Generally speaking, I suck at looking after plants. I have sadly not inherited the green fingers that my mother and grandmother were blessed with, and have never been able to keep something alive longer than a month or so (with the exception of my beloved bonsai tree which always forgives me when I forget to water it for a fortnight and is now over a year old). My poor track record of looking after plants meant I put off growing my own herbs for a long time, but 90p packets of fresh herbs a couple of times a week were really starting to add up so I thought I might as well give it a go.
I’ve been growing my basil and thyme for a couple of months now, and the rosemary is relatively new addition. I have absolutely no patience whatsoever, so these are all potted herbs from supermarkets – ain’t nobody got time to wait for them to grow from seed. The basil and thyme were a couple of quid each from my local Waitrose, and the rosemary (with HUGE leaves) was a bargainous £1 from Asda. The adorable pots were something that the wifey picked up for me from Matalan.
Now, it’s more or less general knowledge that herbs can be grown indoors but this sentence is always suffixed with ‘on a windowsill’. My flat has floor-to-ceiling windows, therefore no windowsills. Luckily, my dining table (which, incidentally, is where I take all my blog photos) is right next to one of these windows. It’s south-facing, so gets plenty of good light all day which is absolutely essential to keep herbs (or any plants) happy. There’s the added bonus that they make a cute centrepiece for the table, too. It’s entirely possible to grow herbs somewhere other than on a windowsill, as long as they’re near a window and get lots and lots of light. I make sure to turn my pots 180 degrees every morning to make sure that both sides are getting enough sun.
Once you’ve got the light sorted, the only other thing you really need to worry about is water. Plain old water is fine, they really don’t need special plant food and all that jazz, but it’s very very easy to over-water which they do not take kindly to. I’ve not been keeping a count, but I’d estimate that my herbs get about a shotglass worth of water twice a week. For best results, you should only water thyme and rosemary when the top of the soil is dry to the touch, and even then just give them a splash. Little and often – you don’t want to leave it too long then over saturate them. Basil leaves should be visibly wilting before you water the plant, again only a splash each time. It’s quite fascinating actually, seeing a basil plant go from looking sad and limp to full and perky within a few hours of having a drink!
To harvest, each one varies a little. With rosemary, you can just snap whole stems off and strip the leaves from them. Basil should be pinched off just above the point where two twin stems are sprouting – this produces so much growth that I struggle making enough pasta sauces to keep up with it! My thyme plant has very thin stems and is super tangly, so I just snip a chunk out with scissors when I need some. If your plants are growing much faster than you can use them, you can always harvest a bunch and leave it to air dry. Dried herbs keep pretty much forever in a sealed container, although they’ll become less potent over time. You can also dry herbs in the microwave, spread out on a piece of kitchen roll – and this makes your home smell insanely good.
If you like to cook and don’t already grow your own, I can’t recommend it enough. While dried herbs have their place, there’s just no substitute for fresh ones and so far – touch wood – I’m finding them really easy to cultivate despite my touch of death. I’m definitely keen to expand my little tabletop herb garden with others; coriander for sure, maybe oregano and I might even go crazy and buy a chili plant.
Do you have your own herbs that you keep indoors? What do you grow? Any tips for this novice?