There’s something truly rewarding about cultivating your own herbs at home. Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavour to your food without adding calories. They can also be used to add colour and interest to your plate. Growing your herbs and spices is easy and can be done in even the smallest of spaces. With a little care, you can enjoy fresh herbs and spices all year long.
Herbs and spices are not only great for adding flavour to your food but they can also be used for natural remedies and health benefits.
Difference between herbs and spices.
Herbs usually have leaves that are relatively fragile so go into the food at the last part of cooking to add flavor. An example is basil. Dried herbs because they need to be hydrated at the beginning of cooking.
Spices are often seeds or bark, and since they are less fragile than herbs, they go in the beginning of cooking. Sometimes, spices are put in a little bag then removed further in cooking.
Herbs and spices are very important. Not only do they change the flavor or food, they also change the scent giving our olfactory senses a preview of what our tongue will taste. If it smells good, you want to eat it.
Factors to consider when growing herbs at home
1. Choosing the Right Herbs
Start by selecting herbs that align with your culinary preferences and growing conditions. Some popular choices for indoor herb gardens include basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, and oregano. Consider factors such as the amount of sunlight your space receives and the temperature and humidity levels.
2. Selecting Containers and Soil
When it comes to containers, choose ones with good drainage to prevent waterlogging. Terra cotta pots and containers with drainage holes are excellent choices. Use a high-quality potting mix that is well-draining and nutrient-rich. Alternatively, you can create your own soil mixture by combining equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.
3. Providing Adequate Lighting
Herbs thrive in bright light conditions, preferably with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. If your home lacks sufficient natural light, consider using artificial lighting options such as fluorescent or LED grow lights. Position the lights about 6-12 inches above the herbs and keep them on for 12-16 hours a day. Rotate the pots regularly to ensure even light distribution.
4. Watering and Humidity
Over watering is a common mistake that can harm herb plants. Before watering, check the moisture level of the soil by inserting your finger about an inch deep. Water only when the topsoil feels dry. Ensure the pots have drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom. Most herbs prefer slightly moist soil rather than overly wet or dry conditions. Maintain a moderate humidity level by misting the leaves or placing a tray of water near the plants.
5. Fertilizing and Nutrient Needs
Herbs generally do not require excessive fertilization. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, following the instructions on the package. Organic fertilizers like compost or fish emulsion are also suitable choices. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to poor flavor and excessive foliage growth.
6. Pruning and Harvesting
Regular pruning helps promote bushier growth and prevents herbs from becoming leggy. Pinch off the top portion of the stems when the plants reach a height of about 6 inches. Harvesting should be done in the morning when the flavors and oils are at their peak. Trim the outer leaves or branches, leaving the center growth intact. This encourages continual growth throughout the growing season.
7. Dealing with Pests and Diseases
Maintaining a clean and healthy growing environment is essential to prevent pests and diseases. Keep a watchful eye for common herb pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Use organic insecticidal soap or neem oil to control infestations. Avoid overcrowding the plants and ensure adequate air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.
8. Herb Preservation
To enjoy your herbs beyond the growing season, consider preserving them. Drying, freezing, or making herb-infused oils or vinegars are great methods to preserve the flavors and aromas. Harvest the herbs at their peak and follow specific preservation techniques for each herb.
10 Most Sought Out Herbs And Spices To Grow
- Basil. Basil tops the list as the most popular culinary herb. Basil is a very tender plant and should be kept indoors until there is no danger of frost. Growing basil starts in plug trays can work great for basil. Expect to be selling lots of these, so keep the fresh plants coming.
- Chives. Standard chives are a steady seller. These will start to germinate after a week or so. And unlike basil, these can actually do quite well in cooler weather.
- Thyme. Thyme is a Mediterranean herb with dietary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat a range of symptoms and complaints. These include diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, and sore throat.
- Oregano. Oregano is one of the most popular herbs that you’ll find in Italian cooking. Unforgettable taste and aroma give this herb its main appeal. Oregano is a commonly used garnish for stews, soups, and gravies.
- Parsley. Parsley is so popular it even has historical significance. The ancient Greeks used it at the athletic games, weaving it into victory crowns. They also fed it to their horses to make them run faster.
- Chamomile. Chamomile can make for a nice, soothing tea. It also has medicinal values, such as a digestive, sleep, and calming aid. Plus it’s very easy to grow!
- Lavender. Lavender has so many uses it’s been called the “Swiss army knife” of herbs. The medicinal values include usefulness for skin care, women and children’s health, pain relief and nervous system conditions. The essential oil that is found in lavender is one of the top ten in the fragrance industry.
- Mint. There are several varieties of mint. Mint freshens the breath and will help to calm your stomach. But if you grow mint, remember that it’s considered an invasive plant. Mint will spread and take over your garden. It’s best grown in containers. Mint leaves trigger the release of extra bile from the gallbladder, which is important because it helps the body digest fat.
- Sage. Sage is an aromatic herb that is great for seasoning meats, sauces, and vegetables. But be careful because sage will have a tendency to overpower other flavors. Sage also helps to relieve cut pains, inflammation and helps with memory issues. It was once thought to be a medicinal cure-all. Sage is an easy herb to grow and is relatively easy to care for. It’s great in your garden for attracting bees.
- Rosemary. Rosemary is one of the most flavorful herbs and is great for adding to food like meats, and vegetables. The fragrant plant is a delightful scent and is sometimes used in floral arrangements. Rosemary likes its soil a bit on the dry side, so be careful not to overwater. Allowed to flourish, a rosemary plant will grow into a full-sized bush. A good source of iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and B-6, rosemary has been used for its medicinal purposes for centuries.
Benefits of Growing Herbs and Spices at Home
- Growing herbs is easier than growing vegetables and can even be easier than growing flowers. You can grow them indoors, in pots, or directly in the ground depending on how good your soil is.
- When you have your own herb garden you can grow your own healthy, fresh, organic herbs that can improve your health in numerous ways. Building your immune system, detoxifying, and helping with common colds, digestion, headaches, and stress are just a few things that herbs can help with.
- You can save money by growing your own herbs, and you can also save money by wasting less food. You don’t need to typically purchase a lot of herbs from the grocery store to see a return on investment by starting an herb garden.
- Growing your own herbs can provide you with fresher herbs than you could ever purchase at the store. And growing your own herbs will provide you with a constant supply to add flavor to your dishes.
- Growing your own herbs gives both you and your children the opportunity to learn. For children, it can help teach where food comes from and the importance of not being wasteful. For adults, it can help teach valuable life lessons like the importance of patience and not giving up.