In the beginning . . .
One early summer's evening I took the trip out to the main garden to harvest various herbs that I anticipated would be incorporated into the evening's menu. I had previously experimented with a smaller herb garden more conveniently located to the kitchen, but for a number of reasons, this garden never produce the same quality of herbs that my main garden did. However, in a pinch, it did prevent me from having to trudge out in the wind, heat, freezing cold, pitch darkness - or whatever else Mother Nature threw at me. Also, I'll admit, I get rather tired at times and just don't feel like expending the effort. Other times, it's just downright laziness.
Then a couple of weeks later . . .
To my surprise, not only were the herbs still as fresh as when I had collected them, they had sprouted roots, grown new leaves and even flowered. I had seen fresh cut herbs at the grocery store. The cut herbs are typically wrapped in packets to allow for attractive display, stored in water to retain freshness and offered at prices similar to what you could purchase a 3 inch potted herb for.
So what do you need for your own kitchen herb garden
- Sprigs from freshly cut herbs. I know you can start with seeds, but it will go much faster and you will enjoy a much higher success rate if you start with sprigs. Place the sprigs immediately in water. So far I've had success with basil, cilantro, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme. I've also read that you can grow chives, but I've never had particularly good success with chives either hydroponically or otherwise.
- Some sort of small containers. If you want to keep them in a place that's visible, small bud bases such as in the photos work well. What doesn't seem to work well are tall bud vases like you would use for a single rose. The plant needs to get plenty of light and air circulation or it will rot.
- Nutrients. Admittedly, I did not have nutrients in my water, just the rain water I collect, but in most cases to have the plant actually grow and thrive, you are going to need some additives. You can purchase nutrients from a number of sources on line, but I experimented with a couple of other options that worked well. One is I have a man-made pond outside my kitchen that stays well balanced naturally, so I collected some of that water to try. Secondly, we have an eliminator as part of our rain water harvesting system. We typically use this nutrient rich water for our plants, so I thought I'd give it a try. All worked well.
- Plenty of natural sunlight. Place the herbs in a location where the temperature doesn't get so hot as to scorch the plants' leaves (e.g. eastward facing windows typically work well, westward facing typically do not). You can substitute UV lights, which may be a requirement during days with limited hours of sunlight, but the plants will have a tendency to be spindly and less robust.
Remember, as with almost any plant, if you heavily harvest from it, it may significantly set back the plant. This is typically not a problem with plants that grow via runners like mint, but plants like basil will take longer to recover.