Enjoy fresh herbs and salad year-round with this simple project
A misconception I often hear from my friends who want to get into growing veg is that they ‘don’t have enough space’. The good news is, you don’t need loads of space to grow your own fresh salad and herbs. An indoor windowsill herb garden is a great way to utilise often wasted space, bring some much-needed green to the winter kitchen and bring some fresh crispness to your meals.
Don’t get me wrong, you likely won’t achieve a bumper crop – but I love the feeling of satisfaction when I’m able to reach for a snip of fresh basil for my pasta, or a sprinkle of fresh parsley for the finishing touch to any meal. Herbs can be picked up so cheaply from your local supermarket, and with a bit of savvy care they’ll last you all the way through winter. Most leaves will do well on a bright windowsill even if there’s not actually that much direct sunlight – just keep them watered and use regularly with a light trim.
I love to grow a selection of salad leaves and herbs in a long, narrow planter. Check out your local garden centre for the perfect size – windowsill-ready planters are fairly popular. Make sure your chosen container is between 15 and 20 centimetres deep so there’s plenty of space for good, strong root to develop, and make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the container and a drip tray underneath. This will prevent your plants from getting waterlogged. Fill the planter with good quality potting compost.
Herbs for your windowsill
- Chives and mint can be dug up by the roots from the garden, and rooted out in your windowsill planter. The warmth fools them into growing again!
- From seed, herbs like marjoram, chervil, dill and coriander all grow well. Just scatter the seeds across the surface of the compost, water regularly and thin out the seedlings as they start to grow if needed. Keep them trimmed and they’ll keep on growing back, and don’t let them produce flowers as leaf production will grind to a halt.
- Fresh herbs can be bought from your local supermarket all year round, and these can be planted out in the compost and given plenty of water.
- If you don’t have space for a planter, nurture the individual plants on your windowsill. Place the plastic pot provided on a saucer so it can drain properly, and make sure you’re cutting little and often to get the most life out of it. Basil, coriander, parsley and mint are all good choices. This is a great method as you can just replace once they wear out!
- If you find you’re not using up the herbs as quickly as you’d have thought, don’t let them die off – cut them back and preserve them by drying, freezing or making them into a sauce like pesto. Read my article on preserving fresh herbs at home here.
Salad leaves for your windowsill
- Winter salad seed mixtures are available at garden centres and online – saladini, misticanza and Oriental saladini are good mixtures of tasty, productive plants. Sow your seed in the planter and water sparingly, starting to snip them back when the seedlings are about 2.5cm high. Thin them out if they become too overcrowded.
- Rocket, pea shoots and land cress are tasty, fiery leaves that can be grown from seed. Start to cut off what you want as the plants look big enough, and re-sow with extra seeds if it starts to look thinned out. Children often love this bit – it’s really rewarding to see the plants grow before we enjoy them.
Sprouting seeds is another great way to enjoy fresh, healthy produce year-round. Sprouts are packed with nutrients and this can be done with hardly any space, no soil – it barely even needs any light! You can often find seeds for sprouting in gardening catalogues and at the garden centre – just make sure you do get a specific sprouting mix as these won’t have been treated with fungicide. Mung beans (recognisable as Chinese bean sprouts) are popular and easy – just soak a handful of mung bean seeds overnight, then rinse them and place them in a big glass jar. Use a rubber band to fix a circle of breathable, clean white fabric over the top. Stand them in a warm, dark place (an airing cupboard is perfect), taking them out to rinse in water twice a day. After about four days they should be sprouted and ready to eat – excellent in stir fries and salads.
Happy planting! Katie x