Do you want to try your hand at growing your own food? In this article Jo Webber, Head of Herbal Education at Pukka Herbs explains how you can create a kitchen garden to grow your own herbs.
If you've ever been interested in growing your own herbs, now is the perfect time to start. Not only does it save you some money on the weekly shop, but you'll be doing your bit to help the planet too. As your herbs will have come from your back garden rather than halfway around the globe, you'll have cut the food miles of your meal. Plus, you don't have to be concerned about an excess of food waste with produce you grow yourself. And if you grow organically, you'll be helping the planet by reducing the use of pesticides.
Don't worry if you don't have a garden, as there's no need to miss out. In fact, there are a number of plants that thrive indoors. To whip up delicious and nourishing food and drink recipes, simply follow the steps below to set up your ideal kitchen herb garden.
Choose your favourite herbs
Before you start, it's important to consider which herbs you want for your kitchen garden. If you're unsure, start off by making a list of the herbs you use already. Then, consider herbs that you haven't tried yet but think would make a good addition to your kitchen based on your favourite recipes.
For example, if you love Italian dishes, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves are some of the most commonly used herbs. Or if you're a fan of herbal teas, mint, thyme and lavender are some fantastic healthy herbs that work perfectly in these drinks. And if you enjoy strong flavours, you may be interested in growing mustard seeds and coriander too.
And just because you're growing a kitchen garden, you don't have to just stick to food and drink. Why not try growing herbs which can also be used in your skincare routine? Lavender and chamomile are two fantastic herbs which are commonly used in skincare products and can be used in some delicious food and drinks recipes too.
If you're new to the gardening world, you may want to start your kitchen garden with some easy-to-maintain herbs. Here are a few of the best herbs for first-time growers to get you started:
- Sage: This herb is ideal for indoor kitchen gardens, and it can be used to make a soothing sage tea too. It needs 6–8 hours of direct sunlight each day and water once the soil is completely dry.
- Chives: Not only is this plant good for beginners, but they also look great as they grow beautiful purple flowers, which can also be used as salad garnish. Place this herb in direct sunlight and keep the soil moist.
- Mint: Mint can thrive in full sun or partial shade and needs watering once a day in the summer months, a couple of times a week in spring or autumn and just once a week (or less) in the winter months.
- Basil: This herb needs at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, so place it in a sunny spot and keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
Remember to label the sown seeds, as it can be difficult to recall which herb is in which pot, especially if you have a big kitchen herb garden.
Find the perfect location
When it comes to setting up your kitchen garden, location is very important. Choosing the right place will help your plants thrive and you'll be able to get the most out of them. Consider the conditions that your chosen herbs grow in best and scout out the ideal spot in your kitchen. It may be the case that it's best to split your kitchen garden into two separate areas with varying degrees of direct sunlight if you're growing a variety of herbs that thrive in different conditions.
For plants that grow best in direct sunlight, clear a space on your windowsill to place them in. If you don't have a deep enough windowsill ledge, you can simply pop a small table in front of the window instead. And for plants which need less sun, such as mint, place them anywhere out of direct sunlight. However, many herbs still need a little bit of sun, so it's a good idea to place them on your windowsill or a table in front of the window for a couple of hours a day.
If the herbs are growing too big for the windowsill, you may want to keep them in a window box. Not only is this a great way to get them in the direct sunlight, but herbs are bee-friendly too.
Find eco-friendly ways to look after your herbs
Growing your own herbs is already an environmentally conscious thing to do, but you can help the planet even more by finding eco-friendly ways to care for your kitchen garden. One great way to do this is by saving the water you've used for cooking to water your herb garden. As well as being an environmentally friendly watering method, the nutrients in the cooking water act as a fertilizer, which helps promote natural nutrient storage in the soil and encourages it to retain moisture for longer (House Beautiful). Make sure the water is thoroughly cooled before using it and avoid using cooking water that has been salted, as this can make the plant dehydrated. You can also collect rainwater to use in your kitchen herb garden.
Try to opt for environmentally friendly plant pots as well. Rather than buying new plastic ones, buy high-quality pots made from a sturdy material, such as ceramic, so they will last for years to come. Coir pots are another great planet-friendly option. Not only are they made out of a natural material, coconut fibre, but they're fully biodegradable too.
You may also want to consider recycling items you already have to turn them into plant pots, such as old plastic containers or tins. Make sure to clean them thoroughly and drill in drainage holes to keep your plants healthy. And if you don't like the look of the containers or tins, why not try getting creative by painting and decorating them to suit your taste?
Make the most of your ingredients
Once your herb garden is prepared, it's time to put it to use by making some delicious and nourishing recipes. Herbs are incredibly versatile and many can be used in a wide range of recipes. For example, basil can be used for pasta, pizza and soups, or you can even use it to create your own pesto. Thyme, rosemary and bay leaves all work particularly well in stews and casseroles. If you're looking for eco-friendly tools for meal prep, make sure to check out Auklett's bamboo cooking utensil set and serve it on their reusable bamboo square plates.
Many herbs work perfectly with hot and cold drinks too. You can create a delicious mint tea with just fresh mint leaves and lemon. And to give your favourite teas a twist, try adding some herbs in your teapot alongside the teabag. Fresh rosemary works perfectly with a chamomile tea and mint can complement a nettle tea well. Sage leaf tea is another delicious drink, and it has the added benefit of being rich in antioxidants. It's also a traditional used to help recover from sore throats and coughs, so growing it will mean you always have a natural remedy at hand.
Creating your own kitchen herb garden is a great way to add delicious flavour to your favourite recipes, whilst doing good for the planet too. If you use the tips above, you should be able to grow a variety of organic herbs from your own home.