7 Herbs You Can Grow in Your Kitchen Window Box

By on April 28, 2013

Imagine a garden filled with herbs, which are available at a moment’s notice and only a few feet from your kitchen. Even if you do not have the space for a big garden, you can still enjoy the flavours and benefits of fresh herbs. So let’s look at 7 herbs you can grow in your kitchen window box!

What You Need To Know

First up, you will need at least five hours of bright light per day. If you have a bright, sunny window you can grow herbs in a window box inside your home and enjoy them fresh twelve months of the year. If you do not have a bright sunny window, there are grow lights available on the market, so all is not lost.

There are many different herbs to choose from, but the 7 listed in this article will provide you with both tasteful and visual appeal for your culinary creations. Read on for the types of herbs you can grow in your window box and their uses.

Some Herbs You Can Grow

Chives

One of the most versatile herbs available. Chives will grow practically anywhere, and multiply readily. Every herb garden should have at least one bunch of chives. Their versatility enables them to be grown in both the garden and containers.

There are two types of chives – onion and garlic. The onion chives have a round stem, much like onions do. They are best when used fresh but may be dried to preserve the harvest. For anyone who is unable to grow them inside, drying them and storing in an airtight container will ensure you have use of them long after the growing season ends.

The garlic chives have a flat stem and are similar to garlic in flavour. They too thrive in containers and are a welcome addition to a wide variety of foods, including pasta, beef, pork, chicken, rice, omelettes, soups and so much more.

The intensity of flavor in chives depends on how often they are watered. For a milder flavor, water frequently. Chives that are seldom watered will have a stronger flavor. If you prefer both, simply grow them in individual pots for the best of both worlds.

To harvest chives, simply cut the amount you need from the plant. If using the flowers as well, cut the stem above the base of the plant, cut off the flower and discard the stem (add to your compost heap or bucket).

Basil

There are several varieties of basil, but they fall into two categories: large leaf and small leaf. The large leaf varieties do benefit from more growing space, but will do well in containers as well. Spicy Globe is a compact variety, and has tiny leaves. This variety grows in a spherical shape, thus giving it its name.

Basil does well in rich, well-drained soil. It tends to get woody as it ages, so pinch off ends to encourage bushier growth. It can be difficult to grow from seed, but if you have the patience and a nice sunny window you can by all means do so. If you are impatient or want instant access to it, simply purchase a plant or two at your local garden center.

For fresh use, simply pinch off the amount you need. To preserve the harvest, it is best to freeze it as opposed to drying it. Frozen basil retains almost 100% of its essential oils; but drying is often the only option available.

Parsley

When people think of parsley, they generally think of the garnish on the side of a plate in a restaurant. It is so much more than that. Parsley is another herb ideal for containers and window boxes. It is a slow starter, so purchasing plants from a garden center is best.

Parsley is renowned for being pest and disease free, which makes it a great addition to any herb garden. The curled green foliage can be used fresh, dried or frozen; although fresh results in the best flavour. It is also an effective natural breath freshener, which is perfect when eaten after garlic or onions.

It does well in containers, and requires little more than being watered regularly. It does tolerate heat, but prefers the cooler climates. Do not presume it can be grown in shade just because it needs cooler temperatures; it is very much a sun-loving plant.

Parsley may be preserved by either drying or freezing. A neat way to freeze it is by placing chopped parsley in ice cube trays and filling with water. When frozen, simply place in freezer bags until ready to use. To use frozen parsley, add an ice cube to your meal during cooking. The heat will melt the ice and you will be left with preserved sprigs of parsley.

Thyme

Is a tender perennial, but does well in pots or containers. It prefers full sun and light, sandy soil. It does tolerate poor soil and may be grown between rocks in a low traffic area as an alternative to grass.

Trimming after flowering will encourage bushy growth in this easy to grow plant. Do not fertilize heavily or overwater, but do not allow to dry out either. To use the plants, cut the stems and strip off the leaves. The leaves are too small to pick individually so stripping is more effective. To get the maximum flavour from the flowers, use them just as they open. Putting a stem or two on the barbeque will make the smoke more aromatic.

To preserve the harvest, thyme may be dried or frozen using the ice cube method (as described in the Parsley section). In warmer climates, thyme is an evergreen and may be used fresh year-round. In colder climates, keeping a pot of it inside (along with other herbs) will add fresh flavour to your meals any time of year.

There are over 120 varieties of thyme, but some of the more common types are Golden Lemon, Caraway, Orange Balsam, Nutmeg, Oregano and Woolly thyme. Woolly thyme is used for cooking, but makes a better groundcover, releasing a nice scent when walked on. This is not generally grown in containers, but you may wish to try it.

Dill

Anyone who hears the word dill most likely thinks of dill pickles. Dill is a tall plant, but will do well in containers as well. It grows best when directly seeded as it dislikes being transplanted. It is a quick growing herb, so does well being seeded after risk of frost is past. To encourage bushy growth, simply start pinching back the leaves as the plant matures.

Be warned that dill is very susceptible to aphids once the flowers open, so to keep them at bay it is best to pinch off flower heads as soon as possible after opening. Dill will readily self-seed if given the opportunity; to prevent this clip the seed heads off and store in a paper bag. This will allow for proper drying and preserve the seed for the following year so you can plant it where you want it.

Dill is best used fresh, and is very good when mixed with cream and poured over new potatoes. The leaves may also be frozen in ice cube trays or dried. By preserving the harvest you will be able to enjoy it even if you are unable to grow herbs indoors during the winter months.

 

Oregano

A close (and easily confused) cousin of marjoram. Greek oregano and sweet marjoram are the two most common herbs of the oregano family.

Oregano is relatively easy to grow, and does well in containers. It prefers full sun, although the golden varieties do best with some shade late in the day to prevent scorching of leaves. It is susceptible to root-rot, so avoid containers/soil with inadequate drainage. To encourage bushy growth, simply pinch back the stems. (Author’s note: I had oregano growing in cinder blocks at the edge of a lawn for many years. It did well in the confined space and the heat!)

Oregano is most commonly used in pizza sauces, but is a great addition to other foods as well.  Contrary to many other herbs, oregano has a more intense flavour after drying. It may also be frozen as a method of preservation.

Cilantro/Coriander

This plant is one and the same; it only has the different names due to the stage of growth it is at. The cilantro is the leaf stage, and coriander is the seeds when mature. The leaves have a sage/cumin/lemon flavour, while the seeds have a distinct citrus flavour.

Cilantro prefers full sun, but in a sheltered location. The soil should be well-drained with low nitrogen content. It is best to keep cilantro from flowering to encourage leaf development. When temperatures reach above 21 degrees Celsius, it is more apt to bolt to seed. It works well in containers, but be sure to keep it pinched back to ensure fuller growth.

Cilantro is best used fresh, as it does not dry well. It may also be frozen or preserved in light oil. The seeds should be harvested as they dry and may be stored in a plastic or glass container. As with all dried herbs, it is best to keep them away from light and moisture.

Wrapping It Up

All of the above herbs may be grown in containers. To ensure the best results, plant those with similar soil and water requirements together. Herbs are good dried, but much better when picked fresh from the plant and added to your dishes.

Remember: to keep your plants fuller, pinch back growth regularly. Place in a bright sunny window for at least five hours per day and you can enjoy them fresh even during the coldest outdoor temperatures. Enjoy!

Check out some other articles around the web on herbs

 

About Diane Ziomek

One Comment

  1. Silvia

    May 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    What a lovely article! I love how simple this is .. because growing herbs in your kitchen is a simple task. Thank you!
    Silvia

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ribas-with-Love/412121635549889?ref=tn_tnmn

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