A chilly, gloomy spring can be a frustrating time of year in terms of gardening. While the world is slowly bursting into bloom, we have not yet escaped the threat of frost and the official planting season has not yet started. So while you may not be able to go full steam ahead with planting outdoors, you can get started on your gardening indoors with a few potted herbs. Not only beautiful and aromatic, these indoor plants are functional too, making a wonderfully fresh addition to your favourite recipes.
For those of you who, like me, have thumbs that are more brown than green, here are a few tips for growing herbs indoors.
1. Most herbs can grow well indoors with sufficient light, and some of the most successful ones are mint, rosemary, basil, chives, parsley and oregano.
2. Look for a terra cotta pot to grow your herbs in – never plastic! Terra cotta lets the soil to breathe by allowing air and moisture through. This is important to ensure the roots do not rot or begin to develop mildew. Tip: if the natural terra cotta colour does not work with your decor, try painting your pots in a colour that suits your space (see article here).
3. Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage. Regardless of the type of pot you choose to use, there needs to be a few holes in the bottom to drain any excess water. The general rule of thumb is that when you fill your pot with water to the brim, it should not take longer than one minute for water to begin to drain out of the holes at the bottom of the container. If it takes longer, you need to add extra holes to the bottom of your pot or add some extra pebbles to the soil for better drainage.
4. Use specialized potting soil. While it might be tempting to gather some from your outdoor garden, potting soil has been specially formulated to address the extra needs of growing indoors. It will help to ensure efficient drainage and also provide some of the minerals your herbs will need to thrive.
5. Herbs require alot of natural light. Be sure to place your pots on a windowsill where they will receive as much light as possible. Many experts believe that herbs become most aromatic when exposed to full natural sunlight. As the weather warms up, you may want to treat your plants to some time outdoors to soak it all up.
6. Water thoroughly but less often. While there is no magic frequency to water your plants, use your finger to gauge the moisture in the soil. It should feel damp but not wet. When you feel the soil drying out, pour enough water in to fill the pot to the brim and ensure that it drains through.
7. Indoor plants can also be susceptible to mites and pests. Keep your herbs healthy and pest-free with a simple soap and water spray, which is an eco friendly alternative to stronger pesticides and safe for humans and animals. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of soap to 1 litre of water and spray a small amount on your plants occasionally as needed. Give your herbs a quick rinse before using them in your meals.