Late winter / early spring is a time when the gardener gets a bit anxious – seeds are available, pots and trays are in, days are getting longer – we just want to start planting. This time of year, January, is still a bit early, but an ideal time to get going with herbs. Having herbs indoors throughout the winter is something I would encourage everyone to try – it is so nice having fresh, fragrant leaves to hand! There are a few bowls available here in the Garden Centre from Elho, planting three small sized herbs such as parsley, coriander and basil in the Vibia Campana bowl is attractive and practical. This bowl is perfectly suited to fit on a windowsill, and a suitable width and depth to accommodate herbs. The slightly larger Loft Bowl is 35cm in diameter, so five plants will fit comfortably. Of course, a simple window box is perfect, and can be reused later outside. The Barcelona 50cm trough is a great size and comes in a lovely assortment of colours. When planting herbs to keep indoors, I recommend John Innes no.2 compost, with a little added Perlite for drainage. Alternatively Hydroleca pebbles provide drainage and aeration, as well as being ideal as a pot topper.
Really, any herbs are suitable for indoor growing in the winter, Basil, Coriander, mint and parsley would be my most used varieties, but tarragon, dill and mint also feature! It all depends what your cooking style is ???? As with all indoor plants, whitefly can be a problem, especially if the temperature is warm. To prevent whitefly, pop a Plant-Flycatcher into the pot, which will attract the flies, which then stick onto it. I find this most effective, as I would be slow to encourage anyone to use sprays either indoors or on vegetation which will be eaten within a week. Keeping your plants strong and healthy is the best way to prevent any problems, so keep them well watered, feed every two weeks and, most importantly, put them in as bright a place as possible!
Herbs can also be sown indoors at any time of the year, including winter. There is a superb selection of herb seeds available from our Unwins range, suitable for outdoor sowing later in the year also. Sowing plants such as coriander, basil and dill at regular intervals ensures a continuous batch for use. Simply fill a pot with seed and cutting compost to about 1cm from the top and pat down reasonably firmly. Water it before sowing. Mix a pinch of seeds with a small handful of compost and place on top. Cover with Vermiculite to prevent damping off, (fungal rot), and to have a light covering over the seeds. There is no need for repotting or pricking out, as you will be cutting for use anyway. Seeds such as Parsley, coriander and dill are the perfect selection to grow with kids as they will germinate quickly and reliably.
Sowing and growing herbs need not be limited to the usual Mediterranean varieties, try Fenugreek for an Indian flavour, or lemongrass and Thai basil for that distinct South East Asian flavour!
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