Growing herbs indoors, savoury flavouring a snip away

Patricia Hanbidge

One of the first things to miss when the garden is finished is the ability to just slip outside to get some fresh herbs. Traditionally called a kitchen garden, this is the garden that ideally is placed not far from the kitchen and contains all sorts of scents and flavours to make all your sweet and savoury dishes more than amazing. If you like to cook with fresh herbs, then you perhaps are in the same place I am – sowing tiny little seeds to ensure fresh herbs are only a few steps away from the kitchen.

Being a gardener, it gives me great pleasure to grow food we can eat. You know that old fork to table idea that really is great to live. After the growing season it also gives great pleasure to having great looking edible plants in our home environment. Not all herbs are suitable for growing indoors, but there are many that are really easy to grow. I like to suggest you grow first and foremost those herbs that you will use to enhance the food you like to cook or consume. Secondly, try to grow those herbs that are compact in size so they don’t get too large for your growing area.

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One other thing to remember is that most herbs are sun worshipers. The light in our homes – even if you place your herbs in direct sunlight will not be sufficient to promote healthy growth. You will have to provide supplemental light for your herbs.

As a frugal gardener, both inside and out I like to be able to easily grow herbs in my house without a lot of extra cost or trouble. I grow mine in an empty room that has enough extra room for a couple of fluorescent fixtures. These lights need to be placed directly above the herbs to ensure they get adequate light. I installed mine on small chains so I can easily adjust the distance between the light and plants. Be aware the amount of foot candles (a common measurement of the brightness of light falling on a given area) hitting your plants decreases substantially with the distance the light is away. Ideally you never want to have your lights further away than about eight  inches from the lowest leaves. Therefore, this type of lighting works best for shorter herbs.

Although light is the most important factor for success, soil also has importance. Herbs almost always like good drainage, so ensure your soil mixture will drain quickly. Feed your herbs once a week while they are actively growing and water less often and more thoroughly. If you wait until the soil is dry to the touch, you will ensure that you do not “drown” your herbs before you have a chance to enjoy them. 

The following herbs are my personal favourites. Most are consistently compact, have great flavour and have worked well under my growing conditions.

Fernleaf dill (Anethumgraveolens: up to 18 inches tall; germinates in seven to 14 days at room temperature

 

Spicy Globe basil (Ocimumbasilicum minimum): dense form of basil about eight inches tall with good flavour; germinates six to 12 days at room temperature. Good for the skin, colds and the flu

Holy basil (Ocimumtenuiflorum): makes a great relaxing tea that will help to de-stress your life and help heal your body from the ravages of everyday life. Pinch back vigorously to help keep contained.

Greek 0regano (Origanumvulgarehirtum): true Mediterranean oregano with excellent flavour; eight  to 12 inches tall and germinates in seven to 21 days at room temperature

English mint (Menthaspicata): very well behaved for a mint with broader leaves that makes splendid tea and is high in vitamin C and iron

Extra Curled Dwarf parsley (Petroselinum crispum):great for the immune system and the dinner plate.

Watch next week for more on growing herbs to flavour your favourite culinary masterpieces.

Hanbidge is the lead horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at www.orchidhort.com; by phone at 306-931-4769; by email at info@orchidhort.com; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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