Start an herb garden in your apartment

Fresh herbs can turn an everyday dinner into a special occasion, but herbs at the grocery store can be expensive and difficult to keep cool. However, if you start an herb garden in your apartment, a relatively simple and compact project, you can have access to fresh herbs daily.

Cultivate an herb garden in your kitchen

While you can grow an herb garden in a particularly sunny living or dining room, your kitchen is the best place if you want easy access to your fresh herbs for cooking. If your space is kept between 60 and 70 degrees, you can grow herbs indoors all year round, as long as they have enough light – to thrive indoors, herbs need just as much. natural light as possible.

“When I work with city dwellers, the most important thing is meeting the right lighting needs,” said Sera Rogue, owner and designer of Red Fern, a company that consults and designs indoor green spaces in Montreal. Brooklyn, New York. . Six hours of sunshine a day is ideal.

In general, herbs will thrive on your windowsill. Even though the temperature drops slightly at night, most herbs appreciate the coolness of the evening. Simply prevent the foliage from touching the glass; otherwise, your tasty leaves will turn black in the cold. If your windowsill is too small to hold a pot, place your plants in a location where the sun shines most of the day.

If you’re stuck with north-facing windows – or maybe you don’t have a window at all in your kitchen – you can still have the herb garden of your dreams with the help of grow lights. full spectrum, which mimic the sun’s rays. sunlight either by filtering it through a special glass for incandescent lamps, using a chemical mixture for fluorescent lamps, or by balancing the correct light output ratio of different colored diodes for LED lamps. You can buy them at most garden supply stores or some online stores. Lights should stay on between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the day and be off at night.

When watering, focus on the roots; this is where the plant drinks. Foggers are unnecessary, and wetting the leaves may not be the best idea as it could attract pests or mold. Rogue recommends watering daily during the heat of summer (when it’s a bit cooler, every other day will do), but how often you water your herbs depends on the microclimate in your apartment.

“Some people’s homes are drier, and some people’s homes are a bit warmer,” Snape said. “What you want to do is get into the habit of checking your plants every day. Observe how long it takes for your plant to dry out and set up a watering schedule.

Herbs have a very simplistic root system, so you also don’t water to overwater the plants and drown their roots. Overwatered grasses turn yellow in its leaves, attract flies or midges, and develop mold in the soil. To avoid overwatering, dig your fingers under the soil; if you smell damp, you can skip watering that day.

Can you grow herbs in a mason jar?

Choosing the right container for your herbs is the best way to ensure good drainage. My apologies to hipster aesthetes: Mason jars are prohibited.

“Mason jars are not very good for drainage, obviously, because there is no hole,” said Snape. “You have to be an expert waterer if you plant something without a drainage hole.”

Get a pot with a drainage hole and place them on a tray to avoid damaging the surface (it would be a shame to rot your windowsill). Ceramic and plastic pots are best because terra cotta leaks, but if this is your material of choice, make sure the tray is on a cork coaster. Also, be sure to use potting soil rather than garden soil, as it will contain chemicals like perlite which promote drainage.

What herbs you should grow

Some herbs are more resistant than others. Oregano, thyme, chives, parsley, and mint (a particularly voracious herb) are quite indulgent with the sun and the watering fads of first-time herb gardeners. “Basil is definitely the diva of the band, but she’s the one everyone wants,” Snape said.

Because basil requires constant heat, it should therefore not be grown near drafty windows. Rosemary is a bit more rustic, but it can also be finicky about light and constant temperatures.

If you want to plant herbs from seed, you should start around March. The days are longer and your seedlings will benefit from more hours of sunshine; by the time May arrives, you will have a fairly good size plant. Order from independent seed companies like Johnny’s Selected Seeds or FEDCO or buy familiar brands like Burpee from local stores. If winter is coming and you can’t wait to get started, it might be easier to pick up some small plants at your local supermarket.

Ultimately, the herbs you grow should be the herbs you use. If you plan around your favorite dishes, your herb garden will quickly become the best part of your cooking routine.

This story originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News Homestead section in December 2018. It was updated in December 2020.

Terri S. Tomasini