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Looking After and Using a Home Herb Garden

Let’s assume you’ve got your potting mix, planted your herbs, put them in the sun, and they’re now growing plenty of foliage for you. What now? What do you need to do to keep your home herb garden growing and providing delicious herb-y goodness for you? Read on to find out.

1) Caring for your potted herbs.

The two most important things your herbs need to keep growing and be healthy are light and water… but in the right quantities. Of course how much they need differs with different types of herbs, but light-wise 5-6 or even 8 hours of natural light per day is good. A southwestern-facing window is usually best for maximum light. If your herbs aren’t getting enough light they’ll grow longer stems and less leaves, and this is your signal to add some artificial light. If this happens attach some clamp-on lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs really close to your herbs (no more than 4-6 inches away).

As far as water goes, the most important thing to do is not to overwater. You need to let your herbs dry out completely between watering occasions, so stick a finger right down into the pot to check that the roots are not wet before you water again. Note down the dates the first few times you water, and then stick more or less to that schedule (still check the soil every time though).

The next most important thing after light and water is fertilizer. Use fish emulsion or a liquid seaweed (warning: they stink!). Feed your herbs once a month, or simply add a little of the fertilizer to the water when you water them. Note that the fertilizer you use should have low level of phosphorus or it will promote flowering, which you don’t want.

2) Using your potted herbs.

Growing herbs is not exactly like growing other plants, like flowers or a fern. How often do you rip handfuls off your favorite potted fern? Not often unless you’re prone to violent fits of anti-fern rage! Herbs from a home herb garden, on the other hand, are grown to be used. If you’re not tearing bits off them on a regular basis to add to you cooking, then you’ve missed the whole point. You need to do it in a controlled way though, or you’ll wind up killing the plant.

The two rules you should always observe when using your home herb garden are: 1) don’t take more than 1/3 of the total foliage of each of your potted herbs at any one time, and 2) take only the outer leaves or sprigs, allowing the younger centre growth to keep developing. Do it this way and all you’re really doing is pruning, which actually encourages more growth.

So that’s basically it. Nothing to it really, so get out there are start potting some herbs to enhance the flavor of your cuisine.