Almost nothing can be better than enjoying your own home-grown herbs. Growing them yourself means that you are in total control of the quality of herbs you add to your food. It also means a constant supply of the herbs of your choice. Not only is it convenient, it is also inexpensive.
Once you know how to go about it, you will have no problem to start your own indoor garden of herbs. In this chapter, we will look at some of the essentials you should know before your set out.
A Strong Start
Take your time when selecting which herb plants you buy at the nursery. Check all the leaves and stems of the plant carefully for any blemishes which can be an indication of a less healthy plant. I know it sounds obvious, but believe me when I tell you how many first-time gardeners have arrived home only to find that the herb plant they just purchased was not the best choice.
The questions you should ask yourself are the following:
- Do I see any rusty brown spots anywhere on the foliage?
- Does any part of the plant appear wilted?
- Is this plant already past its prime?
Also, be aware that not all plants are equally suited to indoor gardens. Start with those herbs that enjoy an indoor life like basil, parsley, thyme and sage.
Choose the Right Location
Herbs in general require around six hour’s sunlight every day. Therefore, the location you decide on for your herbs is of the utmost importance. They need enough light. Artificial lighting is always a great help if your house doesn’t have a suitable sunny area. The best choice is HID or LED lights. If you have to provide your plants with artificial light, they will need fourteen to sixteen hours per day.
Whether your herb plants rely on natural or artificial light, remember to rotate their containers regularly to ensure that all sides of the plant’s foliage receive the same amount of sunlight or artificial light.
Next to consider is the temperature in the area where you plan on growing your herbs. Not all herb plants can tolerate cold weather. Make sure your non-perennials (plants which survive only for one year) are not exposed to a lot of cold air, especially during the winter months.
Take into account the kind of climate in your part of the country. All these climatic elements like cold, heat and humidity can affect the growth of your plants.
The Correct Container
Some herbs like to live in their own little pots while others will invade the complete container and drive out all their flat mates! Mint is such an invader and should always be planted separately in its own pot. Thyme on the other hand is a more delicate plant and would like the special care of its own pot. So, do your research before combining different herbs together in the same container just because it looks nice.
A basic rule about watering your plants is as follows: If the soil feels dry then it is time to give your plants water. We all make mistakes and it might happen that you overwater your plants by mistake. If your pots have adequate drainage for the roots of the plant, it should not be a big problem.
When the weather is cold, plants’ roots take longer to absorb all the moisture so if they are left standing in water for too long, they will rot. That is the reason why you need to provide proper drainage. Always choose pots and containers with enough holes in the bottom. Adding peat and perlite to your potting soil will also encourage good drainage.
Watch Out for the Enemy
Luckily many herbs are cultivated to be largely bug-free. Especially if you hate bugs in the house as much as I do!
It is fairly easy to avoid infestations; just keep your plants healthy and provide the right amount of moisture. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, so although some herbs even act as a repellent for insects, you can still face a few persistent tiny creatures in your indoor garden.
Make sure you find out which bugs are more likely to attack which herb. For instance, basil is the Japanese beetle’s cherished food and myrtle and rosemary make the ideal meal for scales. If you grow sorrel and basil, watch out for snails and slugs.
If you notice an infestation, immediately remove all the infected leaves, otherwise they will affect the rest of the foliage and ruin your entire plant. There are many natural remedies to apply which will not harm your plant in any way but will be the end of those uninvited guests.
Just remember that not every single bug is a thread to your herb plants! Some bugs should be welcomed into your garden like those beautiful little ladybugs that will rid your plants of many of the pests. Your indoor garden can actually benefit from a few beneficial bugs.
How to Harvest
Like your partner keeps his beard trimmed, so you must always trim your herb plants. If you make sure to cut the excess leaves, your plant will be less at risk of nasty pests. Prune the plants whenever needed but leave all the luscious big leaves towards the base intact. They are the solar panels of your plant, catching the most light.
Keep a good balance when trimming your plant or picking leaves for your meal; choose a few mature ones as well as a few of the younger leaves. If you do this correctly, it will stimulate growth and you will end up with a dense, lush plant full of healthy aromatic leaves for you to pick.
I am convinced that these tips will help you to become an accomplished indoor gardener in no time but if you simply do not have the time, space or patience for this endeavor, there is an alternative.
The Urban Cultivator is a fully automated kitchen garden. It uses hydroponics which is much cleaner than pots filled with soil and has controls, all automated, to control the temperature and lighting. With such a unit, you will be able to grow as many as forty different varieties of micro greens, herbs, vegetables and flowers.