Many would think or believe that there is only one option to have fresh herbs during winter in your kitchen, and that would be to buy it from your supermarket or garden center ( if you lucky to find ). Though there is nothing wrong with buying your herbs, the variety might not be what you are looking for at that given moment.
For starters, there are two ways you can start. Either grow from seed or buy all ready established plant and go for there. If you are a beginner I would suggest buying the plant and not start with the seeds. Seeds require a lot more “work” and time to get them to a point that you can start using them. This is where a little bit of planning can go a far way. If you want fresh herbs ( including the varieties that you like ), I would recommend buying them no later Autumn. Once you have that covered, the fun can begin. Here is how to grow herbs indoors during winter.
What herb should I grow ?
Though there are many herbs out there, many don’t know what or where to use them. Here are a few of the most common and easy one to grow as well as what food dishes they work well with.
- Basil – Works well in salads, Pestos`and beef dishes. Basil has a peppery yet sweet taste, some would say it even has a slight hint of mint.
- Rosemary – Mix into soft butter for your bread. Add to marinade for beef or chicken. Sprinkle on spuds/ baked potatoes. Use as a seasoning in stews. With rosemary the list is nearly endless. You can pretty much use it everywhere.
- Thyme – Can be used in omelets, works well with tomatoes and cheese. Thyme is a great seasoning for chicken dishes.
- Cilantro ( Coriander ) – Can be added to rice dishes. Mediterranean dishes, Beef or chicken curries. Cilantro also pairs very well with garlic, lime, chilies and onions.
- Mint – Pairs well with lamb dishes. You can add some mint leaves to Greek yogurt. Or a refreshing mint and lime water drink.
- Parsley – Works well with fish dishes. Mediterranean dishes and pasta dishes.
- Chives – A great addition to egg mayo sandwiches. Chives can be used as a garnish in salads. Works very well in a vegetable stock.
I have my herb – Now what ?
As mentioned before, buying a herb that is all ready established or potted is a great way to go. So for the sake of this article, that is what we will assume you will be doing ( or have done ). If you can ” overcome ” the following pitfalls many have with their herbs then nature will take care of the rest. You just have to create the right environment.
1. Lighting – This is probably the most important. During the winter months the amount of hours sunlight we get is really little. Herbs require at least 6 – 8 hours of sunlight. This is the plant or herbs ” power button “. Without adequate sunlight the herb will not have the energy to make their own food and in turn will die. This problem can be very easily solved by purchasing a grow light. They come in a variety of forms, from desk lights, fixtures to a grow box. All are very easy to manage and set up, just as easy as switching on a kettle.
2. Temperature – Some herbs can tolerate low temperatures, but most require it to be more mild. This could be anything between 18C – 24C. This is where they will be happiest. If you are placing your herbs in a south facing windowsill just be careful that the leaves don’t touch the glass. It will most likely be much hotter and this could burn the leaves. An easy way to know if the temperature is good for them, simply tell yourself ” if I’m cold, they will be cold. And if I’m hot, they will be hot “.
3. Water – Many tend to over water their herbs. The soil or growing medium should never be saturated. Do a finger test. Stick your finger about 1cm into the soil – if damp then don’t water. If you see the herb start ” drooping ” then give it a little water. It would not be advisable to allow the plant to “droop” every time as this causes unnecessary stress on the plant. A good indication of over watering would be if you see the leaves start Turing yellow.
4. Soil and Drainage – A good quality organic potting soil is the best. Do not use normal garden soil as this will suffocate the root system and will not allow for good water drainage ( remember NO saturation ). Always, but always use a container with drainage holes. Use a tray to catch any excess water that drains through. You can add some small pebbles in the tray and place the herb pot on top of it. This way the pot will not be standing in any excess water and it will also allow for some ventilation on the root system.
5. Fertilizing & Insects – Your herb will require some additional ” feeding ” after a month or so. Using an All Purpose Organic Fertilizer (for Foliage growth NOT Bloom ) once a month would be more than sufficient. But don’t worry if you a couple of days off, herbs tend to be very forgiving. If you have done the lighting, temperature, water, soil and drainage properly you shouldn’t have any problem with insects. But as we all know, these things can happen. In cases where it’s needed use an Organic pesticide. I must be honest, I have never needed to use a pesticide on my indoor plants or herbs.
Truth be told, you can have herbs growing all year round. Not just in the spring and summer months. Having fresh herbs at your finger tips and knowing you grew them is not just tasty but also very rewarding. They are very easy to maintain, requires little fuss and if you follow the steps above you shouldn’t have any problems.
One a last note – when cutting for your herb, always make sure you don’t cut any more than 1/3 of the entire plant. This way it will always ” keep on giving ”
Until next time