Growing herbs indoors is an easy, inexpensive way to have them fresh and handy for snipping into your favorite dishes as you prepare them. Anyone who enjoys cooking knows the difference in flavor and aroma between using fresh herbs over dried. Cooking with herbs also means being able to use less salt but keeping all the taste, a definite bonus for anyone watching their sodium intake.
Choosing Your Plants
Bay tree – slow grower
Kaffir Lime tree – leaves are used in Thai cooking
Lemongrass – doesn’t even need soil. Just put it in a glass with water. It will send out roots, and new sprouts with many new stalks, that can be cut off from the bottom.
Mint – easy to grow, but invasive, so it needs it’s own pot.
Basil – needs a warm and sunny spot.
It’s better to buy plant seedlings from a greenhouse. It’s much harder to grow from seed. Terra cotta clay pots are best, but any pot with good drainage will do. Bigger is better, so your plants have room to grow. A good idea is to place your pots on a tray covered in pebbles so that air can circulate up through the drainage holes.
Use a premium potting mix with good drainage. Don’t be tempted to bring in soil from outside. You’ll end up bringing in organisms that are balanced by nature but won’t be under indoor growing conditions.
For optimal light, your herb pots will do best in a location facing south or southwest. They will need a minimum of 4 hours of light each day, though 6 to 8 hours is optimal. If you can’t get enough light from the sun, consider fluorescent lights placed about 4 to 6 inches away from the plants. A windowsill is a good spot since the plants don’t mind cool temperatures at night so long as you keep the plants from touching the glass, so the cold doesn’t nip the leaves. Dry air will be hard on the herbs, so if that’s the case, you can give them a weekly misting. If the plants become too spindly, it’s a signal that they are not getting enough light. Brown spots on the leaves mean that they are burning, and probably getting too much light. Rotate your pots regularly to keep a well balanced shape to your plants.
Watering and Feeding
The most common mistake people make is to overwater. If leaves are yellowing, the plant likely is getting too much water. The rule of thumb is to let the plants thoroughly dry out. While they don’t like to be overwatered, they do require consistent watering.
Fertilize about once a month. If the plants seem to have stopped growing, they probably need food.
Time to Enjoy!
Enjoy your herbs often. Cutting encourages growth, but don’t cut more than a third at a time.
Finely chop or cut your fresh herbs. The more surfaces you expose, the more flavor that you will release.
Don’t overcook your herbs because their flavors and aromas can be lost with too much heat.