Planting an herb garden at your house has the obvious benefits of adding edible plants to your life, and physically bringing you outside to tend the garden. For those of us with smaller spaces, a countertop herb garden is a great option to begin indoor gardening. You don’t need too many supplies to DIY a countertop herb garden, and the results are both refreshing and rewarding.
Whether for garnish, greenery, or the added health properties; an herb garden is an easy entry point into gardening.
Dig in the Dirt
Growing your own herbs is productive for many reasons; plus, there are positive health properties you may even feel immediately: just by getting your hands dirty from working with soil. A study has shown that microorganisms in soil increase production of the feel-good, mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter, serotonin. When we are exposed or ingest some of the soil-specific bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, there is the potential for a natural mood boost; so, get out there and dig in the dirt, or stimulate your serotonin indoors via your new countertop herb garden!
What to Grow
First things first, what kind of herbs do you like to eat? Do you cook with seasonings or in a style that complements certain flavors? Are aromatics of different herbs more/less appealing to you? Should you choose organic seeds or heirloom varieties?
Opt for organic seeds and chemical-free soil for the healthiest options available.
Heirloom varietals of garden herbs can come from taking new shoots or clippings from established herb gardens, and using those to begin new plants.
For a potent but soothing aroma use lavender.
Lemon balm has a strong lemony flavor good for tea or salads.
Roasted veggies are great with rosemary and thyme.
Fresh salsa and other Latin flavors favor cilantro.
Italian cooking often feature basil and oregano in recipes.
A little oregano goes a long way; it is also known for antibacterial activity in the body.
Mediterranean cuisine uses fresh mint in its dishes.
Sage is a multipurpose garden herb, and is also used as a cleansing or purifying agent when the dried herb is burned in spaces.
Rosemary is a perennial evergreen plant that produces a stimulating aroma that is good to clear congestion.
Mint is known for its refreshing taste; has calming properties, aids digestion, and grows very fast.
Parsley is packed with vitamins and is highly anti-inflammatory when consumed raw.
Seed to Sprout
Starting your herb garden from seeds allows you to see the full life cycle of the plants, and it can be especially exciting for children (or anyone) to witness nature’s process -- from seedling to your salad bowl. It usually takes a few days to a week for seeds to germinate and sprout into seedlings, and then it takes a few months for the herbs to mature enough to harvest. If you have the budget to buy baby plants, you can choose to transplant those pre-rooted plants into your own containers. To sprout your own seeds: it is best to start with germination mix soil in a tray or container; then, make a hole an inch deep into the soil, plant your seeds, and keep the soil wet but drained once the seeds are planted.
Alternatively, some herbs are easy enough to propagate from mother plants or stem cuttings -- meaning you could go pick up some culinary herbs up at your local market, or get some live cuttings from a neighbor’s garden; pick off the bottom leaves from the stem, and put it water until it regrows enough roots to plant in potting soil in a separate container.
Gather your Supplies
With just a few supplies and a sunny spot in your kitchen, you can set-up an indoor herb garden.
You can get all of these supplies at a gardening supply store or at most hardware stores. Gather the following supplies, then follow these simple steps to begin your kitchen countertop herb garden.
Planters or containers with drainage
Saucers for under containers
Tape, marker or way to label your plants
Potting soil and/or germination soil
Seeds, starts, or cuttings of various herbs
Sunny spot where you can enjoy your plants’ progress
STEP 1: Decide what seeds or baby plants you want to use.
STEP 2: Fill your containers (with built-in drainage) with potting soil (or germination soil if starting from seeds).
STEP 3: Transplant your sprouted seedlings, or rooted cuttings into labeled containers with drainage holes and saucers underneath to catch water runoff. Drain your saucers after each watering.
STEP 4: Keep your countertop herb garden in a sunny windowsill or near a sweet light spot. Southern facing will maximize your plants’ exposure to sunlight.
STEP 5: Water your garden when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, but the soil should stay damp if you stick your finger into it. You should check your herb garden daily or a few times a week.
STEP 6: Enjoy watching your plants grow and spread until there is enough to harvest.
STEP 7: Pluck fresh leaves from your herb garden to cook, store, or immediately consume.
Grow Your Own Way
Once your herb garden is established and your kitchen is a little greener, there are many ways to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Use your culinary herbs fresh off the stem, cooked, or dried, to give any kind of cuisine a little bolster. You may even be inspired to explore new recipes based on the flavor profile you created on your kitchen countertop. Drying your herbs and baking them into bread or these bread-free stuffing balls with thyme, oregano and rosemary. Once your herb garden is abundant you can play with dipping sauce like this pesto using basil, cilantro, and thyme; or, add herbs to olive oil with some sea salt you have on hand to integrate fresh herbs from your new herb garden.