We were living in New York City in a studio apartment and I was hankering to get my hands in a bit of soil after moving from Minnesota where we had a large yard and garden. “Let’s go buy some potted herbs at the farmer’s market,” I said to my husband. At this point we had little money to buy much extra of anything, so he was hesitant. “But think of all the money we will save from growing our own herbs!” He obliged, and we took the subway downtown to the outdoor market and purchased three small potted herbs—rosemary, thyme, and peppermint. After bringing the pots home, I placed the herbs in the window sill during the winter, and set them out on the stoop in the spring through fall. And voila, I was gardening in New York City.
Herbs are one of the easiest ways to get into gardening, and fresh herbs added to your home cooked meals are a delight! Herb plants are available online year round or often found at local nurseries, so winter is an excellent time to begin when you are craving a bit of gardening and indoor greenery. Buy the herbs as small plants, not as seeds, so you can pot them up right away.
There are five herbs that are known to do best in pots and will make it through your indoor winter garden:
Flavor: earthy and minty.
When to water: when soil feels dry to the touch.
How to harvest: make sure that the plant is at least four inches in height. Pinch the top part along with the first set of leaves and just above the leaf node.
Flavor: mild garlic and onion.
When to water: always keep the soil slightly moist.
How to harvest: when the plant grows above six inches, snip the top using sharp scissors. Make sure to leave at least two inches of the plant intact from the bottom.
Flavor: cool, sweet, and a little spicy.
When to water: always keep the soil moist.
How to harvest: pick leaves as you need them.
Flavor: piney, woodsy, and slightly bitter.
When to water: thoroughly water, but let the top two inches of soil dry out between watering.
How to harvest: cut off a bit of the stem above the woody part, leaving at least two-thirds of the plant.
Flavor: earthy, sweet, minty.
When to water: lightly water when the soil feels dry.
How to harvest: cut a few inches off a stem, pick the leaves you want to use, and leave at least five inches of the plant intact from the bottom.
A few additional tips when growing your own potted herb garden:
Use good soil when potting the herbs. The best option is to find a local nursery with excellent organic potting soil. Many of the boxed soils that can be purchased at chain stores do not drain well and often develop fungus.
Plant your herbs in breathable pots. I like using terra cotta pots with drainage holes and saucers. They are very affordable and the plant is able to breathe versus a plastic pot that would trap moisture. Also, choose a pot that is a bit larger than the plant. As it grows larger, you can always repot into a larger pot.
Herbs like the sun. In the winter, place the pot on a sunny, southern facing window sill. When the threat of frost is over, place the pot outside in the sun.
A potted herb garden is a lovely way to dip your toes into gardening, delight in fresh grown aromas and flavors, and bring greenery to your windows during the bleak months of winter.