Indoor herbs have a better shot at healthy growth if you plant them in a sterile growing soil. Choose a “potting mix” or “growing mix” that has the word “sterile” on the label. This type of growing medium contains a germ-free mixture of lightweight ingredients, such as peat moss, vermiculite, and shredded pine bark, which resist compaction so roots can develop easily. Avoid using soil from your garden that can become dense and compact, and also contains bacteria and/or tiny insects that could kill your kitchen herbs.
If you purchase young plants from a garden center, you’ll be harvesting in no time—but once those plants “go to seed” they’ll quit producing herbs. So for kitchen herb gardens that last, buy seed packets, from which you can grow multiple plants. A single young plant runs R40 to R60 while a packet of seeds can provide you with 20 plants, or more, for about R20. Most herbs will be ready to harvest in two to three months from the time the seeds sprout.
Kitchen herb seeds are quick to develop but they require a consistent level of moisture until they sprout. Fill your pot with damp growing medium. Place two to five seeds on top of the medium, and then lightly sprinkle dry soil on top—just a dusting will do. Cover the entire pot with plastic wrap and put it in a dark location until the seeds sprout. Then, remove the plastic and set the pot on the windowsill.
The average herb plant will reach maturity and go to seed in about four months, after which it will no longer produce fresh herbs. By about every two months, the new plants will be producing vigorous growth by the time the existing ones are declining, and you’ll always have a fresh supply of herbs.
You can feed your kitchen herbs with a vegetable fertilizer every two or three months, but dilute the solution to one-third the recommended strength. Indoor herbs do well with a small amount of fertilizer, while too much can cause rapid growth that reduces the flavor of the herbs.
6. Harvest often.
Harvesting leaves from the tops of herb stems will encourage the plant to grow more. Just be sure to snip carefully. Remove no more than 1/3 of a stem when you’re ready to add the herb to your food. Cutting too much can damage the plant and cause it to stop growing.
Spraying your herbs once a week is usually sufficient. Most herbs prefer slightly damp, but not soggy, conditions. Give plants enough water so that a little excess runs into the drainage saucer below. An hour after watering, dump out the saucer to ensure that the roots aren’t sitting in water. If the soil dries out very quickly, which can happen if the herb is growing rapidly and its roots are absorbing more moisture than normal, water every three to five days.
Please visit again next week for some more pointers on your kitchen herb garden.