Whether its summer, spring, winter or fall, every culinary professional could benefit from a fresh selection of herbs. While dried seasonings and herbs do the trick, there’s something ultra satisfying about using fresh home grown greens and herbs in all your favorite signature dishes. While an outdoor garden can be a great addition to your yard in the summer months, it’s very tricky to keep it going all year round, especially in colder climates and frigid winters like those in Chicago. Fortunately with a little TLC, there are many herbs that grow well indoors all year round.
Put down the kitchen mitts and put on the garden gloves, growing an indoor herb garden is a fun and rewarding way to expand your culinary skills.
Getting Your Garden Started
Okay, now that you are ready to dive in to the world of indoor gardening, here comes the tough decision. What do you want to grow? Even before that decision is made however, you should consider if you would like to use already sprouted seedlings or start the seeds yourself. If this is your first go at indoor gardening, you may have more success, and you will definitely see faster results, with seedlings. If you are feeling ambitious, try growing them from seed just make sure that it is a pack that still has plenty of time until it reaches its expiration date for your best chance at growing healthy plants.
Selecting the Right Plant
Next, decide what type of herbs you would like to grow. There are many types that are known to do well indoors including, anise, basil, parsley, thyme, chives, dill, rosemary and sage. If you are new to gardening altogether, you may want to buy pots, terracotta is a good inexpensive choice, or if you are feeling crafty why not use what you already have lying around the house? For dwarf herb varieties and those that will not grow more than a foot in height, a container at least six inches in diameter and eight inch deep soil will be sufficient. Old pots, pans or any type of dishware that you would like to give a new life will work just fine and make great unexpected accent pieces in the kitchen. Just remember, they may need a bit of altering since drainage is one key ingredient for growing healthy plants.
While you are at your local greenhouse or gardening section, it’s important to pick up the right kind of soil. Sand and gravel are two of the main necessitates that are often overlooked in indoor herb gardening but they are very important for keeping the ideal growing conditions. Add about two parts soil to one part course sand and also add a little lime. You can also add a bit of gravel to the bottom if the sand is not course.
The location of your newly potted plants is also very important. With most varieties of herbs, you ideally want somewhere around 8 hours of sunlight a day. Find a place in the house that gets the most sun, or if you are home during the day, you can move the pot to get both morning and afternoon sunshine. If this isn’t a possibility and you don’t get much natural light, you may want to try grow lamps to recreate the sunshine that herbs so desperately need to grow.
Watering and Feeding
Depending on the size of the pot and the amount of sun a plant gets in a day, daily watering may be necessary. Simply feel the soil and when it is dry to the touch, it’s time for watering. About every 10 or 12 days, add some plant food, which you can also get from your local green house or gardening center. Once the leaves begin really growing, you can simply trim a bit off for cooking with no damage done to your precious little garden.
This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Chicago for more information.