No matter your gardening experience, growing herbs is deceptively simple and gives right back by sourcing you with the freshest herbs you could possibly get for your favorite recipes.
Growing your herbs in containers yields the dual benefits: you'll have fresh flavor only steps away from your kitchen, and you'll keep it confined to a small space, which makes factors like sunlight and soil moisture all the easier to maintain. You can even bring them inside to overwinter them or find them a permanent place on a sunny windowsill in your kitchen.
There's nothing like the smell of fresh herbs on your counter and in your favourite dishes and drinks! How could you even think to buy dried herbs after growing your own?
It helps to know what kinds of herbs you'd like to grow from the start, as each herb has its own demands to grow properly. Some herbs, like rosemary, will soak up all the sunlight it can. Others, like mint, need consistent moisture and are perfectly comfortable in overcast conditions. Additionally, some herbs are perennials, and some are not. To make caring for them simpler, group herbs with similar growing conditions together in the same container.
The best container for herbs is one that allows for a good amount of drainage. Herbs don't have roots that go too deep into the soil, so you can elect for a shallower container. However, the more soil you have in the container, the more leeway you have when you're watering.
Speaking of soil, use regular potting soil similar to what you'd use for your other plants. Herbs don't require much in terms of fertilizer. They are perfectly content to grow as-is and are mostly self-sufficient.
Some herbs can take some time to start growing. If you're looking for a quicker return on herbs like sage, rosemary, and bay, they will all produce leaves much faster if you start them from cuttings. Dill, cilantro, oregano, parsley, or thyme are quick growers you can start from a seed or a cutting.
Herbs need about 6 hours of sunlight per day. Place your containers in a south- or west-facing window to ensure they get enough light. Be aware that windows are not enough protection from the elements. Your plants are subject to harsh weather changes and UV rays, so keep them a few inches back from your window.
Because you're growing them in a pot, you can move or rotate your herbs to suit the light they require. If you do not get enough sunlight, all is not lost. Grow lights are a great alternative to make sure your herbs get enough light each day. Be aware that containers can also get pretty hot, drying out the soil inside. You may need to use a little more water than usual.
This is an easy one to forget, but humidity plays a big factor in a herb's healthy growth. Our air in North Dakota can be too dry for herbs that are used to more humid conditions. The best way to cheat this is to give your herbs a daily misting to keep them happy.
This is the best part, and why you've started growing your herbs to begin with! Pluck your herbs often, as they will grow more healthily and reward you with more leaves. The younger leaves on most herbs are often the most flavourful, so pinch more, and often. The only rule here is to only remove about a third of the leaves on your herbs at one time, so they don't need to work as hard to grow back.
If you want to migrate your herbs for the colder season, it's worth the time to wash them free of any pests before you move them indoors. Using insecticidal soap on your plants can save you a lot of trouble later in the season. Be sure to use a product that is safe for edible plants.
Here are some of the best herbs that grow well in containers, and some tasty recipes you can make with them.
Basil has a wonderfully subtle and complex flavour. It can get easily lost in the flavors of stronger herbs and it loses flavor in heat, so basil is most at home as a raw garnish in simpler dishes. Since you're growing your own, you could try your hand at making your own homemade pesto.
Chives - Chives fair well in drier conditions and grow to be about 12 inches long. Chives work well to flavor soups, dips, and have a place at home on top of sour cream.
Cilantro - Cilantro is not a flavor suited to everyone's taste, but it is easy to grow. Cilantro loves sunlight and moist soil, and its flavor is a strong addition to summer guacamole.
Mint - has a bold flavour that is more synonymous with the holiday season, but it's also the star in Mojitos, and we welcome those any time of the year. Since summer is around the corner, here's a refreshing recipe for a mint tea punch that any age can enjoy.
Oregano - is easy to grow and doesn't need a lot of attention. It is a classic herb for Italian dishes. You always have the option to dry your oregano if you prefer the taste on your pizza.
Parsley - Fresh parsley is a biennial herb, and one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It makes for a beautiful garnish in most dishes. There are many varieties of parsley available with many leaf shapes to experiment with to add some nutritious pizzazz to your dishes.
Rosemary - is an earthy herb that makes a great addition to most meats and vegetables. Heat brings out the full flavour of rosemary, so add it to your pan early while you're cooking to get the most out of it.
Sage - In addition to being a great complement to poultry, sage plants possess a natural ability to repel pests. Sage also tends to pair very well with rosemary. If you're growing both of those herbs, you can make dishes like homemade stuffing or a rosemary sage focaccia.
Tarragon - This perennial herb is also very pretty, with vibrant green color and long, slender leaves. It has a slight licorice flavor and goes well with poultry dishes and stews.
Thyme - Thyme grows beautifully, trailing its way out of its container. This Mediterranean classic features fancy-looking sprigs that make for a great garnish, but it's perfect tossed on grilled meats and vegetables.
Once you get the hang of it, you can grow just about any kind of herb in your garden. There's also a certain satisfaction to cooking with your own herbs to taste. Enjoy growing the herbs you love to eat. It beats buying them any day!