Fresh herbs are an awesome way to elevate your cooking.
They are also some of the best food plants to grow when you have limited space. Start your own apartment herb garden with our top five tips for growing herbs in small spaces.
Choose the Right Herbs for Your Needs
There are many types of herbs to choose from. Some common cooking herbs include basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, and sage. Among these, parsley, thyme, oregano, and mint are all herbs that are easy to grow indoors.
To increase your chances of success, pick just a few herbs that you enjoy using. Don’t go overboard trying to create a jungle with every flavor known to humanity.
Once you know which herbs you would like to grow, you also need to decide if you want to start herbs from seed or whole transplants. There are pros and cons to each method.
Transplants that you buy at a nursery are the fastest and easiest way to start your herb garden. But, you may be concerned that they were exposed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the commercial greenhouse. You can get around this problem by purchasing organic herbs.
Another problem you may encounter is insect pests. Thoroughly check any transplants you buy for signs of infestation. Look at both sides of the leaves, on the stems, and in the soil for tiny insects, sticky or webby residues, and an unhealthy appearance. Learn more here.
Planting herbs from seeds is a good way to ensure that your herbs are never exposed to yucky chemicals. Seeds are typically cheaper than whole transplants and provide the opportunity to grow dozens of plants from one packet. That means lots of second chances!
Growing herbs from seeds means that you will have to wait several weeks to be able to use your herbs. You also need to keep the soil constantly moist until your seeds sprout. Some herbs that are easy to plant from seed are basil, parsley, and cilantro.
Don’t Let Your Herbs Get Soggy
Constantly waterlogged soil is one of the worst things for potted plants. Too much water can cause root rot and kill your plant. Choosing appropriate pots and soil and avoiding overwatering can prevent this outcome.
Different plants have different preferences for soil types and watering schedules. You can give your new herbs a better chance of survival by planting them in separate containers with soil that is optimal for their needs.
For any type of herb, getting a pot with drainage holes in the bottom helps let out unneeded water when you give your herbs a drink. This prevents the plants from sitting in too-wet soil for a long time.
Herbs that are native to a Mediterranean climate, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme, thrive in soil that drains easily. These are herbs that can tolerate some neglect; they like to dry slightly between waterings. Mixing potting soil with cactus soil or sand in a 1:1 ratio is a good way to make your own well-drained soil.
Basil, on the other hand, is a thirstier plant with tropical origins. Basil will become stressed and wilt if you let it dry out too much.
Even so, it is possible to overwater basil, so take care that it doesn’t get soggy. Potting soil for vegetables is a good choice for basil because it will hold moisture well.
Keep Your Apartment Herb Garden in a Well-Lit Place
Indoor herbs don’t get the benefits of full-strength sunshine, so it’s critical to provide them with the best light possible.
How much sun do herbs need? A good rule of thumb is to give them at least six hours of sunlight every day. Your best bet (in the northern hemisphere) is a south- or west-facing window that is unobstructed by trees or tall buildings.
Don’t have that much sunshine in your apartment? Growing herbs indoors without sunlight can be a challenge, but it’s doable. Without sunlight, you need to provide a light source for your herbs. Learn about growing plants under lights here.
Some herbs are sensitive to light and temperature changes over winter. If you are growing basil indoors over winter, you need to keep the plant in a warm, humid spot.
Since basil is tropical, the cooler temperatures by a window and the drier air during the winter season can cause it stress. Consider using a grow light for your basil during the winter months.
Contrary to basil, rosemary likes to cool off a bit over the winter. This Mediterranean perennial needs to experience a mild “winter” season to thrive. Rosemary can stay by a bright window over the winter, where it can get enough light while also staying cool.
Feed Your Herbs With a Good Fertilizer
Herbs do a lot of work to constantly supply you with fresh leaves to use. Keeping your herbs fertilized will help them stay healthy and productive for as long as they grow.
Plant fertilizers are labeled with a ratio that provides the relative amounts of three key nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Typically a fertilizer high in nitrogen is a good choice for leaf crops like herbs because nitrogen stimulates healthy leaf growth.
We recommend using an organic, vegan, and eco-friendly, seaweed-based fertilizer. Seaweed fertilizers are a great choice for feeding plants naturally. And there are many kinds available on Amazon. Fair warning: it can be a tad odorous.
Feed your herbs every two weeks or as recommended by your chosen fertilizer. Follow the fertilizer label for instructions on diluting and applying the fertilizer; too much can be bad for your herbs.
Preserve Excess Herbs to Use Later
After successfully growing more herbs than you can use right away, it’s time to think about preserving them so that they last longer.
The traditional method for preserving herbs is to tie them into bundles and hang them to air dry in a place with good ventilation. With modern appliances, there are even more ways to make your herbs last.
You can dry your herbs in minutes with a microwave! Sandwich about five sprigs of your herbs between paper towels and microwave them on high for up to three minutes.
If necessary, continue microwaving the herbs for thirty seconds at a time until they are dry and fragile. NB that any moisture left on the surface of your herbs, say from rinsing them, will cause them to cook in the microwave.
If you prefer to keep your herbs fresh, you can always freeze them in plastic freezer bags.
Few things are more satisfying than eating something you’ve grown yourself.
Once you have a bouquet of fresh herbs from your apartment herb garden, try them out in a Vivid Kitchen recipe. Use cilantro, basil, and mint in our Collagen-Rich Homemade Pho, or use your rosemary and thyme in our Herb-Stuffed Roasted Chicken.