Herbs are easy to grow and have many great health benefits, we can use them in the kitchen, for making refreshing teas, or as natural remedies to make us feel better.
Herbs can be grown in all spaces, from the smallest balcony to the biggest garden. There are herbs suitable for growing in dry areas, wet areas, shade or sun. You can easily produce more plants easily from cuttings, and you can use the herbs you grow in your daily life.
If you think you have no space to grow anything edible, then think again! Even a sunny kitchen window will do the trick if you choose the right plants to grow.
Here is a list of plants which can be grown in a pot, planter or any other type of suitable container in a reasonably bright window.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – leaves used fresh or frozen in Mediterranean dishes, in pasta sauces, pesto and as a pizza topping. Loses flavour when dried, preserved by freezing.
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – leaves have a milder flavour than onion, cut leaves used in salads, sauces and soups.
- Chilli (Capsicum species) – dried or fresh fruit used for hot chilli flavour in in various dishes, chutneys and pickles.
- Corn salad (Valerianella locusta also known as Lamb’s lettuce or Mache) – similar to lettuce with a slightly nutty flavour, used like lettuce.
- Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) – leaves are used fresh, dried or frozen and added to soups and sauces, or to make a stimulating minty flavoured tea. Note – this is a different plant to Catnip (Nepeta cataria).
- French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) – fresh or dried leaves used for flavouring fish, meats (especially chicken), salads, egg dishes, sauces, stuffings and vinegar. Note – this plant needs to be put outside in winter to allow it go dormant, otherwise the herb will weaken. It will die down to the ground when dormant, and will regrow back in spring.
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) – leaves used fresh or dried, strongly flavoured and slightly bitter, used sparingly with cooked meat and vegetable dishes, added to soups.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – leaves have sweet lemon scent, used fresh or dried for flavouring lamb, pork, fish and poultry, savoury and sweet dishes, and for teas and beverages.
- Lime balm (Melissa officinalis ssp altissima) – leaves used fresh for teas, beverages, and to add lime flavour to salad dressings and vinegar.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) – use leaves only (referred to as ‘garlic scapes’) much like chives or garlic chives, milder flavour than garlic cloves, used in stir fries and other dished. Note, Garlic grown indoors will not produce garlic bulbs (cloves).
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – fresh or frozen leaves and stems used in meat, fish and vegetable dishes, salads, salad dressings, sauces and stuffings. Loses flavour when dried, preserved by freezing.
- Mint (Mentha species, various types) – Spearmint (Mentha spicata, synonym Mentha viridis) leaves used with meat, fish and vegetable dishes, rice dishes, salads, sauces and mint jelly; Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is used in teas, desserts, cakes, icings, ice creams, confectionaries and cordials. With all mints, fresh leaves are preferred to dried ones.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – leaves used fresh or dried as flavouring for lamb, added to marinades, oil, vinegar and dressings.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis) – leaves used used fresh or dried in Mediterranean dishes, especially with fatty meats such as pork, and used in stuffings and sausages.
- Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) – fresh or dried leaves used to add a mild, spicy flavour, used with beans, peas, lentils, meats, stuffings and culinary dry herb mixes.
Choosing a Location
As with herbs grown in any location, herbs need plenty of sunlight and good, well-draining potting medium.
A window that receives midday or afternoon sun, and gets a minimum of three hours of sunlight each day.is ideal for growing herbs. When placing a herb in a pot near a window, don’t lean any plant too close to a glass as it’s likely to get burnt from heat build-up due to lack of air flow, especially if it’s west facing towards the hot afternoon sun. I’ve toasted cacti this way in a window near my desk in an office workplace, so trust me on this.
Ideally locate plants around 30cm (1 foot) or more from a glass window, especially if the plant is exposed to harsh midday or afternoon direct sun.
Watering Indoor Herbs
Pot up indoor herbs using potting mix, not soil, and use a pot with drainage holes. Most people will place a saucer under their pots so water doesn’t leak all over the window sill or kitchen bench. If you’re using a saucer or tray underneath your pot, water just enough so water trickles out of the drainage holes, or water the pot in the sink and let the excess water drain out. You want your soil nice and moist, not flooded. Don’t leave the pots with herbs growing in them sitting in a saucer or tray of water, as the roots will get waterlogged and rot.
Herbs like their growing medium well-draining, they’re not pond plants! Watering once a week is likely to be sufficient as the water requirements of most herbs are quite low. if the plants begin to wilt suddenly on a hot day or when the indoor heating is running hot in winter, they’ve probably run dry. Lifting the pot up is a good way to tell if water is needed as a dry pot will feel much lighter compared to pot that’s just been watered. Water as necessary, and don’t forget that plants need feeding seasonally too.
Feeding Herbs in Containers
Use a high-grade premium potting mix in containers, as this will contain about three months worth of fertiliser in it. Feed once a year at the very least (at the start of spring), and every 6-8 weeks if you’re harvesting them often. Use a slow release powder, pellet or granule fertiliser, and note that some of these may be 6 or 9 month formulations so you may only need to add fertiliser once or twice a year.
To keep your plants happy, repot your herbs every two years – giving them fresh potting mix and fertiliser and will keep them growing strongly.