Use your own fresh herbs in your recipes
I love spending my time cooking and have created many delicious dishes including my famous Guinness Irish Stew. The key to making a recipe delicious is to use fresh herbs; while dried herbs are good, fresh herbs add a lot more flavor to even the most mundane meal. I love growing my own herbs and always have some fresh Rosemary growing in the yard, however during the cold winters it’s not possible to maintain an outside herb garden.
I therefore realized I need to learn how to make an indoor herb garden. After much experimentation I realized that creating herbs indoors isn’t easy; you need to create the right combination of lighting and moisture in order to help the herbs thrive. You can use an Aerogarden and these are effective, however the cost can be high especially as there isn’t that much variety unless you can afford more than one Aerogarden.
What do I need to make an indoor herb garden?
Herb seeds – I suggest starting off with some of the easier herbs to grow. Basil, sage, rosemary, cilantro and oregano are generally easy to use and are great herbs for every day recipes. I find rosemary and oregano to be the most used herbs in my dishes, especially when I’m cooking Italian foods.
Potting soil – herbs are difficult to grow and therefore you can’t simply use common garden soil. Potting soils generally have pH levels conducive to growing herbs and plants and usually contain fertilizers and slow-release nutrients that will help the herbs grow and prosper.
Pots – depending on your preference, you can get large pots to hold an entire herb garden or an individual pot for each herb. Each pot should have drainage holes for any excess water.
What else do I need to consider when making an indoor herb garden?
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of creating an indoor herb garden. Without a decent amount of sunlight it’s very unlikely that your herbs will be healthy and prosper. Ideally you want to find a location that is sunny. If you don’t have a location where you can guarantee a lot of sunlight then you can purchase a horticultural light that will provide artificial sunlight for your herb garden.
You also need to consider whether you have the time to dedicate to a herb garden. Herb gardens require tending and watering often and if you don’t have the time to spend on the herb garden then products like Aerogarden are a great alternative as they provide the artificial sunlight and automatically water the herbs when required.
So how do you make an indoor herb garden?
The good thing about an indoor herb garden is that you can maintain them all year round, and while I still have an external herb garden, the aromas of an internal herb garden really make the idea of an internal herb garden very appealing. Below you will find a general guide for creating your own indoor herb garden; don’t give up, you may not be successful the first time, or even the second time but the effort will pay off when you have fragrance herbs enhancing your recipes.
Step 1 – select your herbs – if this is your first time then I suggest you select only one or two herbs to start and then as you become more experienced try to increase the number and variety of herbs.
Step 2 – plants or seeds? - decide whether you want to ‘cheat’ by buying a plant or start from scratch by using seeds. Buying a small herb plant from your local hardware store is easier and the herb is more likely to be hardier, but it is more expensive. Using seeds is more difficult and without the right combination of sunlight and water might not develop the hardiness that you need for them to last.
Step 3 – location – finding the right location where the plants will get plenty of sunlight is key; as mentioned before if you don’t have the perfect location then you can purchase a horticultural lamp that you can time to come on during normal sunlight hours.
Step 4 – potting - while you can use fresh soil and fertilizers and try and maintain your own fertilized soil, it is easier to use potting soil with fertilizers and nutrients in them. You can supplement with Miracle Grow if you want, but regular potting soil doesn’t really require much maintenance.
For individual herbs you should use a 6 inch pot, for a full garden use at least a 12 inch pot. If you are using a plant, create a hole that will allow you to put the entire plant in. If you are using seeds, follow the instructions on the packet. Usually you will soak the seed in water for several hours, poke a hole in the soil and then place the seed in the hole (usually the depth will be about three times the height of the seed) and then pat down the soil so that there are no air bubbles.
Step 5 – watering – generally you should water once a week or once every two weeks depending on the moisture retention of the soil. Do not over water. This is one of the hardest parts of creating a herb garden indoors and it can be very hard to judge. Generally I like the soil to feel slightly moist when touching it, but you’ll find what works for you over time by simple trial and error.
Step 6 – harvesting – pruning is an important part of growing indoor herbs; it helps to keep the herb healthy and bushy. You want to aim to have a fairly compact plant. Generally you can use the pruned leaves in your recipes or dry them for the future.
My experiences with growing herbs indoors
The table below lists the herbs I have grown indoors, what I tend to use them for, and the difficulty level:
Great in salads and marinaras
Superb with beef
Great for mexican food
Staple for all Italian foods
Great in a fresh salad
Try in soup and salad
Great with chicken and in stuffing
Perfect in all recipes
Moderate / difficult
Nice in mashed potatoes
Great when stuffed in fish
A must-have with lamb
Making your own indoor Herb Garden is a very rewarding experience. Not only will you save money, enhance you meals but you also add a pleasant aroma to your home. Be careful it can be addicting and you’ll soon find yourself growing some very exotic herbs!
Recipes that will benefit by using fresh herbs
- Herbed Pot Roast
Are you looking for an elegant beef recipe that you can prepare in your slow cooker? This is a great recipe and with the fresh herbs is superbly delicious!
- Chicken And Spinach Penne Pasta
Not only is this very healthy but the inclusion of fresh herbs makes it very tasty!
Gail Meyers from Johnson County, Kansas on February 23, 2013:
I agree! Great article! I also love growing plants from seeds. Voted up and shared.
toomuchmint on June 16, 2012:
Great article! I love growing plants from seeds, but I've had a lot of luck picking up discount plants at hardware store plant sales. Plants that don't get enough water frequently end up on the discount rack at 50-75% off regular price. A little water and sunlight perks them right up! End-of-season sales are also great. Last year, six-packs of cabbage were only $1!
Since you're planting them indoors, the first frost hardly matters. Thanks for the great advice!
hanwillingham on April 28, 2011:
Great job! Very useful article, it can follow so easy.
aslanlight from England on April 24, 2011:
Brilliant hub, one I'll have to refer back to! :)
floresbrowns on April 20, 2011:
I have tried.But Looking forward to implement in my garden.
Mrs. Menagerie from The Zoo on April 09, 2011:
I have some Purple Basil that I started last year and it is doing great. It was so nice to have fresh basil all winter long and it smells so good in the kitchen. I think I might try some other herbs this spring. I am inspired by your great hub. Thanks.
HRoger from Online where I can be! on April 07, 2011:
Hey Simey, great info man, sounds easy enough for me to actually try it myself.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 06, 2011:
This sounds like great fun, SimeyC! My first attempt at this was a failure, but you've convinced me to try again!
Simon Cook (author) from NJ, USA on April 06, 2011:
laurels passions: thanks! I love cooking with fresh herbs - so much more flavor. The smell of the herbs in the house is nice too - especially if you have enough sun to have them in the kitchen!
laurels passions from Belmont, NH on April 06, 2011:
Great hub!, very useful! Fresh herbs are awesome to cook with, I have been growing most of mine outside, but will try some indoors this year. Thanks for the information!
Simon Cook (author) from NJ, USA on April 06, 2011:
breakfastpop: lighting was always a problem for me until we had to have a few trees chopped down in the back yard and my back room now has much more sun! There are some very good lamps though!
breakfastpop on April 06, 2011:
I've wanted to do this for a long time, but lighting was always the problem. Now I just may rethink it.