There’s so much fantastic information available about dozens of delightful and tasty herbs just as eager to be planted as you. Yet when it comes to this most exciting hobby, so many gardeners start out poorly and have a very hard time turning their favorite herbs into a profit crop. What do you do? How can you make it easier to cultivate, grow and harvest an array of herbs in your indoor herb gardening efforts?
First of all, there are some general rules for harvesting herbs that may help. For instance, if you plant annuals four feet tall, you can’t harvest them until they’re two to three inches tall, because they won’t reach full growth. In short, don’t try to harvest a shrub or a tree until the plant is at least two to three inches tall. (And don’t forget to prune the plants either!) If you have a window garden, make sure you take an annual away from the plant before harvesting it.
Harvesting herbs properly is also important because they’re used to flavour food. All herbs have oils that are extracted by the method you choose for them, but oregano and thyme extract are particularly highly prized for flavouring sausages, breads and desserts. Thyme, sage, oregano and parsley are the most common oils extracted, while lavender, basil and dill are also valued for making bath products and scented candles.
In order to get your herbs growing well and producing tasty blooms, you’ll need to pick the best containers to put them in. Herbs don’t like being crowded so container size is an important factor. You’ll want something wider than tall, but not long enough so that the roots can wiggle around. The taller containers tend to have larger, stronger roots and produce the best herbs. If you want to use soil as your growing medium, you’ll need to choose containers that are wider than tall; containers that are too small will not support the plant.
The final consideration when choosing containers for growing herbs in pots is what kind of light they get. Sunlight is critical for all plants, and there are few herbs that do well in low light. Mint, Rosemary and chives require almost never ever seeing the sun, and you should avoid trying to plant herbs in sunny windowsills or shaded areas. Most other plants prefer the afternoon sun better. And if you’re growing mint in the kitchen, be sure to put a thin piece of cardboard on the bottom of the pot: this will trap the moisture in the soil, which will keep the plants from drying out.
Herbs that like the afternoon sun will blossom fairly quickly after they’re planted, but they usually don’t do so well in the winter. Mint will die back, and fennel will lose its leaves. Ferns do well in the shade, but you’ll probably want to plant them indoors if you can because the leaves turn dark rather quickly. Fennel, too, will lose its leaves in the winter.
Some popular herbs are best suited for some zones of the year, and some are best for all zones. If you want time, you’ll want to plant it in cool, shady areas; and mint would be a good plant to try in warm, sunny areas. Tarragon and bay are best grown in cool, shady areas, as well as basil and oregano. Sage and parsley do well in all zones, but their leaves turn yellow in the winter.
Many herbs have their roots buried deep underground, and in these cases, you need to buy annuals or perennials that are self-sustaining and can go into a dormant state during the winter months. These perennial culinary herbs include basil, chives, dill, marjoram, mint, and tarragon. Thyme, fennel, sage, bay, and parsley are annuals, and chervil, basil, and oregano are Perennial culinary herbs that grow well all year.