Last week, I accomplished a long-standing project idea, when I finally put together my own indoor herb garden. Most of my readers know that I use a lot of fresh herbs in my recipes – there are many reasons for this: first of all, I like the flavor that fresh greens add to any dish. Also, by varying the chop size, I can add visual appeal – something that dried herbs just don’t have. And finally, I like to know (as much as possible, anyway) how my ingredients were processed. I’m familiar with the sterilization process herbs and spices undergo (typically ethylene oxide [EtO] gas sterilization). And I’ve heard stories of what critters are still crawling on the dried leaves when they go into the sterilization chamber – I won’t be telling you anything about that, except that you don’t want to know…
So, step by step, I’ll share my process for how I did it – remember, this is only one way of doing things, but I’ll try to keep things basic enough that you can adapt it to your own situation.
- Plan it out – Before you ever put on your gardening gloves, you’ll need to make some decisions. First, where will it be located? Mine is in front of three large, sunny windows just off the kitchen. So, I recommend setting up in the sunniest location in your home. Don’t have a sunny location? Hey, no problem… every garden center and hardware center sells grow lights that work mighty fine – just put them on a timer to simulate the hours of natural sunlight they would receive. One location I can’t recommend is your kitchen countertop. I know, that’s where all the TV chefs have theirs, but plants tend to drop leaf debris, and attract insects – two things you probably don’t want in your food prep area. Plus, who has that much counter space?
- Next, decide what kind/size of pots you’d like. As with any living plant, a larger pot will allow more room to grow – but your own situation will necessarily dictate size to a large degree. And your décor will help decide what kind of pots you get. I found some great multi-colored pots at my local hardware store – they’re made of a resin-like material, so they’re unbreakable (a good thing for a stumblebum like me!) If you like ceramic or terra cotta, go for it – it should add to your décor, not be an eyesore.
- What will the pots sit on? I built my shelves out of precut finished pressed wood from Home Depot. I used “L” braces to securely fasten them together. You might prefer wrought iron vertical plant stands, or something else. Once again, your decision will be helped by the amount of space you have, and what room they’ll go in. If you want to use a board suspended across two cinder blocks, that’s fine.
- What herbs shall I grow? This depends on 1) available space; and 2) your cooking needs. For me, I have room for 8 pots, so I’ve chosen sweet basil, Greek basil, oregano, peppermint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro, and Italian parsley – this should cover nearly all my needs. I exclusively use Bonnie Plants – dollar for dollar, they’re the highest quality you can get. Make sure you visit their website; they have extensive growing guides for each variety, and lots of help for people like me that aren’t blessed with a green thumb. They tell me that, in general, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow – I believe that to be correct. If I can grow them, it follows that anyone else should be able to.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest in giving herb-growing a try. Let me know how your garden grows!