By Rachael Shearer
Eating out may be glamorous, delicious, and a great night out – but what’s better than a good home-cooked meal? Whether you’re inviting friends over to show off your culinary skills over a few bottles of wine, or creating a romantic night in for two, having the right ingredients is key. In 5 steps, here’s how to grow your own fresh herbs and veg in the comfort of your own home to add an extra special touch to your cooking:
1. Create the space: Whether you have a small city apartment or a large country manor (as unlikely as that may be), there is always room for growth. Plants need light, air, water, and space. Take advantage of windowsills, porches & balconies. Use boxes of varying heights for positioning your pots – imagine the sun is a cinema screen; each plant needs to be staggered back like tiered seating so that they can all see. Plants like tomatoes will need to be taken inside during winter, so planting at this time of year is ideal – optimum light for young seeds to grow and flourish before the winter sets in.
2. Which pots? First, chose pots in a range of sizes, and in a style that compliments your home décor – as tempting as marble and stone may be, they’re heavy and expensive – go for plastic for practicality! Don’t be afraid to get a little creative and custom decorate your own, or get inventive – line up some old tea cups along your kitchen windowsill, or use glass mason jars so you can see the roots at work. For the artsy types, wooden wine crates or vintage kitchenware can give your home garden an edgy, earthy vibe.
3. Get your hands dirty: The planting part is a messy business. Prepare yourself with gloves, a trowel, and a decent pair of kitchen scissors. Also cover your floors with paper to absorb any spillage. You’ll also need to get hold of potting soil (not earth soil) – this contains water retainers and the correct nutrients for nurturing indoor plants, as well as being weed and disease free. Place drainage trays underneath your pots to catch any overflow. Most plants and herbs require watering once per day depending on the size of the pot and access to sunlight. Water in slow, steady stages so the soil has time to absorb it has it passes through the pot.
4. What to plant: As a beginner, choose herbs that are strong, robust, and useful across a multitude of recipes. Classics like basil, chives, mint, rosemary & parsley often present themselves in salads, sauces & seasonings, and can be grown in more compact spaces. TIP: Label your herbs… telling them apart can be a little confusing at first! No shame in artistic labels. You don’t want to make a parsley mojito… Kale and broccoli are surprisingly easy to grow, and are prominent leaders in the healthy yet trendy food group, so you’re bound to use these a lot. Similarly, tomatoes and lemons require minimal attention and are both beautiful and fragrant additions to your home – be sure to insert some staking or trellis for them to climb as they grow.
5. Reap the benefits: Regular pruning, watering, and even occasionally rotating the pots so that the plant is soaked in sunlight, and you’ll have a blossoming home garden. Fresh herbs to season meals, healthy veg to bulk up salads, and fresh fruit for a summer lemonade or fruity cocktail. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the basics, you can build on your little oasis and watch it grow.
Within a mere few weeks, you should start to see some growth. It won’t be long before you are wowing guests with your culinary expertise and wonderfully aromatic home. I got a little impatient waiting for mine to become edible so I cut them down slightly earlier than I should have – oops. I recommend giving them ample time to grow before you start adding them to your ingredients list or they’ll end up looking sad and bald like mine!