The Best Herbs to Grow Indoors
Herbs and spices are an essential addition to any kitchen stock cupboard. By having a good and varied collection on hand, you will increase your cooking options tenfold. Use them to turn otherwise drab and dreary dishes into something really special. Whether you enjoy cooking Italian, Indian, roasts or soups, herbs and spices should be at the core of your pantry.
Whilst dried herbs in a jar are more than suitable for your culinary needs, if you really want to take your cooking seriously then fresh herbs are the way to go. Not only will your food taste better and more authentic, but an indoor herb garden will improve the look and feel of your kitchen. Plants help to freshen the air by oxygenating the room and the fragrant aromas will make your kitchen feel a joy to be in.
With that in mind, here is our quick guide to the best herbs to grow right there in your kitchen.
A Quick Growing Guide
Don’t buy plants that have already been growing outdoors as the shock of a climate change will affect their growth and production. Also be sure to prune regularly to promote further growing.
Plant different herbs in separate containers. Planting them all in the same one will inhibit growth and the more virulent plants will take over the pot. Terracotta pots with plenty of drainage will help your plants to breathe and make them less susceptible to fungus.
Always use a high-quality potting soil. Don’t use outside soil as there is no way of knowing what organisms it contains. Add a spoonful of crushed eggshell to rosemary, thyme and basil’s soil as they like some extra lime and, if you use fertiliser (and you should) be sure that it is one that promotes leaf growth rather than flower blooming.
When it comes to watering, always aim for the point at which the stems meet the soil rather than the leaves, and let the soil dry in between waterings. The amount of water will vary by plant so keep an eye on each one individually and adjust as necessary. Leaves turning yellow is normally the first sign of over watering, so watch out for that.
Last of all, start early in the year. That way you won’t have to worry about going without lovely fresh herbs through the winter when plant production slows down. Artificial lights and reflectors are available to ensure that your herbs have plenty of light through the gloomy days of winter. They clip onto the pots and sit around four to six inches away from the plant. Look out for brown spots as an indicator that the lights are too close.
And Now, onto the Herbs
Now that you know what you are doing in terms of growing your herbs, let’s take a look at some of the best and easiest plants to grow in your home.
1. Lemongrass – You don’t even need soil to grow lemongrass. Just buy a good stalk with its base intact from the market and put it in a couple of inches of water.
2. Chives – Chives are very easy to grow as they don’t require lots of light and they produce in abundance. Use an already established plant for the best results.
3. Mint – Another easy herb to grow is peppermint or spearmint (peppermint is stronger so bear in mind that you’ll need a lot more spearmint to achieve the same strength of flavour). The main reason for its ease of growth is that it behaves much like a weed, so beware of it chocking your other plants if you ignored our advice about separate pots.
4. Parsley – A commonly used herb and, whilst it may take a couple of weeks for the seed to germinate, once it gets going it requires very little light or maintenance.
5. Coriander – Very easy to grow and essential for eastern dishes.
6. Oregano – Easy to grow and versatile, but requires a lot of sunlight. Around six to eight hours is best.
7. Thyme – Like oregano, thyme requires a lot of sunlight to proliferate. If you would like an alternative then lemon thyme adds a fantastic citrus flavour to your food.
8. Rosemary – Tuscan Blue or Blue Spire are great for indoor growing as they don’t spread out too much. Rosemary is very susceptible to over-watering however, so look out for those yellow leaves. Keep the soil on the dry side and use a less rich soil.
9. Basil – A great herb for lots of occasions, but also one of the more difficult to grow. It needs lots of care, especially in the winter months, so be sure not to neglect it.
10. Chillies – OK, OK, so not technically a herb, but I consider it an essential addition to any kitchen garden. Starter kits abound in garden centres and gift shops alike, so pick a strength that suits your palette and before you know it you’ll have lovely fresh chillies that will liven up any dish.
So there you have our quick guide to getting started in the wonderful and rewarding world of indoor herb growing. Please let us know if you have any tips of your own and tell us your favourite herbs, in the comments below.