There are a lot of cool things about apartment living. Unfortunately, having a garden isn’t ordinarily one of them.
But never fear, apartment-dwellers, you can bring (edible!) greenery into your home by way of a herb garden.
Debbie Shortis of Byron Bay Herb Nursery advised that while it’s best for herbs to grow in an outdoor environment (even the teeniest balcony will do), they can still survive on the windowsill -- as long as you give them the occasional outdoor excursion. Sun, apparently, is a big deal.
“If you have a north or east facing outdoor area, you can grow almost anything,” Shortis said. “For a south facing area, I’d recommend mints, Italian parsley, spinach, and that’s about it.”
For those who are known for killing their plants (unintentionally of course), Shortis recommends oregano, parsley, basil and chilli.
“And if you eat a lot of meats, you should definitely plant sage and thyme,” Shortis said. “There’s two kinds of thyme -- the common thyme, which is good for meats -- and lemon thyme which is good for fish.”
According to Shortis, the main mistake people make when planting herbs is failing to distinguish between which are “dry” and “wet” -- meaning you could easily over-water a plant while thinking you are doing the right thing.
“All the Mediterranean herbs are dry -- so rosemary, bail thyme, sage, marjoram -- and they can go in one pot. You only need to water them once a week,” Shortis said.
“But in another pot altogether, you’d want to put parsley, spinach, fennel, chives and mint, and they might need two or three waters per week.”
“A lot of people kill the Mediterranean herbs from over-watering.”
If you want to get cracking on your herb garden now, basil and chilli are your best bet, and for adventurous types Shortis recommended planting an edible flower such as society garlic.
“You just eat the flower, not the leaves,” Shortis said. “It’s really nice putting those little flowers into salads for something different.”
A common mistake herb-planting newbies make is relying on just the one plant.
“There is no point having on parsley because you are going to pick it to death,” Shortis said. “You need to grow a little crop of coriander rather than just plant one.”
And in terms of the taste of your home-grown herbs versus the supermarket variety?
“It is completely different. Not only because of freshness, but a lot of the time [when cooking] you put the herbs in right at the end,” Shortis said. “So for instance, if you’ve cooked a stir-fry, go out to your balcony and gather your herbs, and then you can have this beautiful dill, chives and parsley you throw in at the last minute. The taste is fresh and delicious.”
So get planting, apartment friends, and enjoy the greenery as well as the grub.
Byron Bay Herb Nursery is a non-profit charity that provides employment and training opportunities for people with a disability who require on-going support to work.