Herbs have so many different flavors and uses, from cooking and eating or drinking in tea to aromatherapy and medicinal remedies. There are literally thousands of varieties around the world, and they are so easy to grow and maintain if you follow a few basic guidelines. Growing herbs is such a hassle-free hobby, in fact, that you can grow them on your windowsill, even if you live in a tiny flat or apartment!
Benefits Of Using Fresh Herbs
Herbs have a range of uses and benefits, from aromatherapy and skincare to flavoring food and improving physical and mental health. Rosemary, basil, oregano, cilantro, sage and thyme, for example, are excellent natural anti-inflammatories. Herbs can also be used as a natural fertility enhancer, with red clover, red raspberry leaves and stinging nettle (which is wild but can be grown in the garden), being some of the best options. Certain herbs, including chamomile, lavender and Valerian root, can help reduce anxiety and stress when used in tea, essential oils, or even as bunches or potpourri around the house. Simply smelling these aromas have a calming effect on the mind.
How To Grow Herbs Indoors
As a generalization, herbs tend to be sun worshippers, so growing them inside on windowsills or next to glass doors makes a whole lot of sense. It also means you can add freshly picked herbs to your meals, even if you live in a top-floor apartment in the middle of a city, whether it’s snowing or blowing a gale outside! Not only that, but you’ll add some beautiful, natural greenery and aromas to your home. Although herbs are fairly self-reliant and easy to grow, there are some rules to follow to ensure you are protecting them and getting the most you can out of them.
Give Your Herbs Plenty Of Light
Because most herbs originate from the Mediterranean region, they need to see plenty of sunlight – for at least four hours of the day. In the northern hemisphere, they don’t really appreciate north-facing windows, because of the lack of direct sunshine, and, similarly, in the southern hemisphere, keep them away from south-facing windows.
Depending on where in the world you live and how extreme your winters are, you may need to provide your plants with extra light during those freezing months. The intensity of the light coming through the window can be as much as 10 times lower than in the summer. In this case, you can simply use grow lights to increase the length and intensity of your herbs’ light exposure.
Feed And Water Your Herbs Correctly
Probably the second most important thing, after light, for healthy indoor herb crops, is healthy soil. These plants tend to need extremely good draining (especially in winter) because during colder seasons they don’t release as much water from their leaves into the atmosphere. Because indoor herbs are kept in small pots or planters, water and air cannot move as easily, confining the plants’ roots. Adding sharp sand or perlite to a sterilized compost-based mix (which you can find at any garden center or plant nursery), will improve draining without stripping the herbs’ nutrients. As a general rule, most herbs like soils of pH 6 to 7.
Protect Your Herbs From Pests And Diseases
Just because your herbs are indoors, doesn’t mean they are not susceptible to common pests or diseases. In fact, the simplified ecosystem that indoor plants are introduced into means certain biological controls, such as predators that would keep pests under control in a more complex environment, may be lacking. It is therefore important to check relatively regularly for spots, bite marks or discoloration. You might even be able to see harmful bugs on your herbs, in which case, you can simply remove them by hand! Otherwise, alcohol-soaked cotton balls can be used to reach into areas that your fingers don’t.
How To Grow Herbs In Outdoor Pots
This option is perfect if you have a patio, deck or balcony, and again, it can add a beautiful touch to any outdoor space. It is important, however, to ensure your outdoor space gets plenty of sunlight – at least four hours a day. By growing herbs in outdoor pots or troughs (you could even use an old bathtub as a herb garden!), you save yourself the time and hassle involved with digging and mapping out a garden in the backyard.
Because pots or containers create another small, simplified ecosystem for your herbs, when compared to planting them directly into the ground, you can basically follow the same guidelines as the indoor herbs above. The main thing to remember is to check them regularly, make sure they are soaking up plenty of sunlight, and give them plenty of water and food (think of them as pets!).
It is best to include a few herbs that require the same amount of water into one large pot, rather than having several small pots with individual herbs in them. There are a number of reasons for this – for a start, it creates a larger ecosystem and soil base, and it also makes the pot stronger and heavier, which will stop it from falling over in wind. Choose pots that are at least 8 to 10 inches in diameter to begin with, and then you can transplant them into larger pots or containers as they grow. Then, just remember to use good potting soil, filling the pots right up, and fertilize – preferably with organic matter.
How To Grow A Herb Garden
This paints that idyllic picture of picking fresh herb sprigs in the sunny weather – something you perhaps imagine doing when you have that lovely dream home and plenty of outdoor space. Depending where you live, this might be far easier to achieve than you think, and if you do have any green outdoor space – even just a few square feet, you actually can plant that picturesque little vegetable garden, and herbs are a great place to start because they are so easy!
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