Written by: Gina Mitchell, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
With winter in full force, it’s natural to start getting more green thoughts and daydreams of warmer days. One of the best ways to brighten your home, boost your health, and put your green thumb to good use is by keeping an herb garden in your home. Whether you are choosing to start an herb garden now or are planning an outdoor herb garden for this year’s growing season, here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when growing herbs.
Plan your garden sustainably and realistically
Like with any garden, there are two major points to keys to success: focus on plants you will actually use and put in careful planning into your garden before getting your hands dirty. Herb gardens often have a reputation for being ‘easy’ or ‘simple’ in the gardening world, allowing people to downplay the effort that a successful herb garden requires. All too often, new gardeners believe this narrative and end up planting upwards of a dozen herbs and are left wondering why none of them were too successful.
Instead, start small and narrow down your focus to a handful of herbs that you and your family use the most. Look in your spice cabinet and refrigerator and look at what herbs are used on a day-to-day basis. This provides more opportunities to research herbs in-depth and provide the most beneficial conditions for each individual plant to thrive instead of becoming overwhelmed with the amount of research or work you will need to grow ten or twenty different types of herbs. You can always plant more herbs later, as indoor herb gardens aren’t subject to narrow growing seasons, so try to plant only what you know you will use.
Give your herbs room to grow
Whether you are planting indoors or outside, using individual pots may give you the most flexibility with your garden. Finding the right space for each plant takes work, and it doesn’t always happen on the first try. By putting your herbs in pots, you can move each plant around as you need and as you watch your garden grow. During planting, be mindful of the size of the pots you use. While herbs do allow for creativity and a variety of pots, successful herbs require space for their roots to grow and adequate drainage. When designing your herb garden, go for pots that give your plants space to grow but still fit with the theme of your garden space.
If you are planting your herb garden indoors, be mindful of sunlight requirements. Many herbs require full sun or at least a bright, sunny window space. If you know that your living space has limited sun exposure or windows, get creative to maximize your space. Think about hanging pots from a curtain rod in front of a window while also utilizing windowsills for smaller pots. Perhaps you could utilize pots that are longer for windowsills while saving pots that require deeper pots for an outdoor space when the weather warms up. Whatever you choose to do, pay attention to what spots are getting the most sun and consider rotating your herbs around to ensure that each plant gets a spot in sunlight, even if it’s not every day.
Listen to your plants
When it comes to gardening, herbs are typically relatively simple to maintain, making them ideal plants for beginners. However, it isn’t as easy as planting a seed, watering it, and forgetting about it. Different plants have different needs and the amount of sunlight, water, humidity, nutrients, or space each one needs can depend on the growing environment and the variety.
The most effective way to take care of your herbs is to listen to them. Most times, herbs will tell you exactly what you need to know if you are willing to listen. Look for any wrinkling, discoloration, yellowing, drying out, swelling, drooping, or visible pests and fungus. If you are unsure what something means, do some research to find out what your plant could be telling you. Join an herb gardening forum or online discussion group and post pictures of your herbs if you are stumped. More often than not, experienced gardeners are excited to share their knowledge and may have some helpful tips for you and your herbs.
Have some fun
Once your herbs start growing, have some fun!
Herbs are versatile plants that can be used to transform your health and liven your home, and there are plenty of ways to use them. Try out some new recipes and put your herbs to use in tonics, teas, beauty products and new foods. Learning how to dry herbs or make tinctures and concentrates to use in baking or in drinks to get all the health benefits from herbs in new, and delicious, ways.
If you’re not sure where to start, think about some of your favorite teas, recipes, and flavors. Look online for recipes and tutorials for drying herbs and making various tinctures, tonics, concentrates, herb mixes, and teas. Find videos, magazines, and books to find ways to utilize your herbs in beauty products or cleaning products and put those herbs to good use!
As always, be a responsible gardener and research what herbs are seasonal and native to your area and what is potentially invasive to your area or could spread beyond your reach. For instance, planting herbs along a fence post or planting is known invasive herbs like mint could cause herbs to grow out of your control and into neighboring properties. Always do your research and find ways to incorporate native herbs that you know will not spread very far. Be mindful of where you decide to plant your garden, particularly with plants that tend to grow in long vines, as they can spread beyond your reach and become a headache for the neighborhood to deal with.
If you do want to grow mint or other potentially invasive herbs, just make sure to plant them in a pot instead of in the ground. Plenty of herbs that we enjoy and that have incredible health benefits can be invasive, so taking the extra step of putting them in a pot ensures that you will still be able to enjoy all your herbs while still protecting local ecosystems and neighboring properties.
If you are planting your herb garden inside, be mindful of plants that could be toxic or harmful for pets or children that live in your home. If you discover that an herb you’ve planted could harm any animals or children you share your home with, be sure to move the plant out of reach or donate it to a friend without animals or children.
Share your harvest
At the end of your season, you might find yourself left with an abundance of herbs. If you’re lucky you might even find yourself with more than you could use. This is the perfect time to share your fresh herbs with friends and family. If you found interesting ways to use herbs in tonics, teas, cleaning products or beauty products, share the wealth with the people around you and let them try out your new herbal goodies. If you have lots of fresh herbs and have no idea what to do with them, dry out the excess and gift it to your friends and family to try out. Part of gardening is growing alongside your garden reflecting on new skills or successful plants and one of the best ways to celebrate an abundant harvest is to share it with those around you.
Looking to start your own herbal garden? Check out our GROWING Kit! With purchase, you receive access to step-by-step instructions for growing as well as one year of access to premium nutrition, fitness, and gardening content + support. Looking for some fun tumblers, mugs, or t-shirts? Check out our SHOP. With purchase, you also receive access to our premium content + support as well. For questions on how our products and services work, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gina Mitchell, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Gina Mitchell, the founder of the Light Side of Health, is a sport, fitness, and health enthusiast. She received her business degree with an emphasis in sports business and a minor in economics from the University of Oregon. While there she worked for the football department and her love for sports and sports training blossomed. From there, Gina worked in sports marketing and assisted in running a sports training facility. She has run multiple marathons and even competed in a fitness competition. While training, she began to acquire multiple fitness and nutrition certifications. In conjunction with running Light Side of Health, Gina currently works in the finance field and is involved in her community.