Winter is here and it’s likely that we will spend considerable time indoors: perhaps throwing warm, inviting house parties, gorging on new recipes, and maybe even falling prey to the weather once in a while. The one thing that can be of help during all these situations is your personal herb garden.
Do I look like I have the space for a garden?
You’re probably thinking of a kitchen garden, which a more dedicated and extensive project and requires more than a fair share of your space and time. Herbs, though, are fairly low maintenance and can be grown in even the tiniest planters. Besides, with a bit of planning, herbs can enhance the aesthetics of your home. Try planting purple leaf rosie basil (Krishna tulsi), amarnath or Indian chilli pepper to add a dash of natural color.
Of late, herb gardens have become an essential part of the modern household, especially among home chefs and organic foodies. Firstly, this is because the packaged herbs available in the market are most often adulterated and stand nowhere close to the fresh out of garden herbs. Secondly, the herbs grown at home are organic, free of the toxic chemicals used in the production of commercially grown ones. Read up more on the advantages of an indoor herb garden here.
Few of us can afford the luxury of a kitchen garden in our homes because of the lack of space. An herb garden can serve as an equally beneficial yet compact alternative to it. Here are a few stories to inspire you to get your own herb garden.
Herb garden starter kit
It’s best to begin with familiar herbs that you know you’ll make use of in your day-to-day life. Here are some popular ones:
Coriander / Dhaniya
Apart from adding a pleasant, refreshing flavor to almost all dishes, dhaniya can also be used for treating skin inflammation, controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and curing indigestion, as well as menstrual disorders. February and March are considered to be the best months for coriander.
Mint / Pudina
Thanks to its fresh aromatic flavor, we only need an excuse to use mint. It’s great for homemade mojitos, and is the evergreen topping over raita, salad, snacks and drinks. It can be used to treat acne, fight oral infections, cancer and its soothing effect relieves pain, aches and menstrual cramps; even its aroma is believed to counter stress.
Holy Basil / Tulsi
Tulsi is an important part in most Indian households but its religious significance often overshadows its medicinal value. All you need to do is chew a few leaves every morning to boost immunity, fight bacterial and viral infections/allergies, counter stress and high blood pressure, and also treat hair and skin disorders. Since the plant requires intense heat and lots of water, it is advisable to plant it right before the monsoon.
Curry Leaves / Kadi Patta
This is one of the few herbs that compliment both south as well as north Indian dishes perfectly. The crackling sound they make on being fried is the dinner bell in many homes even today. However most people are unaware that this humble leaf can be used to maintain blood sugar, protect our heart and liver, aid digestion, cure cough and sinusitis, and can even work wonders for the hair.
Though the plant requires considerable sunlight, the harsh direct sun of the summer might do it harm. Therefore it is advisable to plant it during early winters.
Fenugreek / Methi
This versatile herb finds its way in our meals as a spice, saag and even in rotis, particularly in winters because of its healing effect on the stomach. In addition, methi is helpful in relieving inflammation inside as well as outside the body, treating eating disorders, and also improving exercise performance.
Methi grows best in cooler weather, and therefore it would be ideal to plant the seeds on the onset of winter.
Scoring seeds for these herbs is easy: Your neighbourhood thelawala or closest nursery should be able to help you with many or all of them. You could also buy organic herb seeds online in India at Nimai Garden.
Pro-tips for first timers
If you are struggling for space, you could plant different herbs in a single container with ample space between them. Alternatively you could also use small pots, milk or juice cartons or plastic bottles to grow them. Learn how to grow herbs in containers here.
Use the biodegradable waste from your kitchen to prepare compost for your herb garden. You are not only enriching the soil but also disposing the waste in the best possible manner. Find out more about Home Composting here.
Remember that plants do not require a fixed amount of water throughout. Before watering them, always put a finger inside the soil to check how dry it is and water accordingly. For all the efforts you put in, an herb garden is pretty rewarding, as the herbs are ready to use within a few weeks. Happy planting!