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Fresh herbs, part 1: how to grow them

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Tired of settling for that expensive, wilted basil from the grocery store? You can flourish your own endless supply instead, even in your tiny WeHo apartment. Basil, plus a dozen other herbs, are perfect home additions for culinary inspiration, mood-boosting fragrance, and an element of living décor. Growing your own herb garden has even more benefits; ensuring freshness and organic growing, procuring a new form of relaxation, and learning a handy skill are just a few. Check out this list for Mother Earth News' reasons to earn your green thumb.

Ready to find your inner garden-ness? Start thinking of which herbs you're going to cultivate. All you need are a few pots, bulbs, and a bit of sunshine before your home is glowing with green and inspiring some nifty uses.

Keep reading for simple steps to an abounding, plentiful herb garden you can utilize in more ways than one. After you get started, feel free to let me know how your garden is shining!

Collect Your Crafts
Collect Your Crafts Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Collect Your Crafts

Choose large containers to accommodate growth, especially if you’re planning on putting a few in the same pot. Also, make sure the containers have ample drainage holes and an underneath tray; this is essential for proper water retention. Next, grab some organic potting soil. Many are available that are made specifically for vegetables. Now choose your herbs: go for the classic staples, like basil, rosemary, and flat leaf parsley, but also venture for mint, dill, or others you don’t normally use to brighten a soup or smoothie. It’s better to start with at least semi-matured plants instead of seeds – it will take less time to reap the benefits (read: deliciousness) and will require less effort if you’re a novice.

Pot Your Plants and Let There Be Light
Pot Your Plants and Let There Be Light Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Pot Your Plants and Let There Be Light

Fill your pot with soil about three quarters of the way up. Add water to the soil until moist, but not wet. Loosen the soil of the plants at the root, being careful not to damage it. Evenly space your herbs and add enough soil to cover the root ball. Tip: you may want to pot basil and mint separately, as they grow quickly and fully. Pat the soil lightly and water generously.

Place your newly potted herbs in a well-lit area – this is essential for optimum sprouting. Find a place that receives at least 6 hours of light per day and has a temperature of 55 to 75 degrees. If your plants are growing long stems but not leaves, they are not getting enough light. Your herbs will shine best in a kitchen window (and prompt some culinary creativity), a sunroom, or a room with skylights. Word from the wise: regularly rotate your herbs for even sunlight and growth!

Maintain Appropriately
Maintain Appropriately David McNew/Getty Images

Maintain Appropriately

For plants that are lush and productive, proper maintenance is key. Just like correct light exposure, watering is a make or break for forthgiving herbs: stick your finger to the knuckle in the soil to check for dryness. If so, then your herbs are thirsty. When watering, the key word is moist – not too dry or too wet. Don’t let water gather at the bottom of the pot. Yellowing leaves is the first sign of overwatering! To ensure an appropriate watering schedule, consider planting herbs with similar watering requirements together; see this chart for details.

When you get your herbs sprouting, stir in organic fertilizer on the surface every other month. Don’t forget to clip regularly, even when they’re young, to promote growth. Never clip more than a third of the leaves, and growing flowers mean they aren’t being clipped enough. Active clipping means active use!

Get Inspired
Get Inspired Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Get Inspired

Sure, your basil will be great for a caprese salad, and that mint will muddle beautifully in your mojito, but what about outside of the kitchen? Check back next time for ways to incorporate fresh herbs into your home and eco-friendly lifestyle – from beauty to décor to cleaning, your herb garden will do more for your green home than you thought possible.