Among gardening enthusiasts, there are many who appreciate growing herbs. Easy to care for, fragrant and useful in everyday preparations, herbs are a real treat for those looking for a satisfying starting point.
To grow herbs, all you need is a small space and some potting soil. You can build an indoor herb garden in your kitchen by simply placing a modestly sized pot on the nearest window sill.
There are plenty of herbs that can be grown in pots on the balcony, which need to be watered regularly and protected from the cold in the winter months. Today, we will discover together where to start in order to take care of herb cultivation at home, without making mistakes and without expecting too much from small seedlings.
How much space do you need
In most cases, gardening enthusiasts tend to grow herbs on the balcony, selecting a series of pots as recipients for planting.
The space required for cultivation varies according to individual availability. Keep in mind that to grow an average basil plant, a pot of 20 cm in diameter and 15 cm in height is sufficient. For this reason, you can grow herbs practically anywhere.
In some cases, it is possible to grow herbs indoors, especially when there is no balcony to accommodate the small pots. However, direct light is still highly recommended, which is why you should place your herbs close to a window.
In order to save space and grow more herbs at the same time, many people also use small indoor greenhouses (smart gardens), which use the power of LED lights to allow the plants to grow. However, we are talking about a limited solution, which can be adapted to conditions of limited space availability.
What are the best herbs to grow at home?
To find out how to create an herb garden in the kitchen, you need to know the different types of herbs available.
Now that we have found out how much space is needed, let’s start this guide to growing herbs by looking together at the ten most popular herbs that are easy to care for and also suitable for beginners.
Basil is certainly one of the most popular and most common plants, easily identifiable in gardens and on balconies.
To find out how to grow basil indoors without a garden, simply follow a few simple steps. The first step is to choose a pot, which must be filled with high quality, highly draining soil.
After that, all you have to do is plant the basil seeds – or the already sprouted seedling – and wait for it to grow.
Place the pot in a sunny spot with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and remember to keep the soil sufficiently moist. At the beginning, lightly fertilise every 2-4 weeks until the leaves are ripe enough to be harvested.
Growing rosemary indoors is much easier than expected. As we have seen with basil, the first step is to choose a pot and fill it with a good amount of draining soil.
The advice is to plant a sprig of rosemary in spring or autumn, leaving space for the roots to develop. Place the pot in a sunny area with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and water moderately, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. As rosemary is quite drought-resistant, it is best not to over-water.
Prune the plant regularly to encourage compact growth of the needles, which will add flavour to your dishes day after day.
Fortunately, there are several varieties of mint which can be grown indoors and which require little care in order to thrive without problems.
Mint is usually planted from its sprouts, which should be placed in a pot with draining, organic-rich soil. The above-mentioned pot should be placed in a partially shaded location or in indirect sunlight, while the soil should be constantly moist, avoiding flooding.
Mint can expand rapidly, so it is best to keep the roots contained or plant it in a separate pot. Then remember to prune the branches regularly to stimulate the growth of new leaves.
Growing parsley in pots is definitely the most recommended option.
In a step-by-step guide to growing parsley in pots, the first step is to sow the small seeds about 1 cm deep, keeping the soil moist until the seedlings sprout.
Place the pot in a place with indirect or partial sunlight, remembering to water the soil regularly. Parsley can take a few weeks to germinate, so be patient. After germination, continue to keep the soil moist and prune regularly to encourage growth.
While it is true that growing herbs is not complex, growing thyme at home is really child’s play.
This time, what we need is a pot filled with well-drained, sandy soil. The thyme seedling should be placed in a sunny spot with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, while water should be poured moderately, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
As thyme is a perennial plant, you can prune it regularly to maintain a compact shape and harvest the leaves as soon as they are ripe.
To successfully grow oregano indoors, use a pot with well-draining soil. Sow seeds or plant cuttings in a sunny spot, remembering to keep the soil constantly moist (but not too wet!).
Oregano loves direct sunlight, so place the pot in a spot with sufficient light for at least 6-8 hours a day. It is also important to prune the branches regularly to encourage the growth of the small leaves, which can be detached when ripe and used to flavour dishes and salads.
Of the herbs to grow in pots on the balcony, sage is certainly one of the most common.
Start by choosing a pot with well-ventilated soil inside. Plant the cuttings – or seeds – deeply, keeping the soil slightly moist but never too wet.
Sage thrives on at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight, so place the pot in a sunny spot. As with most herbs, prune regularly to encourage compact growth and remove mature leaves when necessary.
The cultivation of chives is simple and rewarding, especially since we are talking about an aromatic plant that does not need much care.
For cultivation, use a sufficiently large pot and light, well-ventilated soil. Place the pot in a sunny or partly shady place, always remembering to keep the soil constantly moist.
Chives are hardy and require little maintenance. Prune its branches regularly to stimulate growth and harvest the green stems as soon as they become ripe, using them to flavour all your preparations.
The cultivation of dill, like that of chives, is also very simple.
Choose a light, well-drained soil, combined with a fairly large pot (you must ensure that the plant has enough space to grow healthy and strong).
Place the pot in a sunny or partly shaded area, keeping the soil moist but never too wet. Again, occasional pruning is the right choice, as it stimulates continuous leaf growth.
We end with coriander, which reminds us that there is a difference between herbs and spices: the former are consumed ‘fresh’ (the leaves are used directly), while the latter are generally dried.
To grow coriander, choose a large enough pot and fill it with light, well-draining soil. Plant the coriander seeds or seedlings at a suitable distance so that they can grow freely.
Place the pot in an area with indirect or partial sunlight so as not to ‘burn’ the leaves. As coriander grows quickly, remember to prune it regularly.
What are the main health benefits of using fresh herbs?
There are several benefits of fresh herbs, i.e. the benefits that the body receives from using organic and natural herbs.
The first benefit is nutritional values, as fresh herbs are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that contribute to a balanced diet. In addition, herbs can replace salt in cooking, helping to reduce sodium intake and promoting cardiovascular health.
Many types of herbs, such as mint and fennel, can aid digestion and reduce gastric discomfort. At the same time, herbs such as rosemary and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties that can contribute to general health.
In general, fresh herbs contain bioactive compounds that can strengthen the immune system, helping the body fight infections. The aroma of some herbs, such as lavender and chamomile, can have a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce stress and improving sleep.
The best combinations of herbs in a vertical garden
A vertical garden offers the opportunity to grow a variety of herbs in a limited space, creating particularly functional combinations. Here are some of the best herb combinations to grow in a vertical garden:
- Basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano:
This combination, also known as the ‘Mediterranean combination’, is made up of herbs that complement each other and are perfect for dishes inspired by Mediterranean cuisine;
- Parsley, chives and dill:
These three herbs are ideal for adding flavour to salads and vegetable dishes;
- Sage, rosemary and oregano:
The perfect mix for meat and barbecue lovers. In fact, we are talking about a combination that is particularly suitable for adding flavour to grilled meat and baked potatoes;
- Basil, parsley and thyme:
This combination is very versatile and suitable for a wide variety of different dishes;
- Basil, parsley, chives and oregano:
This mixture is perfect for preparing sauces for pasta, salads and meat dishes.
How can I store herbs once they have been harvested?
Proper storage of herbs once harvested is essential to keep them fresh and aromatic for as long as possible. Below are some functional methods for preserving herbs:
- Refrigeration (parsley, mint, sage and basil):
To store herbs in the refrigerator, wrap the leaves in a slightly damp paper towel. Then place them inside a perforated plastic bag or in an airtight container. Store in the drawer of the refrigerator;
- Freezer (basil, parsley and mint):
Finely chop the herbs and place them inside an ice cube tray. Then fill the cubes with olive oil or water and store them in the freezer until needed;
- Drying (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage):
Hang the herbs upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place. Once completely dried, crumble the leaves and store them in an airtight container.
How to protect herbs
In our guide to growing herbs, we explored some interesting ways to protect these valuable plants and keep them healthy.
One essential practice is pruning herbs, which not only improves their appearance, but also their growth. After all, pruning herbs can help stimulate leaf growth and maintain a compact shape.
At the same time, it is equally important to prevent diseases in aromatic plants. Many people are looking for an answer to the question ‘what to do if the leaves of aromatic herbs turn yellow?’ and are confronted with a problem that often plagues herbs.
In general, yellowing of the leaves can be caused by an excess or deficiency of water, or by specific diseases or insect attacks. The best solution is to prune off the damaged leaves and transplant the plant into a new pot, in order to eliminate the problem at the root and avoid further difficulties.