How To Keep Kitchen Herbs Alive

Having fresh herbs in your kitchen is truly one of life’s pleasures in my books. There’s something about having that pop of green on the kitchen bench, and the ease of garnishing or adding flavour to your cooking is so great. But growing herbs indoors can be a little tricky, and if you’ve tried before, you probably know that it can also go so wrong, with your beautiful new plants dying in a matter of weeks, or even days! You’re not alone. But growing herbs indoors is so rewarding and with a few simple tips, you will be able to ensure the survival of your photo worthy kitchen herbs.

Here are my top tips to keep your kitchen herbs alive:

1. Buy the best looking herbs you can

Typically, the best herbs you can buy would be from your local garden centre rather than your supermarket (I’ll come back to this shortly). Make sure you are looking for the herbs that look the healthiest – no broken stems, no wilting or browning leaves. Take the time to look thoroughly as this will help in the long run.

2. Re-pot your herbs

This is especially important if you are growing herbs that you have bought from the supermarket. These plants are designed to grow rapidly and there are sometimes more than 20 individual plants in each pot so they just will not last no matter how much love you give them. Repotting any plant is important because often they can be left to grow in a small pot for a while in a garden centre and for the plant to keep growing, the roots need room to grow. Once you re-pot your plants, make sure to give them a big drink of water as plants can get shocked when they are transplanted.

3. Choose a pot that has good drainage and a saucer

Drainage is important for all plants but very important for potted plants. Make sure your pots have some kind of drainage so that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged which will lead the roots to rot and die. I find that the easiest thing for most starter gardeners is to buy a pot with a hole in the bottom – you can add pebbles to the bottom of the pot too to increase drainage and air flow if you would like. If you choose a pot with a hole in the bottom, a saucer is a crucial piece to the puzzle too – you don’t want to damage any of your nice surfaces at home, so make sure you invest in this too.

4. Use a specific Indoor Potting Mix

Plants need nutrients to survive, and potted plants especially need to have a good supply of nutrients as they don’t always have the nutrient availability that a plant in the ground has. Indoor Potting Mix contains good things that help to hold moisture and also aerate the soil – these are essential for indoor plants. 

5. Keep your herbs in a warm, sunny spot

I know this can be hard for a lot of indoor and small space gardeners as not every house is blessed with streaming sunlight. (If you don’t have a lot of light in your house and are very invested in growing edible indoor plants, then my suggestion is to look into Smart Gardens). Even if your kitchen doesn’t get direct sunlight, make sure your herbs stay warm and that your plants see the sun occasionally – relocate them to a sunny spot for a day a week at least.

6. Pinch the tops off your plants

If you are buying herbs from the supermarket, you will notice that although these look like a big healthy plant, they’re actually lots of individual plants. The best way to encourage these plants to become fuller and produce more leaves is to pinch the top off each stem. This is really just a fancy way to say remove the top couple of sets of leaves. This encourages more leaf growth, and therefore more herbs! The leaves you pinch off don’t have to go to waste too! Start by using these leaves when you’re cooking or garnishing rather than going for the bigger established leaves.

7. Allow air circulation

You wouldn’t pack your outdoor herb garden as tight as you could pack your indoor herb pots. So to give your indoor herbs a better chance at survival, you need to give your plants some space. This helps air to move around your plants which helps reduce the risk of disease. I like to put my herbs on the windowsill of an open window every weekend. The gentle breeze also helps to strengthen the plants.

8. Water carefully

One of the main issues with houseplants is under AND overwatering. All plants have different requirements and all environments mean different watering schedules too. The safest way to water your plants is not necessarily waiting for a number of days between watering, but to look at the soil and make a judgment based off of the moisture of the soil. Have a little dig around about a half a finger deep and if the soil is dry, slowly water your plant, allowing the water to absorb into the soil. The speed at which you water is important because watering too fast will mean the water runs straight through the pot and out the bottom. You should check your plants every couple of days until you have a good idea of how often your plants in your environment need watering. It is better to lean on the side of underwatering, so don’t go crazy.

Enjoy your indoor herb garden

Using these tips will help to give your herbs the best chance at survival. But if your herbs still struggle, don’t beat yourself up. Pretty much all herbs prefer to live outdoors rather than indoors, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a gardening failure! Admire your beautiful creation and enjoy adding them to meals, and if something isn’t working, don’t give up. Try a different location in your house, try some different herbs and have fun!

Happy indoor herb gardening!

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