Gardening tips for beginners: How to grow edible herbs at home

Gardening tips for beginners: How to grow edible herbs at home

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Text: Natasha Khoury

With one-third of the global population in lockdown, food has become a trusted confidant and a source of unwavering joy. Being in quarantine has presented an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen, it also means you can take it up a notch with your current pantry stock. How? By growing ingredients in your own home. More specifically, herbs. No meal is complete without adding the finishing touches and for some that means sprinkling on fresh herbs. They are an easy way to add flavour without piling on excessive calories, plus they are super nutritious, containing a significant amount of essential vitamins.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a fancy garden to grow your own herbs, all you need is a windowsill and some sunshine. Here's a beginner's guide below.

Pick the right herbs for you

Growing herbs in your high-rise home may be daunting at first, but a lesser known fact about herbs is that they are the easiest plants to grow and are a great starting route for rookies. A word of advice  keep it simple. Stick to a small variety of herbs and choose ones that you most often cook with. Most importantly, not all herbs are created equal. Perennial herbs like mint and oregano, are easily grown from young plants. Whilst, herbs like basil and chervil are best grown from seeds. Hence, when starting your own herb growing expedition, do your own research and alter it in accordance to your own needs.

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Find the best lighting spot

Lighting is critical. Edible plants need around four to six of direct sunlight daily. Whether it is a large sunny window, outside on your patio, or in a room with artificial lighting known as grow lights herbs need all the light they can get. Some herbs like mint, parsley, and thyme require less light so if your house has partial shade, invest in these low-maintenance herbs. Unsure of whether your plant babies are getting enough light? Warning signs are poor growth, strangely long stems in between leaf sets, abnormally small leaves and leaves/stems that are pale in colour or displaying tints of yellow.

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Choose your pot wisely

Like humans, the roots of your plants need a breather. Don't go ruining your herbs by making them sit in water while the roots rot. Almost any pot or container with at least six inches and larger can be used for herb growing. The catch? It has to contain drainage holes. To prevent water overflow, use a drain pan under the pot to catch water and protect your household surfaces. It's best to use a soil mix with organic matter like earthworm compost. All plants seem to grow best in loose organically fertilized soil in a sunny location. And herbs are no exception. But these green wonders are incredibly forgiving, they thrive in just about any soil without much attention.

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Quench their thirst

What seems like a simple task, has been noted to be the most difficult aspect of herb gardening for beginners. It all boils down to paying attention to liquid pooling in the base of the pot. There are several outcomes that can arise. First, the plant is excessively damp which as we all should know is not good. Second, there is dengue risk. And with another dengue outbreak possible this year, it's best not to take the risk. So, make it a point to regularly empty water from the plant pan. Here's a simple rule of thumb: Stick your index finger in the soil to feel for moisture below the soil surface. Dry? Water away. Wet? Leave it be.

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Once it's time for harvest, snip away and scatter them on top of your meal — whether it be in a salad or a plate of pasta. We've shortlisted a few planters to get you started below.