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Have you been dabbling in the culinary arts? You may want to ditch those dried, store-bought herbs and start an herb garden of your very own. You don’t necessarily need a plot of land to grow your herbs – if you have a sunny spot in your kitchen, you’re ready to plant your indoor garden. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Select Your Location
Herbs grow best in a space that has plenty of natural light in temperatures that can range from 55 to 75 degrees ,as long as there’s decent air circulation. Choose a spot that has at least four to five hours of bright natural light. If you don’t have a space with the required amount of natural light, you can always supplement their growth with fluorescent light. Window sills are a perfect location in the spring and summer, but may get too chilly as the Des Moines winter approaches, so be sure to have a back-up plan for the colder months. Other options include creating a vertical garden attached to available wall space or on a small shelving unit.
Containers and Soil
When choosing your containers you want them to be at least six inches deep, as the larger the pot, the healthier and larger the root system is, resulting in a bigger and healthier plant from which to harvest. In addition to your herbs requiring a fair amount of space to grow, your containers should also have drain holes to prevent root rot. When choosing your soil, you’ll want to avoid using a typical garden soil, as that will compact in containers and end up smothering the roots. Instead, look for a fast draining potting mix that has ingredients such as perlite or vermiculite that can help loosen and aerate inside of the container.
Watering needs vary from plant to plant, as well as based on the size and type of container and the amount of sunlight each plant receives. The best rule of thumb to determine if your plant needs water is to stick your finger one inch into the soil – if it feels dry, it’s time to water. Most herbs thrive when their soil is allowed to slightly dry prior to re-watering (aside from basil, chives, mint and parsley, who prefer their soil moist.) Once the herbs are established, it’s a good idea to feed them with some fertilizer once a month.
A chef's dream is to have every fresh herb at their disposal. However, you may not have room for every herb known to man in your Des Moines kitchen. If you have limited space, it’s best to plant the herbs you’re most fond of and therefore would use the most. Here is a list of some popular herbs and their uses.
Basil: Basil is a wonderful herb that packs the most punch when served fresh as opposed to cooked. Use it to make fresh pesto, a Caprese salad, or as a garnish on chicken, fish, or pasta salad.
Rosemary: Rosemary is a hearty herb that can be temperamental when it comes to watering practices, so keep an eye when getting accustomed to your new plant. Rosemary is best when cooked or simmered with stews, chicken, lamb, or beef.
Mint: Anyone want a mojito? Mint is a sturdy herb that will spread and spread if you let it. Yes, mint is great in mojitos, but it also makes a lovely tea and can be a delicious garnish on salads or fish.
Parsley: Parsley has a bad rap for being solely used as a garnish on a plate in the eighties. Parsley actually adds great flavor to pasta dishes, potatoes, chicken, or fish. It’s best to use it raw, as cooking it dilutes its flavor a bit.
Cilantro: Unless you’re one of those people who genetically think cilantro tastes like soap, cilantro is a must if you’re a fan of Mexican or Asian food.
Oregano: Oregano is a great staple in any kitchen. While it’s mostly associated with Italian and Mexican cuisine, it can add great flavor to any savory dish you’re making.
Having fresh herbs at your disposal is a treat for those who are dabbling in the culinary trade. Enjoy your new herb garden and let us know what you’re cooking.