With a home herb garden, you're always stocked whenever you crave the zip of fresh chives on roasted vegetables, the heady fragrance of mint in a sweet mojito or the herbaceous zing of oregano sprinkled across a pizza. Here are six favorite herbs every kitchen should have and how you can grow them year-round.
'Sweet' basil, a fragrant staple of Italian cooking, emerges from seed in seven to 10 days and can get up to a foot tall. Because it's a tender annual, keep its leaves away from chilled windowpanes and cold drafts. This plant benefits greatly from pinching off new leaves. It encourages the herb to branch out for a bushier appearance, sprouting even more leaves that you can use in pesto, pasta, pizzas, soups and even tossed with fresh fruit or blended into smoothies.
Oregano seeds barely need to be covered by soil, germinating in 10 to 21 days. Use minced leaves to flavor Italian and Greek roasts, salads and pasta. This perennial also spreads nicely as a groundcover in your outdoor landscaping.
When you crave a zippy addition to just about any food but don't want to cut into a large onion, grab a pair of scissors and snip some fresh chives into soups, salads and sauces. This easy herb should be planted about one-quarter inch deep. Look for its grass-like leaves to emerge in seven to 10 days.
A key ingredient for pickles and salad dressings, dill can also be used for bread, salmon and other fish. Plant seeds about one-quarter inch deep. It can take 10 to 21 days to germinate and grow into the iconic feathery leafed plant.
To grow this versatile herb choice, plant thyme seeds about one-quarter inch deep. They should germinate in 14 to 28 days. The plant grows 6 to 12 inches high with petite leaves that can be stripped off the stems with a fingernail. You can then add them to savory soups, roasts, fish, chicken, side dishes, stuffings, dressings and more.
If comfort is a steaming cup of tea or an iced mojito, look for dozens of fun and flavorful twists on mint that you can grow at home — like 'Pineapple' mint, 'Peppermint Chocolate' mint and 'Orange' mint. A bonus: You don't have to worry about this perennial overrunning your herb bed if you keep it in a pot. Sow seeds about one-quarter inch deep and watch for seedlings in seven to 14 days. In addition to flavoring drinks, mint also pairs well with salads, dressings and Middle Eastern dishes.
Tips for Your Home Herb Garden
Pick Ready-to-Go Kits
If you're looking for help on how to grow herbs indoors year-round and want recommendations for herb collections, you can find prepackaged herb-growing kits that include soil, seeds, starter pots and instructions. Consider a culinary herb kit with dill, basil, parsley, chives and cilantro, or an Italian herb garden that blends thyme, basil, parsley and oregano.
Keep Seeds Moist
When you're planting home herb garden seeds, use potting soil and gently water until the soil is damp but not soggy. You can lightly cover the pot with a clear plastic cover or wrap to help retain moisture and warmth. Remove the cover once seeds germinate. Make sure the soil doesn't dry out, especially when seedlings are just emerging.
Provide Enough Light
The biggest requirement for how to grow indoor herbs year-round is providing enough natural light — usually about six hours a day. Place your herbs near a southern window (or east- or west-facing as a second choice) for maximum exposure to light or near a corner of windows. Since seedlings bend toward the light, rotating pots can help herbs grow straighter.
If you don't have enough natural sunlight or want to supplement it, a tabletop grow light can help herbs (and any other plants) thrive. Leave plant lights on for 16 hours and off for 8 hours.
Most herbs need an indoor temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which also fits what most households set for their winter thermostats. Home heating systems can dry out plants quickly on the coldest winter days when they're running frequently. Check soil more often during these stretches, watering about an inch below the surface when the soil feels dry.
Most herbs will need a pot at least 6 to 8 inches in circumference with good drainage holes and a saucer to catch excess water. Choose plastic or glazed pottery pots versus terracotta clay, which can dry out more quickly, and transplant herbs into larger pots as needed.
Keep Plants Trimmed
To help herbs fill out into a rounder plant with thicker growth, pinch stems as the plant grows taller. This encourages the herb to branch out rather than getting stalky. As the plants mature, be sure to pinch off any flower buds as well.
Ready to start your home herb garden? Check out all the herbs Burpee offers.