Have you ever wondered if you can grow herbs at home to use in your cooking?
Believe it or not, when it comes to growing and cooking herbs at home choices abound to spice up your meals by adding flavor and color.
Herbs are delicious, but they’re more than just tasty. For instance, they can be used instead of salt and sugar to flavor food.
Growing herbs is also a great way to reduce stress. Starting an herb garden is a wonderful choice with lots of benefits.
Growing herbs indoors will provide you with plenty of options for flavoring any meal – and it’s easier to grow them indoors than you might think.
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Why Grow Your Own Herbs?
Almost anyone can benefit from growing their own herbs. For instance, getting a garden started is a great investment since you’ll never need to buy fresh herbs again once your plants start growing.
Your housewarming presents are covered, too. No need to buy a gift, when you can just share your delicious herbs with your friends.
Growing your own herbs is also good for you. Not only are fresh herbs chock full of vitamins, but the act of gardening is a great form of exercise, which is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Gardening helps more than just your physical health; it’s also great for your mind. Growing herbs is an ideal way to relax and relieve stress.
Plus, homegrown herbs are simply delicious and add a fresh and yummy flavor to any meal. We all have to eat, and your tastebuds will thank you if you take up herb gardening.
Why are herbs useful for cooking?
You might wonder in what way herbs really improve your food. Well, herbs are useful for cooking because they add depth.
A wide variety of herbs exist, creating a multitude of culinary possibilities – but you can add flavors that range from strong to delicate and sweet to savory.
Basic seasonings like salt and pepper have their place and can certainly be tasty, but adding fresh herbs can go a long way to creating a truly delicious and deeply flavorful meal.
Herbs can even be used to make food more visually appealing. They can add color to the meal and give the dish a vibrant, appetizing appearance.
Herbs are often used to replace some traditional ingredients when you’re cooking. Many people try to limit their intake of sugar or salt for health reasons, or just because they want to diversify their palate, and herbs can help them accomplish this without compromising the taste of their food.
For instance, savory herbs – including basil, tarragon, and oregano – can be excellent replacements for salt, and sweet herbs, like fennel and mint, can be used in place of sugar.
Growing Basil Indoors
Now that you know herbs can help improve the quality of your food, you may be wondering where to start with growing them. Basil is a great herb for beginner gardeners because it’s easy care for and can even thrive year-round indoors.
To help your basil plant really flourish inside the house, you’ll need to make sure it gets lots of sunlight – at least six hours every day. However, if none of your windows get much light, you can also use a grow light to keep your basil happy.
This plant also likes a warm and humid climate, so you’ll need to occasionally mist it and ensure it isn’t in a place that gets colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Basil can be pretty thirsty as well, so be sure you give it at least an inch of water a week. Though it needs well-draining soil, it likes it to stay pretty moist. The general rule of thumb is to water it “once the top layer of soil has dried out, or when the plant shows the first signs of wilting (though it’s best to not wait for that as a signal)”.
One of the reasons basil is so great for those who are new to gardening is that it is a pretty self-sufficient plant. It doesn’t require tons of maintenance and work to keep it healthy.
Just make sure the soil drains well and that you harvest the leaves. The biggest thing is to make sure your basil is potted in the right kind of container. You want it to offer good drainage and air flow, or else your basil might suffer.
Growing Cilantro Indoors
Cilantro is another herb that really thrives in an indoor environment. Let these steps guide you if you’re interested in adding this plant to your windowsill garden:
- Decide where you want to grow your cilantro plant. Cilantro likes to bask in the sun, so make sure you put it by a window that gets good light. Alternatively, it does well with grow lights.
- Plant your cilantro seeds. Soaking your seeds for a full 24 hours before planting them can help them germinate more quickly.
Get the pot ready by wetting the soil then gently pressing out any excess pockets of air in the soil. You’ll want to go about ¼ inch down when you’re planting your seeds, then lightly cover them with soil.
- Water your plant. Cilantro needs soil that is moist, but you don’t want to overwater it. Wait until the top layer of soil is dry before giving it more water and make sure to allow any water that flows out the bottom of the pot to drain well.
- Keep the temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, at least until germination. Once the seeds have germinated, cilantro does okay in temperatures as low as 50 or as high as 80.
- Make sure it gets adequate sunlight and fertilizer. Cilantro needs at least four hours of sun a day, but sometimes a little extra is needed to keep it perky. On a weekly basis, you should also give it a serving of liquid plant food instead of a regular watering.
- Harvest after 5 to 7 weeks. This is as early as the herb will be ready for harvesting. However, once it’s at this stage, feel free to only harvest what you need and let the rest keep growing because you can harvest again at any time.
Growing Parsley Indoors
Parsley is also an herb that does well indoors and is pretty simple to grow. However, you should be aware that there are two different types of parsley – curly leaf and flat leaf.
The former is more of a garnish, while the latter tends to provide more flavor and is often called for in recipes. Here are a few easy steps to get started growing parsley:
- Start your parsley from seed or seedlings and grow it. Parsley seeds should be added to a pot that is almost full of compost or soil. Then top them off with a bit more compost.
If you’re planting seedlings, add them to a pot that’s only half full of compost, then add more compost on top of them.
From there, for both seeds and seedlings, you’ll just need to keep the container moist and let it soak up the sun.
- Water your parsley regularly. Parsley gets thirsty and needs routine watering; however, be careful not to overwater.
- Make sure your plant has proper drainage. This is crucial because otherwise, the roots may begin to rot.
- Prune your parsley. Getting on the right schedule for pruning may take some research, but it’s important to help your plant thrive.
- Make sure your plant is getting enough light. Parsley likes the sun, so if you don’t get enough light through your windows, you can always look into adding grow lights.
- Grow your plants at 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Any colder or hotter and parsley will begin to suffer.
- Harvest your parsley once it is around 11 inches (30 cm) tall. You’ll want to start cutting the larger stems near the bottom of the plant first. Also be sure that you don’t harvest more than ⅓ of the plant at any one time.
Growing Thyme Indoors
Thyme is a delicious and diverse herb that comes in hundreds of different varieties. Not all types of thyme are suitable for cooking – some are more decorative, such as creeping thyme – but others, like lemon thyme, can add great flavor to any meal.
You’ll want to look up the kinds of thyme to find which one best suits your culinary needs, but once you have a variety in mind, these are the steps to grow it:
- When potting your plant, place one plant per pot. You want to avoid overcrowding because putting multiple thyme plants in one pot will cause them to compete for nutrients, which will affect the quality and quantity of their harvest.
- Make sure your plant gets good drainage. Your pot needs to have holes at the bottom to drain excess water; otherwise, the roots will soak in moisture all the time and begin to rot. Wait for the soil to fully dry out before each watering.
- Allow for 10 hours of direct sunlight each day. If it doesn’t get enough light, the health of your thyme will suffer, and its yield won’t be as tasty.
- Fertilize your plant. A little plant food can go a long way to helping your thyme flourish and thrive.
- Harvest your thyme. You’ll want to do a big cutting – though no more than one-third of your plant – approximately three times a season. The rest of the time, you can harvest as needed.
Growing Rosemary Indoors
Growing rosemary plants from seeds isn’t challenging, but it can take a little extra time. Some seeds will fail to germinate, and the rest will take a while.
You’ll want to sow more seeds than you expect to need. The following steps will help you get started once you’ve planted your rosemary seeds:
- Choose where to grow your plant. Like many other plants on this list, rosemary loves the sun. Therefore, if you don’t have a window that gets direct sunlight, you may need to invest in a grow lamp.
- Plant your seed. You’ll want to make sure that soil you use in your pot is well-draining for this plant to thrive. After adding the seeds to the soil, you can cover them with a thin layer of additional soil then mist the plant.
- Make sure your plant is getting the right amount of water. Rosemary can go up to two weeks without water, depending on the climate. You should check it every couple days, and if the top of the soil is dry, it’s time to water. Avoid giving it too much water.
- Mist your plant every few days. Give your plant a nice mist of water a few times a week to help keep it humid without overwatering.
- Make sure your plant is kept between 55 and 80 degrees. Rosemary likes to be warm, and any temperature below freezing is likely to kill it.
- Provide direct sunlight for your plant. Your rosemary will need lots of sun, but a grow light can always help supplement the light.
- Harvest your plant before it begins to flower. The stage before flowering will offer the deepest fragrance and flavor.
We hope these tips help you get started with building a lovely indoor herb garden. Are there any herbs that you like to cook with that weren’t covered in this article? Feel free to share your favorites, as well as any tips you might have for beginner gardeners in the comments!