Growing herbs in the city can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a backyard, but don’t let that hinder you from getting your green on!
Who needs a backyard anyway, when you have fire escapes, balconies, south-facing windows, and even grow lights?
I’ve always had a strong desire to grow food indoors, which was perhaps partially spurred by my father’s encouragement after installing a vertical garden in my bedroom. Additionally, I’m a prolific home cook. I try to prepare at least two meals a day — and with one cookbook under my belt — I find that I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes, which often involve some herb or spice.
As you’ll see from my visual herb diary, there are plenty of ways to keep your herbs happy indoors throughout the year. Of course, you may wind up like me, often using so much that you have to replenish your stocks, but that shouldn’t be a worry at all.
The first thing you should know about herbs is that they need a lot of light. I have my herbs in three places in my house. The first is in a south-facing window, which gets substantial amounts of light throughout the day. The second is in my “closet garden”, which has some southern exposure as well as LED grow lights. And the final is in my north-facing window near or on my countertop. Since the northern exposure gets less light than the south-facing window, I also have installed mirrors along my windows, so that it reflects more light into the space for my plants.
Photo by Homestead Brooklyn.
Additionally, different herbs have different watering requirements, so it’s often sensible to grow herb types in separate pots — or to grow herbs that have the same requirements in the same pot. For instance, I had been growing oregano (Origanum vulgare) and sage (Salvia officinalis) in the same pot, and even though they are both fairly drought tolerant, my oregano seemed to want more water than its herb counterpart, which eventually led to my Salvia being far less happy with its soil conditions. Instead, I should have opted for planting rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) with the sage (Salvia officinalis); and perhaps oregano (Origanum vulgare) with thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
If you want to clone your herbs, then take a cutting below a leaf node and place it in a fresh glass of water in the window. Change the water frequently so you oxygenate the roots. Within a couple weeks, you’ll start to see a root or two emerging. Once that root is about an inch long, you can likely pot it with some good all-purpose potting soil and some perlite or vermiculite.
+ Have you grown herbs in your home? Share your stories here.
Lead illustration by Jessie Kanelos Wiener.