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How to keep your kitchen herbs happy

How to keep your kitchen herbs happy

Growing your own cooking herbs won't just save you money, you'll also now they're as fresh as can be.

Growing herbs in the kitchen is not just great for those who don’t have a garden, they’re also easy at hand and can be grown throughout the year (not to mention they save you a fair deal of money).

Keeping them alive may be a bit more work than if they were growing outside – and we’re not just talking about watering them to make sure they don’t turn into desert plants – but it’s definitely worth it.

So we have collected the best advice on how to keep kitchen herbs happy and always ready to add flavor to whatever you’re cooking up.

Choose the right plants

This is a two-step process: first, you need to make sure your herbs are suitable to grow indoors.

Basil, dill, marjoram, parsley and chives are ideal windowsill herbs; their hardy or half hardy natures mean they need fairly little care and cope well with changing environments.

The second step is to decide which plants to use – you can either grow them yourself, from seeds, buy gestated plants or try and raise herbs bought at the supermarket or market stalls.

Growing from seeds is harder, especially since it requires a lot more work when your herbs are just starting out, while gestated plants are easier to care for and easily take root inside.

When buying gestated plants, give them a little shake to make sure you’re buying a healthy plant; their leaves should look strong and they should not lose any when shaken.

Don’t forget to re-pot them

This applies especially to shop-bought herbs which have already grown to a level where you could harvest them.

Often a pot of herbs can be separated into two, if not three or four smaller pots, giving the plants plenty of space to continue growing.

Also make sure you use high-quality soil with a good balance of fertilizer and minerals, to give your new herbs a good basis to take root from.

German company emsa’s Fresh Herbs plant pots, available through major online retailers, don’t just give your herbs enough space to grow, they also help you with watering them: simply put the wick into the bottom of the soil, set the pot onto the reservoir and all you have to do is make sure the water doesn’t run out.

 

Emsa's flower pots allow the plant to take as much water as it needs.
Emsa’s flower pots allow the plant to take as much water as it needs.

Make sure they get exactly what they need

All a plant needs is water and light, right? Wrong.

It should be obvious, but you can provide too much light and too much water, so make sure you check what a plant actually needs before accidentally drowning them.

Basil, marjoram and dill like sitting in direct sunlight – although they may need a bit more water on especially hot days – but for parsley and chives, sitting in direct sunlight is close to a deathblow.

Once a week, rotate your pots a little to make sure all sides  get enough sunlight and the plant doesn’t begin to lean.

Take care when watering plants, as drenched soil and backwater often see herbs die rather than thrive.

Also take the temperature into consideration – some like it cold, others most certainly don’t – and make sure the air around them circulates; stagnant air encourages fungus growth.

Harvest them correctly

Now, this may come as a surprise (it certainly did to the writer), but there are wrong ways and right ways to harvest your more or less hard-grown herbs.

As a rule of thumb, if you decide to harvest in bulk, make sure you never cut off more than a third of the plant.

Generally, cutting off however much you need as you go works well for marjoram and basil, which continuously grow new leaves – it also makes them grow healthier and, most importantly, bushier, giving you more for your money.

Taking leaves from the top further encourages plants, especially sturdier ones like basil and marjoram, to grow more leaves.

Parsley, dill and chives, on the other hand, should rather be harvested in bulk, to be cut up, frozen and used when needed; this gives the plant enough time to regrow.