Springtime weather always gets me itching to grow some plants of my own, but it can be a real challenge to exercise my green thumbs inside a tiny apartment. Luckily, there are a lot of options to consider when it comes to small space gardening. One of the most satisfying ways for me to ring in the spring is to start tending a few indoor herbs. Herb gardening is the perfect exercise for beginners: most herbs are easy to grow, look and smell lovely, and can even be added to your cooking!
Wondering how to get started? All it takes is four simple steps. Note that while we’re focusing on indoor and balcony gardening in this article, you can use similar methods to grow herbs outdoors, too.
Choosing Your Space
Light is arguably the most important thing to consider when preparing an herb garden. Usually, herbs like as much light as they can get. Direct sunlight is best, though some herbs will do alright in shadier areas if necessary. Scope out a south-facing window or balcony that receives a lot of light. If you don’t have any spaces with good lighting, consider investing in a small grow light to place above your herb plants.
Herb gardens don’t require a lot of space, and most people don’t use very much of any one herb at a time, so your “garden” can be fairly small and still contain a variety of plants. A window box is ideal if you have a balcony or ledge to hang it off of. Otherwise, almost any table or counter should supply enough room for your herbs. If you really want to get creative, you can make a tiered garden by stacking increasingly smaller rectangles or triangles on top of each other. If you choose to do this, just make sure that each tier has a few inches of available planting soil in it. Tiered gardens are especially advantageous for those who can’t afford to give up a lot of floor or counter space. Those that don’t have any floor space at all should try hanging herbs. On top of their convenience, hanging herbs make for vibrant additions to kitchen areas.
Choosing Your Containers
The right container can transform a bunch of dirt and vegetation into a charming part of your home decor. Individual pots provide some separation between plant types, but aren’t strictly necessary. If you’re using a window box, for example, you can just appoint a small section of the container to each herb. Alternatively, you could keep several small pots inside of a single large basket. Baskets are especially easy to carry should you ever need to temporarily relocate your garden.
When selecting containers, the most important thing is ensuring adequate drainage. The roots of herb plants can start to rot if exposed to prolonged moisture, so make sure your container has several drainage holes that will allow any excess water to run out. If you are growing completely indoors and don’t have the option of drainage holes, use a fast-draining potting soil and put rocks in the bottom of the pot to separate the water from the roots.
Choosing Your Herbs
Herbs are as varied as our planet’s cuisines. My immediate advice to any first-time herb grower is to tend the herbs you’re familiar with and know you’ll use in the kitchen! My personal favorites are basil and rosemary. After you’re comfortable growing your favorites, try taking on one or two more herbs that you know will produce a lovely smell, look pretty, or that you’d like to explore cooking with. For a visually stunning garden arrangement, consider growing some edible flowers like nasturtium among your herbs.
Be sure to group together herbs that grow well in similar light and water conditions. Finally, consider the size of your plants. If you are using a larger growing space, put your tallest plants in the center and the arrange the short ones in an outer ring. If you are using a window box, the tallest plants should be closest to the house. Otherwise, they will prevent the shorter plants from absorbing adequate sunlight. If you’re really short on space, look for miniature varieties of your favorite herbs.
Grow and Enjoy
Typically herbs can be harvested with small scissors. Never remove all the leaves from a branch, and always aim to harvest no more than one-third of a plant’s leaves at any one time. After cutting off the leaves you need, new growth will start pushing out from the trimmed ends. If your herbs start to flower, pinch the buds off immediately to keep the leafy growth coming.
Then comes the real joy. Fresh herbs are a delight to see, smell, and taste. Dried herbs can only hope to match their awesome flavor. Bon apetit!