Fresh herbs are so much more than a decorative finishing note — they’re fragrant, earthy, sometimes peppery greens that can elevate a dish’s flavors and tie together the complexities of its individual ingredients. Herbs bring freshness to cooked, often high-fat meals while weaving an extra level of brightness to roasted vegetables and anything baked in oil.
I recently took a life-changing (and yes, I’m embracing the hyperbole because I don’t think I’ve been anywhere more beautiful) trip to Norway, where every local dish was piled high with the chopped, sliced and julienned plants. From basil and lemongrass to chives and parsley, the seasonal herbs played a starring role at restaurants like Trondheim’s Gubalari and Brittania Hotel’s Michelin-rated Speilsalen. We even ventured north to experience the region’s more rustic and farm-to-table dining options found at Oyna and Strandbaren, which could trace its harvested produce to the property itself or within a two-mile radius.
While you don’t have to head to Norway to experience fresh herbs (though you should, and have Up Norway plan a personalized and culinary-focused itinerary to visit the aforementioned locales), it inspired me to grow them within the comfort of my own home, which is a lot easier than you might think.
Here are five quick tips for growing the most popular herbs you can find. Of course, it’s much easier to have an outdoor garden or LED-powered grow house where they can flourish without much assistance, but these guidelines are helpful for any apartment dweller who wants to maximize growth in or around a nearby window.
Give them plenty of sunlight.
Most herbs can survive (and thrive!) with at least four to six hours of direct sunlight per day (basil is the exception, which prefers a bit of shade). Make sure all pots are close to an unobstructed window that gets tons of sun.
Use a potting mix that drains well and water once per week.
Whether your herbs are in a garden or planter, you’ll want to ensure that their soil encourages drainage so that water doesn’t accumulate and drown your greens. You can typically water herbs once a week, though twice a week is wise in dryer living conditions. If utilizing planters, add only enough water to make the soil moist. A good rule of (green) thumb is to water until you can visibly see it hit the saucer beneath the pot.
Keep similar herbs together and separate those that grow quickly.
Though most herbs have similar sun and water requirements, it’s important to research the nuances of each plant and adjust accordingly (i.e., basil and parsley both love moisture while thyme and rosemary prefer a bit more dryness). If you have a fast-growing plant like mint, be sure to separate it so that it doesn’t block surrounding plants from receiving adequate sunlight and water.
Time when you plant.
Generally, it’s ideal to grow herbs from seeds in early spring when the temperature is no longer too cool. If planting actual plants, be sure to look up their unique climate requirements (i.e., herbs like cilantro and dill grow best during temperatures of between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Scale back on the fertilizer.
Too much fertilizer can cause a plant to over-produce leaves and stems, which yields less tasty and fragrant leaves. Limit the amount of fertilizer you add to your herb’s soil, as it does not yield a favorable outcome in the long run (much like steroids).
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