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Gardening is fun and relaxing, and the thought of growing and cooking with your own herbs sounds absolutely wonderful but starting as a beginner can be intimidating. Add to that your hectic schedule and gardening ends up seeming like nothing more than a fantasy.
However, herb gardens – particularly indoor ones – can be set up and maintained quickly and easily! You can even buy indoor herb garden kits online!
Herbs are usually very easy to grow, but before you decide to start a herb garden there are several things to think about first.
Where to grow your herb garden
For a busy person, the best place for a herb garden is indoors or on a patio or balcony, because you won’t have to worry about weeds or hoeing! Though outdoor gardens allow for more space for herbs and the opportunity to be more hands-on with your garden, they sadly take much more time to maintain.
For an indoor herb garden, all you’ll need are seeds, a couple of pots, a windowsill and you’re good to go! If winters where you live are very cold and snowy, an indoor garden is an especially safe bet. You can plant your herbs all together in a rectangular planter; separately in small or medium-sized pots; or together in a few large pots.
Planting all your herbs in separate pots allows you to grow a variety of herbs with different water and sunlight requirements. If you’re going with large pots with multiple herbs in them, it’s smart to plant herbs with similar needs in the same pot.
Sowing herbs from seed is possible and adds the factor of feeling that your garden is completely homemade. To save time in your hectic schedule, however, it may be best to opt for buying your herbs already sown in pots with suitable soil.
For herbs that love constantly moist soil, consider growing them in self-watering pots if you know you’ll be away from home often. These pots have a reservoir at the bottom to hold water that the plant can draw up through its roots when it needs to.
Which herbs to grow
It’s important to know what different herbs require in terms water, sunlight and temperature before you decide which ones to grow. The obvious choices would be plants that are low-maintenance, don’t grow too tall and whose roots don’t require a lot of space.
Most herbs like well-draining and aerated soil, as well as lots of sunlight and average indoor temperatures. There are, of course, exceptions so you should do some research on the herbs you plan to grow!
Here’s a list of a few popular and easy-to-grow herbs perfect for an indoor garden.
- Basil is tasty, fast-growing and loves bright sunlight, needing at least 6-8 hours of it daily! It’s usually an annual herb but may last longer indoors.
- Thyme prefers a mix of bright and indirect sunlight. In addition to ordinary thyme there are lots of interesting varieties, such as citrus thyme!
- Parsley is very adaptable; it grows well in either bright or partial sun and, though it grows best in moist soil, it’s quite drought-tolerant!
- Coriander, a.k.a. cilantro, needs a position where it can get bright sun most of the time but shade during the hottest part of the day. You can harvest both the leaves and seeds from this one!
- Lavender has a wonderful fragrance and is great for making teas. It likes plenty of sunlight and for its soil to dry completely before watering.
There’s a plethora of herbs that can grow well indoors, but don’t feel pressured to grow a bunch of herbs that you won’t have the time to tend to just to have an impressive-looking garden. When you’re just starting out, less is definitely more!
Fertilizing your herb garden
Potted plants need fertilizer more than their outdoor relatives, but still only need to be fertilized once a month.
The best fertilizers for indoor gardening are typically liquid fertilizers, and the two most common ones are a fish emulsion (that usually must be diluted) and a packaged granular one that you’ll dissolve in water before using. Liquid seaweed fertilizer and pre-made compost tea are also popular choices.
Outdoors, fertilizer naturally spreads out into the soil and throughout the garden. The recommended amount of whatever fertilizer you buy will be too concentrated for plants in containers. An excess of fertilizer could harm rather than help your plants, so only use a quarter of what is instructed.
A helpful tip is to water your herbs just before fertilizing them, as this helps them absorb more of the fertilizer.
Artificial light as an alternative to sunlight
If there’s nowhere inside your house for your herb garden to get adequate sunlight, you can easily substitute artificial lights for natural light. In this case, though, it’s best to buy a real grow light (also called a plant light). It’s made to emit a light spectrum similar to that of the sun. Regular light bulbs aren’t made to do that.
With natural light, most herbs only need around 6 hours of exposure, but with artificial lights they may need as much as 14!
Pruning and harvesting your herbs
All plants grown in containers benefit from trimming and pruning, as these help keep them bushy and prolong harvest times. Cut off excess leaves, but make sure to keep the big ones nearer to the base. A general rule of thumb is to never prune more than one-third of the plant.
Unless your herb’s flowers will be harvested (for example, lavender), you should also cut off flower buds since flowers tend to take away the flavor of the leaves. This is because all the plant’s energy will now go into growing flowers, rather than leaves, causing the leaves to have reduced flavor.
You can harvest your herbs at any time of the day, but the best time is in the morning just after the dew on them has dried and before they’ve received too much sunlight. This is when they’re at their absolute freshest!
Keep in mind that you don’t need to have every single detail planned out before starting your herb garden; learn by doing! Whether you want to grow herbs for use in the kitchen or simply for aesthetic reasons, growing a herb garden can be equal parts easy and rewarding, even if you’re busy.