Whether you want to feel like a domestic goddess or Gordon Ramsey, taking control of your cooking and your kitchen is an empowering feeling. What better way to truly be master of the culinary arts than to grow your own food! Now we may not all be able to become farmers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce your own herbs. Here are the basics of setting up a kitchen herb garden. Now not only will you be complimented on your cooking, but on your green thumb as well.

The Herbs

When building a kitchen herb garden, the first place to start would be deciding just what herbs you want to plant. Here is a rundown of the more popular choices. Basil is a common kitchen herb; you can grow it as an annual or a short-lived perennial, but keep in mind that it likes lots of sun and warmth. Sage can tolerate the lack of circulation in indoor air quite well, but like Basil it needs lots of sun. Oregano can grow up to 12” in pots and remains productive for up to 2 years, making it a great option. Thyme and parsley can grow on less sun, in an east or west facing window, unlike rosemary which, while a perennial, should really be in a south facing window. Cilantro is an annual that grows quickly but stops once it is harvested, unlike the perennials Bay and Chives. Keep in mind that Bay needs air circulation and, although it grows slowly, it will eventually form a bush or small tree. Chervil is an annual that grows in low light, while Tarragon needs plenty of light and requires a dormant period in late fall or early winter to grow indoors. As you can see there is a lot of information out there and a lot to learn, but don’t get overwhelmed. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds once you:

Choose a Location

This is one of the most important parts of building your herb garden. The plants will generally need about 6 hours of sun per day, so this means keeping your plants near a window which receives lots of light, or using special light. Usually the window option is sufficient, but keep in mind that growing your herbs next to a window in winter might make them too cold. The temperature in the room should be kept between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and you’ll need good air circulation to keep the plants healthy.

Planting

For beginners, it’s easier to start with healthy plants rather than seeds. Make sure that your pots are big enough, at least 6 inches, with room for the herbs’ roots to grow. Don’t use garden soil, which will compact and smother the roots of your plant, instead go for fast-draining pot mix with lightweight ingredients like vermiculite or perlite to assist in aerating and loosening your final mix. Make sure to plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon so that your newly transplanted herbs won’t wilt in the midday sun.

Growing

Make sure to label your herbs so you can keep track of them and identify them when cooking. You don’t want to reach for chives when you meant to grab lavender! Water your plants regularly; a good rule of thumb is about an inch a week, but if you aren’t sure, then stick your finger an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, you’ll need to water. Don’t go overboard though, as soggy soil makes the roots rot. Rotate the plants weekly so that every side gets light and prune regularly to keep them growing strong. Once the plants start thriving you’ll need to feed them monthly. Make sure to check your plants each year in order to replace those that have become woody or are dying.

Harvesting

Now here’s the fun part, as you’ll be harvesting the herbs as you cook, one meal at a time. This is perfect for the plants, because if you remove more than a third at once it takes a long time to recover and bloom again. With careful picking you can harvest your herbs for months. Happy Harvesting, From Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough, NJ!

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