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How to Grow Culinary Herbs at Home
One of the keys to successful herb growth is plenty of sunlight, as herbs require full sun and lots of water to flourish. Culinary herbs can be planted in an indoor or outdoor garden space, or in a planter box on a sunny window sill. You can opt to plants seeds, which will go through a longer germination process, or to re-pot herbs that have already begun to grow. When repotting, it's important to ask about the proper soil to plant the herb in, as different herbs prefer different forms of soil.
How to Create an Indoor Herb Garden in 4 Steps
- Decide what you want to grow. If you rarely use something like cilantro or bay leaves in your cooking, don’t bother growing your own supply. Consider which herbs you cook with most often, and grow from there. If this is your first attempt at home growing, you might want to use starter plants (growing plants from seeds can be more cost-effective but also requires an especially green thumb). The herbs below do well indoors and provide bountiful harvests for either a single growing season (annuals), two growing seasons (biennials), or even decades of growing seasons (perennials).
- Pick your pots. Choose your material (clay, fabric, metal, or wood will do the trick), then choose your pot size based on where your garden will be. Smaller pots work best if you’re planning to keep your herbs on a windowsill in the kitchen; go a little bigger if you’re going to keep them on the porch. Whether your pot fits one plant or three, you’ll want to give at least eight inches of space to each plant to avoid overcrowding.
- Buy soil. Be sure to buy potting soil, not garden soil—the former allows for crucial water drainage, while the latter does not. If you’re buying blossoming plants from a garden center, check and see if someone will pot them for you, and you may be able to avoid buying soil altogether.
- Tend and harvest. Growing a robust garden requires attention to your bounty. Be cognizant of how much light your plants are getting, and harvest them often to encourage continued growth. Ask the experts at your gardening center if the plants you’re planning to grow have any special soil, light, or nutrient needs.
Gardening Guide for 6 Popular Culinary Herbs
- Mint (perennial): Known for its wild growth rate, mint does best in its own container. The plant grows fine in shade, but it’ll grow with more oomph in strong sunlight.
- Basil (annual): Basil thrives in heat and light, so keep it in an especially sunny window or under a grow lamp. When well-tended, basil will keep and grow for several weeks, but a long-term supply will require frequent replanting. Learn more about basil in our complete guide here.
- Thyme (perennial): Plant thyme in fast-draining soil mix and give it a spot on a warm, sunny windowsill. Even though the herb prefers less moisture, you’ll still need to keep the surface of the soil moisturized to prevent wilting. Learn more about thyme in our complete guide here.
- Rosemary (perennial): If the conditions are right, rosemary grows year-round: Warm temperatures don’t deter it in the summer, and it’ll thrive in cooler winter temperatures as long as there’s access to a strong light source.
- Flat-Leaf Parsley (biannual): Parsley grows both in full sun and partial shade, but in warmer climes, it does best when shaded in the hot afternoon hours. Be sure to plant it in a deep pot—it can shoot up to two feet tall. Learn more about parsley in our complete guide here.
- Sage (perennial): Sage grows almost anywhere, but its leaves will be most flavorful if exposed to lots of sun. It’s best potted in well-draining soil. Learn more about sage in our complete guide here.
8 Recipes That Use Fresh Herbs:
Once your indoor herb garden is flourishing, enjoy the fruits of your labor in these recipes:
- Massimo Bottura’s Mint-Basil Pesto
- Wolfgang Puck’s Roasted Branzino With Herb Crust
- Gordon Ramsay’s Lobster Ravioli, topped with basil
- Gordon Ramsay’s Perfect Scrambled Eggs, topped with chives
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Confit Eggplant and Garlic Recipe, topped with fresh oregano
- Gordon Ramsay’s Turkish-Spice Roasted Eggplant Recipe With Fresh Basil and Feta Cheese
- Gordon Ramsay’s Baba Ganoush Recipe, with thyme and parsley
- Wolfgang Puck’s Smoked Salmon Pizza, topped with chives
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