the drain holes. No mess.
So, what’s your favorite herb? Are you going to plant some in your kitchen?
Rob handles content for IOTA Australia. He is a homebody that likes whipping up tasty meals on weekends. He also maintains a small veggie patch in the backyard. When he’s not working in front of the computer, you’ll find him in the kitchen, in the garden or playing with the cats.