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I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Fresh is best.” This especially rings true with herbs. Nothing beats the aroma and flavors fresh herbs bring to your salads and cooking, not to mention, the convenience of having your own potted herbs growing inches from your skillet in a windowsill herb garden. Apartment dwellers find this especially enticing.
Before heading out to gather the gardening standards of pots and soil, take a moment to examine your culinary habits. You want to grow herbs that you will use and enjoy; else they become standard house plants.
What proteins do you eat frequently? Beef lovers should plant basil, chives, cilantro, horseradish, parsley, or thyme. If you enjoy chicken, consider growing parsley, cilantro, rosemary, or thyme. Pork goes best with dill, garlic, rosemary, sage, and thyme. The best herbs for seafood are garlic, dill, and thyme.
Are you vegetarian, vegan, or cutting back on animal protein? Rosemary, parsley, garlic, and basil will be your best bets. These will give your no meat recipes the most bang for the flavor bucks.
Allrecipes is a great resource for cooking with your harvest.
For your windowsill garden always try to get the dwarf varieties of plants. Thyme, safe, parsley, chives, rosemary, and dill have common dwarf varieties.
The amount of light that your windowsill of choice receives will determine what you can grow. Basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, horseradish, and garlic require full sun. Full sun means direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. Southern facing windows should catch ample sunlight for your full sunlight-loving plants. Dill and cilantro grow best in partial sun; partial sun is 4 to 6 hours of a day.
A fun herb for cat lovers, catnip can grow in both sun and shade. Although not an herb for your favorite recipes, catnip is said to make a relaxing aromatic tea.
Your homework done, now is the time to get your garden basics. You should get individual containers for each of your herbs. Look for plain pots that have ample drainage holes and waterproof saucers to catch overflow. You will need a potting soil mix bag, enough to completely fill the pots you’ve selected. For beginning gardeners, try selecting established plants rather than seeds. They will be easier to maintain and give you an idea on how much space you will need.
Plants and seeds have growing instructions on the containers, but in case you need more information, the Better Homes and Gardens website is a useful source.
To maintain your sill garden, water the plants to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Do not let water sit in your saucers; drain after watering. Many gardeners find a spray bottle with a few mists per day works quite well. Trim plants when they flower or get long branches to keep them small and bushy. And don’t forget to feed your herbs with a general purpose fertilizer every couple of weeks.
Once your plants are happy and established you can start cooking! Chives should be trimmed at the base, but only use one third or less of a stem at a time for your other leafed herbs. Garlic can be harvested when the top part resembling grass starts to yellow (do not wait until it has dried).
Your herbs taste best when added to your recipes straight from the plant. However, if you’re finding your bounty is too plentiful to consume in a setting or you wish to preserve to share you may dry your herbs. Simply lay clean stems or bulbs out in a warm, dry area. Do not dry in the sun as that may lessen the flavor.
Be sure to check out our Pinterest for garden ideas, recipes, and other herb uses.