Looking for new cooking tricks to try this spring? The Beacon team has you covered.
A great way to add a pop of flavor and freshness into any homemade recipe is with a pinch of fresh herbs. We all know the struggle of buying packaged basil that goes bad within a few days–so how do we make the best recipes for apartment kitchens without breaking the bank?
A window herb garden offers the best of fresh herbs whenever you need them, with little up-front costs or effort. All you need to do is provide basic maintenance and water for your plant babies, and you’ll have fresh cooking herbs on hand all year long!
What herbs can survive in an apartment?
Most culinary herbs are the perfect plants for apartment life. Basil, in particular, is a hardy little plant that can survive just about anything. A lot of kitchen herbs grow well in indoor environments because they don’t need much in terms of care: well-drained soil, plenty of water and sunshine, and a few clippings here and there is all you’ll need to do in terms of maintenance.
Here are some of the best herbs to grow in your apartment:
- Basil is great in pesto or on top of pasta, grilled chicken, or veggies. It’s delicious with tomatoes and mozzarella for a perfect caprese!
- Chives pack a punch of onion-y flavor in a small package. These little shoots are best chopped up small and served on top of baked potatoes, eggs, or other hearty meals.
- Cilantro adds zing to salsa, guacamole, and East Asian cuisines. It also smells amazing in fresh form!
- Dill is a great herb to add to fresh sauces, like homemade ranch or various aiolis. It also goes really well with fish or chicken!
- Mint* is a crowd favorite because of how good the fresh leaves smell. They’ll brighten up your entire kitchen, even before you add it as a topper for desserts or fruit salads.
- Oregano spices up Italian dishes like no other. Used fresh, it’s a great addition to pastas and meat dishes. You can also dry it to sprinkle on pizza!
- Parsley is a go-to herb for just about every dish. It adds a pop of color and brightness to homemade meals, with a fresh and versatile taste that doesn’t mask other flavors.
- Rosemary is great for hearty meat dishes, like baked chicken or cast-iron steak. Plus, it smells divine while it’s cooking!
- Thyme is another addition to your hearty meals. It adds an earthy, almost nutty flavor to baked dishes like chicken and fish.
*A quick note about mint: Mint doesn’t like to play nice with other plants! Its root systems can choke other plants if they’re seeded too closely together. If you choose to add mint to your apartment garden, make sure he gets to live in his own container.
Here’s what you need for your window herb garden:
- Seeds or seedlings for your favorite culinary herbs (we like basil, cilantro, and parsley!)
- 1 large, rectangular container OR a few individual ceramic pots.
- About 2 cups of high-quality potting soil per plant
- Plenty of water
- A sunny spot, like your kitchen window or balcony
To plant your herb garden, make sure to pay attention to the instructions that come with your seeds or seedlings. Some seeds, like basil, need to be covered with about a quarter inch of soil, while tiny seeds, like oregano, only need to be pressed gently into the surface of the soil.
Give your seedlings plenty of space: make sure to plant them at least 2-3 inches away from other species. If you’re starting from seeds, keep the soil moist (but not drenched) by lightly spraying the surface with water. After a few days, you’ll start to see sprouts poking through!
Most herbs need to be trimmed back to keep from growing too thick and fighting for resources: depending on the herb, this will be when the sprouts are between two and three inches tall.
How do I know my plants are getting enough water?
When you’re practicing apartment gardening, it can be tricky to balance things like sunlight and water.
A good way to tell your plants are drinking enough is to touch the soil lightly with your fingertips. If it feels damp, you’re all set! If it’s dry or cracking, you need to water. (And if your fingers come away muddy, you’re over-watering, or your containers aren’t draining properly. Let your plants breathe!)
Spring is the perfect time to add something fresh to your apartment. Here at The Beacon, we love to celebrate springtime in Jersey City! Whether you’re freshening up your studio apartment with a few potted plants or planning an entire green spread for your two-bedroom apartment’s balcony, you’ll find the perfect place to call home at The Beacon.