Monday, July 28, 2014

Mindful Monday: Windowsill Herb Garden, No Soil Needed

You don't need a ton of space to have fresh herbs to add to your cooking.  If you've got a sunny windowsill, you have plenty of space for flavor.  In fact, for many of the culinary herbs I grow, all that's required is water and room for root to grow.  No soil needed.  

I love glass, especially old bottles with labels formed into the glass or painted on.  Different colors are wonderful, creating a spectrum in the window, but they aren't necessary.  After all, the herbs will add their own color to picture.

You can see in the picture that all I use is a bottle--or vase--filled with water.  Any container should be washed in hot, soapy water (or in the dishwasher) to kill any microorganisms residing within.  You should also pull any low-growing leaves from the stem.  If they get in the water, any bacteria they harbor may multiply in the water.  Of course, it's also important to keep the water level above the level of the shortest stem.  I like to fill mine to the brim every morning.  That way I know they will have enough water through the day.  You'll be surprised how much they drink in 24 hours, especially once they start growing roots.

Spearmint in Old Milk Bottle
Spearmint Roots after 1 Week

Chocolate Mint Roots
(I love this bottle.)
Mug Full of Basil Roots

Not all herbs will root, however.  Parsley, for example, will keep much longer in water, but it will not grow roots.  So, use these herbs while they're fresh.  Once the edges of the leaves start to brown, they are losing the battle for life.

Curly Parsley in Flask Bottle
Parsley Stems in Water, No Roots

Herbs that will root in water:

  • Mint (including Lemon Balm and Catnip)
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary (This one is slow to root.  Have patience.)

Okay, so I didn't get all specific with the pictures.  But cutting stems is fairly easy.  

  1. Pick a healthy stem.
  2. Find a spot near the bottom and just above or below a node (where new stems or leaves grow from).
  3. Cut the stem with sharp scissors at a 45 degree angle.  (This allows the plant better access to the water.)
  4. Cut off any leaves that will be below the water level.
  5. Stick them in the water!
If you want to transplant the cuttings into soil, you should cut them about 4-5 inches long.  This gives the plant the opportunity to put more energy into growing rather than supporting the leaves on a longer cutting.  You can also add small gravel to the container, which will promote more prolific and stronger roots.  Gravel may even act as a substrate alternative to soil in a wider-mouthed container, allowing the cutting to grow as if it were in soil.  (Care must taken here to make sure the cutting is getting the nutrients it needs to grow.)

Of course, if you don't have fancy bottles or vases of an appropriate size, you can use any container that will hold water and support the leaves above.  I have basil cuttings in a coffee mug, and I have used mason jars, as well.

Even if you don't use the herbs to flavor your foods, the cuttings make beautifully fragrant bouquets suitable for any room.

How do you keep your herb cuttings fresh?

This post is part of the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

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