Build Your Own Herb Garden: A Primer

Know nothing about plants? No problem. Here’s your pain-free guide to growing your own herbs at home.

So you want to build your own herb garden! There’s nothing better than fresh herbs on hand when you need them — especially ones that you grew yourself. It takes homemade cooking to the next level.

Growing your own basil, thyme, mint plants and more is completely doable, but there are a few things you should know going into it, and there are steps you’ll need to take to make sure that you keep your plants alive and thriving.

  1. Pick a spot where they’ll live that has enough space, plenty of light, and is at room temperature.

Maybe the most important thing when you’re growing indoor plants is making sure they get enough sun. If there’s a particularly sunny corner of the kitchen, or a window with a large sill or enough room to place a table beside it, you’re in business.

If there isn’t enough light in your kitchen, you’ll have to settle your plants somewhere else in your home. Without light, they won’t stay alive, or at least won’t stay in good shape.

You also want to make sure the temperature of whatever room they’re in is somewhere around 65-72 degrees — in other words, at typical room temperature, give or take some variation during the winter and summer. If it’s cold out, avoid letting your plants actually touch the windowpane, since they could get nipped by the cold.

The only popular herb that prefers warmer to cooler temperatures is basil, which should stay at a temperature in the 70s both during the day and at night.

  1. Decide how you’re going to plant them.

First: we recommend starting with plants, rather than seeds. It’s much easier and sets you up for success, whereas if you’re starting from seeds, conditions temperature will play a much bigger and more sensitive role. Plus, if you start with seeds, you won’t be cooking with those herbs anytime soon.

You should also think about what container you want to put your plants in. Metal, plastic, and rubber are best, since clay pots, while pretty, are porous and let moisture pass through when you water the plants.

You also need to be sure that there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot(s), and make sure that you have something beneath the pots to catch the water that drains. (No one likes unexpected wet spots on tabletops or floors.)

If you don’t want each plant to be in its own separate pot, for reasons of space or otherwise, know that you can certainly plant some plants together — but you should only cluster plants that have the same watering needs. For example, chives, mint, and coriander all like a lot of water, whereas rosemary, thyme, and oregano need intervals where their soil is dry.

  1. Choose your herbs.

This is almost as simple as deciding what herbs you like best, and which you think you’ll use the most! The only caveat is, as mentioned, that some plants have different needs and so shouldn’t share the same soil, and some plants — like basil — even require different climates than many others.

A few pretty easy, popular plants to grow at home: mint, chives, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, coriander, parsley, and basil.

  1. Don’t neglect them!

Once you’ve set your plants up, all you have to do is make sure you’re on top of their upkeep. It’s pretty simple: check their soil regularly, and when you notice they’re dry, water them, doing your best to follow general guidelines of how much water each type of plant likes.

Be attentive to changes in the room’s temperature, too. If you head out on vacation for the summer and turn your central air off (or you aren’t running your AC units), you may be putting your plants in a tough spot. No one wants to be that person who asks their friends to come over and water their plants for them, but if you want your plants to survive, it’s probably worth it.

When you harvest leaves from your plants, the plant should branch and continue to produce more leaves. You should harvest leaves regularly to keep your plants from flowering — and be sure to start harvesting them before they flower — because once they start flowering, your window for harvesting leaves is over.

Happy harvesting!

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