Love fresh pesto made with basil or the scent of dill in your homemade dishes? Maybe you like seasoning with oregano and thyme or dipping tortilla chips into salsa fragrant with cilantro. Often, however, the price tag for these herbs is hefty and the dried varieties just aren’t as good. Save yourself money by growing your own herbs either on your window sill, under lights indoors, or outdoors on a balcony, porch or in a garden.
Herb Gardens Are Surprisingly Easy
5 common and popular herbs are surprisingly hardy and easy to grow: basil, cilantro, dill, thyme and oregano. They only need some sun, soil and water to thrive and not much else for maintenance. They can grow indoors on a sunny windowsill, on a balcony, porch or in a garden. These 5 herbs are also used frequently in the kitchen, making them some of the best to grow.
Here are two easy methods for growing your herb garden on the cheap.
Method #1 – Buy Your Plants
The easiest and quickest way to start your herb garden is to buy plants at the grocery store or at local markets. Usually you can find them from $3-$5 in the produce aisle, sometimes year round but not always. Farmers markets will sell them typically from spring through summer for $2-$5, sometimes with discounts for mixing and matching.
Buying your plants comes with a few advantages, namely having ready to harvest plants that usually only need re-potting to larger pots and watering from time to time. This saves you weeks on germinating and growing the herb from seed. This method is more expensive than growing from seed but still relatively cheap. In general you can build an herb garden of five plants for around $20. This is basically the cost of a one-time buy of the same amount of freshly harvested herbs in the produce aisle but with the added benefit of a continual harvest. You’ll recoup your costs quickly, usually from the second harvest after you let the leaves regrow.
Method #2 – Plant From Seed
The most frugal method for building an herb garden is to grow your herb garden from seed. The drawback is that you’ll typically wait a few weeks or longer for your first harvest. This is what I did for around $7 and grew almost a dozen herbs and could have grown more with the left over soil. Here’s why.
Seeds are cheap. You can buy most common herb seed packets for $0.20-$0.50, though more of course if you go organic. I bought mine for $0.25 at the Dollar Tree and Dollar General, then a bag of soil for $5 at Walmart. They sprouted fine and came with more seeds than I could use. I didn’t buy pots either. Instead I rinsed empty cans and decorated them, put stones in the bottom for drainage, added soil and planted my seeds. You can save money using empty yogurt containers or sauce jars as well. My bag of soil cost around $5 and I used it to plant almost a dozen herbs, with plenty of soil left over. If you do the same, you’ll spend roughly $7 for an herb garden you can continuously harvest for your dishes.
Caring for Your Herbs
Basil, cilantro, dill, oregano and thyme are easy to grow and take care of, though I wouldn’t call them foolproof. They can grow on a sunny windowsill but will of course grow best outside or under indoor lights suitable for plants. That said, I grew my windowsill herb garden in the New England winter so these 5 herbs are relatively forgiving.
It’s important to understand that while herbs like oregano are perennials and will grow continuously under the right conditions, others like cilantro will eventually go to seed no matter how well you nurture them. Because their seeds are so cheap, I don’t mind sowing new plants from time to time. One $0.25 seed packet allows multiple plantings for continuous harvests.
Sowing and Harvesting Tips:
- Plant more than a few seeds for best results. For instance, sprinkle the seeds so that you have a dozen to few dozen sown even in small containers. Not all will germinate and you can thin them later as you harvest them for use. This way you don’t wind up with only one lonely stem of basil or cilantro, for example, that won’t provide much sustenance in the kitchen.
- When first planting your seeds, make the soil fairly wet but not so wet water stands in the pot and won’t drain. This will help the seeds germinate. After that, water when the soil becomes dry to the touch, probably ever 3 days or so. Don’t keep the soil damp or you risk rotting your plants.
- Indoor plants risk becoming leggy as they reach for the sun, making their stems weaker and longer. You may need to add more soil to firm them up once they’ve sprouted and grown a few inches tall.
- Learn how to properly harvest your herbs. This will make them more productive and encourage growth rather than stunting them. YouTube has wonderful videos for every herb and how to harvest them. Harvesting isn’t difficult but techniques are worth knowing to get the most life from your plants and to keep them healthy.
Watch Your Garden Grow
Grow these 5 herbs easily and cheaply – basil, cilantro, dill, oregano and thyme. They’ll add wonderful flavor and aroma to many dishes while making your cooking feel more luxurious at the same time. These 5 herbs grow on a windowsill, porch, balcony, under indoor growing lights, and in the garden. This makes them accessible to most everyone and for $7-$20 for a little garden, they can’t be beat on price. Add more herbs to your garden as your confidence and skill grows. Once you start using your own fresh herbs, you’ll never see the point of buying from the store ever again.
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