Updated: Aug 22, 2020
As the temperatures heat up outside, don’t feel bad about spending more time indoors. That doesn’t have to mean that you don’t get to garden. Now is a great time to get that kitchen herb garden started. Especially with all the delicious fall recipes headed our way! If you’ve never had a fresh herb garden or if yours could use a refresh, this post will help you get there.
Have you ever had a recipe that asks for a specific fresh cut herb? You’ve spent more than you wanted to on a small plastic clamshell at the grocery store. Gone home, used four leaves, and put the rest in the refrigerator? Then a week or two later you throw away 90+% of what you’ve purchased because it’s a slimy brown mess? I’ve been there and probably you have too. We are not only wasting money. We're increasing food waste and plastic waste. And there's pollution from energy, and transportation use. Also, it very likely has a psychological impact as well. Are we less likely to get that fresh ingredient next time? Do we start skipping recipes we would love to try because we don’t want to “waste money on herbs” that we don’t eat? Fresh herbs are absolutely the right solution! Keep fresh herbs growing year-round with these seven simple steps.
1. Soil. Most herbs will do well in a basic potting mix. These mixes have a balanced pH and drain well. But, there are some exceptions. If you select a variety that prefers sandy soil, it’s easy to make your own mix. Consider simply mixing that element into your soil. For example, add a little sand for plants like rosemary and oregano.
2. Seed spacing. Most herb plants can be started from just one small seed. Be careful not to plant too many in one pot as this can cause overcrowding. A few exceptions are chives and garlic chives. You can plant these more densely to get a fuller container.
3. Be aware of specific germination needs. Some herbs like chives, need to be kept in the dark to germinate. Cilantro “seeds” are actually husks. Crush the husk to get to the actual seed and speed up germination. View videos on how to grow cilantro, mint, and chives on HortikiTV.
4. Light requirements vary but more is generally better. Most herbs can tolerate a full day of sun, so it’s usually okay to put them in your sunniest window. If not having enough light is a challenge for you, select shade-tolerant varieties like chives, mint, rosemary, and thyme. (Hint: If your sprouts are thin and weak looking they are not getting enough light).
5. Water. Before you water your plants, feel the moisture in the soil a few inches beneath the surface. Often, the soil can look dry on top but still be plenty moist underneath. If you are using coconut coir, try watering from the bottom. Set your pot (or seed starting pellets) in a shallow pan of water. The water will absorb from the bottom at its own pace.
6. Fertilizer. Herbs can be very picky when it comes to nutrient requirements. Many actually prefer low nutrient soils. Research your exact variety before purchasing fertilizer.
7. Harvesting. Whew! Okay if you’ve made it this far, your herb garden is going to be amazing! Herbs smell amazing around the house and provide a continuous harvest. No offense to fruiting plants, we love you tomatoes! - but the fact that you can continually harvest herbs makes them a wonderful investment. Harvest regularly by snipping leaves (or stems of woody plants) with sharp scissors. Harvesting will actually keep the plant healthy and producing new growth. But don’t go too far. Never harvest more than 60% of the plant at once. This will allow time for the plant to regrow.
Okay, that’s it! Those are my top tips for getting your wasteless herb garden off to a great start. Have fun with your recipes and never hesitate again to try one because of a lack of fresh herbs. If you'd like to start now check out the Organic Herb Gardening Kit in the Hortiki Plants Shop.
And let us know in the comments, do you ever buy the plastic clamshell and end up throwing them away? Which ones? Are you ready to start growing your own? If not, what's holding you back? Hortiki and I are happy to help you along the way. Plant Love, Victoria LeBeaux, PhD
Founder, Hortiki Plants