Thursday, June 2, 2011
Growing Herbs Indoors
Being able to supplement your food storage items with fresh herbs that enhance and give variety to foods is a bonus. I think of eating beans and wheat every day or a few times a week and it does not seem that appetizing. However, being able to change it up and add different herbs and spices, sauces or gravies makes it seem much more appealing.
I have not been very good at using a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking. Not having a place to have a garden limits what I can do, and makes it easier to make excuses. However I still love buying fresh herbs and experimenting with flavors and sauces in different dishes I make. I realize that having an indoor herb garden is a possibility and can add lots of variety to any meal. My goal is to use more fresh herbs. This year I’ve started an indoor herb garden in little pots. Not a big deal yet but still a way to learn to grow and use more fresh herbs in cooking. I can guarantee a few fresh herbs will make any food storage meal tastier.
I’m probably the only one who doesn’t do this. I’ve studied to find out which ones grow best indoors and I came up with this list put together by Kendra from newlifeonahomestead.com. I am using this as a guide to help me get started. I copied this list to keep handy as I try to become an expert herb grower. Good luck to me! Let me know of any successes you’ve had or things you have learned in the process.
Here’s a list of common herbs that do well growing indoors. Keep in mind that a south facing window is best, but if that’s not an option for you you’ll need to put your plants in a widow that gets at least SIX hours of good sunlight for most plants.
1. Parsley - Parsley is a slow grower. It takes anywhere from 2-5 weeks for seedlings to emerge. To help seeds germinate more quickly, soak the seeds in warm water for up to 24 hours before planting. Parsley grows well in any good soilless potting mix. Plant it in a pot at least 8” deep as parsley has a long taproot. Make sure the pot has a hole in the bottom of it for proper drainage; you may want to add some small pebbles or something into the bottom of the pot to help with this. Parsley likes bright morning light, and needs at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. It does not like the cold, so keep it back away from chilly windows in the winter. Make sure to water evenly, as this plant does not tolerate irregular watering well. Do not let the potting mix dry out. Parsley will last for up to two years, and then you’ll need to plant more seeds.
2. Chives - Chives are easy to grow from seed, and do well in any good potting mix. Simply press them into the potting soil and water. Once the seedlings emerge, keep them evenly watered. If the tips of the plant begin to yellow, it needs more water. Chives need full sun for at least 6 hours a day. Rotate the pots every few days if the plant begins to lean toward the light. Divide the clump every 2-3 years and re-pot in fresh potting mix. To harvest, snip leaves with a pair of scissors two inches from the base of the plant.
3. Oregano - Oregano can be unpredictable when grown from seed. It’s best to buy a plant to start. Pot oregano in sandy, well drained soil. It is recommended to mix equal parts good potting mix and sharp sand (or use a cactus potting mix). Once established, it is easily killed by over- watering; be sure to have adequate drainage and keep in mind that this plant is drought tolerant. Oregano needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Divide the plants every 2-3 years, and re-pot separately. Harvest the leaves once the plant has reached 6 inches tall. Be sure to leave stems at least 2 in. above the soil when cutting. Dries well for storage.
4. Thyme - Sow seeds shallowly, keep soil moist until seedlings emerge. Germination within 1-2 weeks. It’s recommended to plant thyme in sandy, well drained soil. Mix 2 parts good potting mix with one part sharp sand or perlite (or you can use a cactus potting mix). Water well, then allow the top 1 in. of potting mix to dry out before watering again; approx. twice a week. Thyme needs at least 6 hours a day of good sunlight. Turn the plant for even growth when you notice it leaning toward the light. Harvest sparingly the first year. Snip bunches as needed, leaving 3 in. of stem above the soil. Thyme dries well and freezes well in freezer bags.
5. Rosemary - Plant in good draining potting mix; same as for Thyme. Be sure the pot has adequate drainage. Do not overwater! Only water when the top 2” of the soil’s surface feels dry, but be careful not to allow it to dry out completely. Rosemary needs at least 6 hours of direct light per day. Turn the plant as needed when you notice it leaning toward the sun. Rosemary plants are susceptible to powdery mildew. You may need to take it out of the kitchen (a high humidity room) if this becomes a problem. You can also treat the plant with an organic fungicide. Harvest above a stem joint, never cutting more than a third of the plant at a time.
6. Basil - Grows easily from seed. Cover seeds with 1/4″ soil, water well. You should see seedlings emerge in about a week. When the seedlings are about 6″ tall, pinch off the tops to promote more leaf growth. Plant in same potting mix recommended for Rosemary and Thyme. Water thoroughly, then allow the top 1”of the soil to dry out before watering again. Basil enjoys an occasional mist of room-temp water for humidity. Requires 6 hours of good light per day. Turn as needed for even growth. Harvest leaves from established plants once a week. Cut a leaf as needed, or a stem above a pair of leaves. Pinch off blooms as they appear. Basil dries or freezes well for longer storage.
Okay, that’s a good start, right? Here are a few other herbs to consider planting indoors as well:
In general, fertilize herbs with a low dose of water-soluble fertilizer which promotes leaf growth (not blooms) about every two weeks. You can also feed your herbs by adding one tablespoon of fish emulsion to a gallon of water and using this every time you water. Rosemary, thyme, and basil benefit from a spoonful of crushed eggshells added to the soil. If whiteflies, aphids or other pests become a problem, you can spray the plants once a week with a soapy solution made from 1-2 tablespoons of a mild soap dishwashing soap to one gallon of warm water. If the plants begin to discolor, decrease the amount of soap used in the solution, or discontinue use. Make sure to wash the leaves off before using them.