With Spring officially sprung here in Seattle I’ve been yearning to dig in the dirt, so I decided to go to the local nursery (along with everyone else!) and get supplies to plant the Gatheredtable test kitchen our very own herb garden. I hadn’t planted an indoor one in awhile since I grow many of my own herbs outside now, and I forgot how nice it is to have the herbs right there waiting for you to pick them! As I planted I reminded myself of a few of my favorite tips for indoor herb gardens and thought I’d share. Check back in weekly for the progress of our herb garden and to see what we’re making with the herbs we grow!
How to Grow Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden
Step 1 – Decide which herbs you want
The first decision to make is which herbs you want. The obvious answer is to choose the ones you cook with most often. Another consideration is if you’re planting them together in one big pot, or separately in smaller pots. If you’re planting them all together you’ll want to make sure that the herbs you choose like the same amount of sunlight and similar soil conditions. Rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, and parsley all prefer dry-ish soil and lots of sunshine. Tarragon, chives, basil, and cilantro all prefer wetter soil and slightly less direct (but still strong) light. Recently I found some great individually-sized secondhand pots so was able to choose the herbs we use most often regardless of how they work together. For this attempt at an herb garden I bought: basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme, and parsley.
For kitchen gardens I tend to prefer herbs I use only very small amounts of 1) because I hate buying the whole packet just to use a little, and 2) then the plant is able to easily survive weekly or daily use. We often use a lot of basil and cilantro so we’ll see how those survive and if I end up buying fewer of those at the store…
This is also a good time to think about if you want to use seeds or starts. For this garden I chose starts, mostly because all the spring sunshine is making me feel a little antsy for plants, but seeds are a great (and cheaper) option. If you’ve never gardened before I’d recommend starts though because getting them going is a little easier.
Step 2 – Gather your supplies
Now its time to head to your local nursery or hardware store. You’ll need:
- herb starts or seeds
- pots (herb roots rot easily so make sure you choose pots with holes in the bottom for good drainage, or buy some gravel to put in the bottom of your pots so the soil doesn’t get too soggy)
- planting soil
If you’re a more ambitious DIY’er check out some great ideas for cool planters and space saving ideas on decorlove.com. DROOL!! My next free weekend I am totally trying my hand at one of these.
It may seem obvious, but when choosing starts make sure to choose ones that look strong and healthy (not ones that are already half dead).
Step 3 – Planting
Now that you have everything you need it’s time to plant.
- If using gravel, place that in the pots first.
- Fill pots with soil, leaving enough space for the whole root system of your starts.
- Place the starts in the pot, hold the leaves up, and fill in dirt around the edges (you don’t want to accidentally bury any little leaves). Once the start is steady gently tamp down the soil a little.
- Water the plants well and place in the appropriate amount of light for your herbs. Most herbs needs good strong (but not necessarily direct) sunlight to grow well, otherwise they’ll become leggy.
I’d highly recommend placing the little name cards that come with most starts into your pots, they not only give them name of the herb but often have good care instructions (how much water, sun etc.) that are nice to have readily accessible if you’re not an expert gardener.
If you’re using seeds here are a couple tips:
- Soak the seeds for a couple hours before planting
- After planting the seeds (at the depth specified on the seed packet) cover the container with plastic wrap and place somewhere with plenty of light.
- Remove the plastic once sprouts emerge.
- If you’re transplanting them to a larger container wait until there are 2 or more true leaves (leaves that look real instead of the tiny little ones that a sprout develops when it first emerges).
Step 4 – Ongoing Care
With a tiny bit of care, you’ll have a bounty of herbs to enjoy all season.
- You’ll want to water herbs regularly, but not too much. A good rule of thumb is to check herbs daily and water when the top of the soil feels dry. If you’re using pots with holes in the bottom watch to make sure you don’t let water pool in the dish under the pot, herbs don’t like to be left in standing water.
- After about ten days in a container you’ll want to start fertilizing your herbs a little. I prefer organic fish-based fertilizers for herbs but there are lots of special herb fertilizer mixes that work quite well.
- Trim and use your herbs regularly, but don’t harvest too heavily. Keeping herbs well trimmed keeps them from getting leggy and stimulates growth and is especially important if you’re growing several herbs in one container (they need space for the air to circulate). Conversely, don’t harvest them too aggressively (especially in the beginning) or they won’t have enough leaves to continue to grow.
Step 5 – Enjoy!!
Now that you have your very own kitchen herb garden enjoy it! Here are some of our favorite recipes using fresh herbs:
- Farfalle with Spring Pesto – A great spring take on classic pesto using fresh mint, parsley, and dill.
- Citrusy Carrots with Parsley – Brighten up this basic side dish with the addition of orange juice, honey and parsley.
- Chicken Souvlaki – Start with an already-cooked rotisserie chicken to save a few steps. You’ll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes!
- Thai Beef Basil Wraps – These fresh, light wraps are perfect for a warm spring or summer day.
- Mustardy Quinoa with Sausage, Potato, and Tarragon – Combine quinoa and sausage for a flavorful, one pot meal.