Have the freshest leaves at your fingertips by growing them on your kitchen windowsills. If you think you need a farm or a large garden to grow your own salad crops or culinary herbs, relax – that’s not the case! It can be done with little effort, on a windowsill in your kitchen. It’s not all about the harvest either – just planting and caring for your mini farm can be a joy.
You will need:
• A warm windowsill that receives a lot of light for the best part of the day (morning sun is ideal) and with enough space for plant containers.
• Window boxes or similar containers. We picked colourful and roomy plastic troughs with custombuilt drip trays.
• Basic hand tools like a spade, a container to mix your soil in, and a small watering can.
• 1 bag of commercial potting soil, a block of coconut coir, bonemeal and some drainage stone.
• An organic, water-soluble fertiliser.
Preparing to plant:
• Water the seedlings well before planting.
• Add a layer of drainage chips to the trough.
• Moisten the compressed coconut coir block according to the instructions on the packaging. When it is moist and softened, mix it with the bag of potting soil. Add a handful of bonemeal.
• Fill the trough with the potting mix and tamp it down lightly.
• Gently push the seedlings out of the punnet from below and plant them in the trough.
• After planting, water with a watering can until it runs out of the container. Empty the drip tray of excess water.
• Keep the soil evenly moist at all times – drying out can cause the leaves to taste bitter. Check the soil by pressing your finger into the top layer of soil. If it feels dry, water immediately.
• Fertilise every two weeks with an organic, water-soluble fertiliser rich in nitrogen. Don’t allow the fertiliser to fall onto the leaves, apply it onto the soil only.
Healthy chow with salad leaves
The loose-leaved varieties are the most practical because you can harvest the individual leaves for up to three months before replanting. And because they grow fast, they must be harvested quickly, or they will be past their best. Simply snip off leaves as needed and more will grow in their place. Nurseries stock a wide selection of varieties in the form of strong seedlings in punnets, so you will really be spoilt for choice.
Culinary herbs to grow indoors during winter include rosemary, chives, origanum and lemon thyme.
• All the herbs in this window box prefer a well-draining growing medium (the same one you used for the lettuce box).
• They like a hot and relatively dry environment and will sulk if watered overenthusiastically – water only when the soil feels dry.
• Frequent harvesting of these aromatic plants’ branches and leaves will encourage new, denser growth.
• Feed the herbs every two weeks with a water-soluble liquid fertiliser.
Keep this in mind!
No perennial herb is happy to sit on a windowsill forever, although they will give you great value for money for quite a while if diligently cared for. Herbs will have to be replaced with fresh stock from time to time, which will give you, the indoor edible gardener, the opportunity to ring the changes by planting something new and exciting every season. Luckily herb plants aren’t expensive to replace!