Having fresh herbs readily available for all your cooking needs is always a treat. With fresh herbs, food just tastes so much better. But did you know you can grow a vegetable garden right inside the kitchen? All you need is a few garden pots together, some knowledge of container gardening, and a window with morning sunlight.
Planting basil indoors
Basil is one of the best herbs to have in your kitchen garden. Italians love basil. Put it in pasta and other tomato and cheese based dishes. Basil is also good for many Thai dishes.
Planting basil is easy. It is practically resistant to pests and plant diseases. You can start from seeds and you can plant them outside in the meantime. After two weeks, the seedlings should be ready for transplanting. You can move them into a 4 inch pot and you can move them around your kitchen making sure to place them near a window so they still get sunlight. Basil prefers four hours of sunlight a day so if you have a window facing east or west, they should be getting a lot. Watering basil is not a complicated matter either. You only need to water once a week but be careful if the soil looks dry. For basil to thrive, the soil must always be moist.
Once you move the plant to the pot, you should prune it right away to encourage more leaf growth. Basil responds well to pruning so don’t worry about picking the leaves whenever you need some fresh basil to whip up some pesto. The plant begins to bloom after about 75 days. You should be careful of this and cut the flower buds immediately. Once the flowers bloom, the basil begins to have a bitter taste. But if you cut them right away, you can prolong the use of the plant.
Planting rosemary indoors
Rosemary is fragrant and is perfect with chicken, lamb and fish dishes. Just having the smell of fresh rosemary in your kitchen is a treat; even better when you use it fresh for cooking. Rosemary is very resistant to harsh climates. It does not need much watering. In fact, it is more prone to die from excess water than from under water.
Rosemary takes a while to grow so it is recommended that you get your seedlings from a nursery rather than the seeds yourself. Also, when planted outdoors, rosemary plants can grow tall but you can control how tall they grow by planting them indoors in a pot. When you move the rosemary to its permanent pot, cut off 1/3 of the roots to control its growth. Don’t worry. You will not run out of leaves to use. If however you want a bigger plant, don’t cut the roots and find a bigger pot to use. Rosemary blooms when placed near a window in the morning or afternoon sun with only a little watering to keep the soil moist.
Despite being a hardy plant, rosemary is susceptible to powdery mildew. When you start seeing some white powdery stuff on the stems and leaves, it’s time to act. Remove all affected parts and place them in zip-lock bags before discarding so that they do not spread further. Be careful not to use chemical pesticides as you will likely be using the leaves for your cooking. You don’t want to have any pesticides on your food now do you?
Planting thyme indoors
Thyme is your best friend when making steaks. Besides steak, there is an endless range of uses for this fragrant vegetable from marinades and sauces to salad dressings and stews. And like most herbs, thyme is very easy to grow indoors. All you need is a window with some sunlight shining through and regular but not excessive watering.
You can grow thyme from seeds and transfer the seedlings to a larger pot a little later. A 4 inch pot is good enough for thyme. Getting a bigger pot means the plant can develop woody stems much faster. There is no real reason why you should go with a larger pot if you are planting indoors so it is best to stick with the 4 inch pot. When you have an adult plant, growing more thyme should be relatively easy as you can cut stems, stick them in the ground and they will grow their own roots to become a new plant.
Thyme is however susceptible to some pests, particularly whiteflies and mealy bugs. Be careful of using pesticides on herbs like thyme as you use the leaves for cooking. Notably, these pests can be controlled with neem oil.
Planting sage indoors
Sage is best used for poultry dishes and stuffing and is easy to grow outdoors, and even indoors. One sage plant can provide you with many leaves to use in your cooking for years to come.
Planting sage is easy. Just like any other vegetable, you need a few hours of sunlight peeking through a window. Also, make sure you are using the right type of soil that should drain easily. Water moderately. Ideally, you should place your sage plant in a warm area away from cold drafts. In the absence of cold air, your sage plant will mature much faster and grow tender and tasty leaves. And like basil, you don’t want sage to bloom because that starts to affect the flavor of the leaves. When the flower buds start to appear, cut them off immediately.
The flavor of most herbs, including sage, is best brought out when dried. Harvest leaves by cutting leaf stems six inches long. Using a pair of small scissors, cut the leaves and spread them on a clean piece of cloth and place them over the light. When the leaves are dry, store them in an airtight container away from light.
Here are a few general tips to keep in mind when caring for indoor plants.
- You must use clay pots as clay pots help with drainage.
- If you don’t have natural sunlight, you can use artificial light sources but expose the plant twice the amount of time it would need in full sunlight. So if basil needs 4 hours of full sunlight, they will do well with 8 hours of artificial light.
- Dry your herbs for longer storage and better flavor. Usually, when using fresh herbs for cooking, you should use twice the amount you would normally use if you were using dried herbs.
- Different herbs have different watering needs so take note of this.
- Herbs don’t need a lot of fertilizer but putting some in is certainly helpful. Use fertilizer sparingly.
- Placing a tray under the pots helps control any overflow coming from the drainage holes. No touch.
So, what is your favorite vegetable? Will you plant some in your kitchen?
Rob handles content for IOTA Australia. He is a homebody who loves to prepare tasty meals on weekends. He also keeps a small patch of grass in the yard. When he is not working in front of the computer, you will find him in the kitchen, in the garden or playing with the cats.