Who says you need a backyard for a kitchen garden? You can have your very own herb garden in your balcony or windowsill.
You’ve invited friends over to wow them with your new pizza recipe, but the supermarket attendant tells you they’re out of basil. Or your mother has suddenly invited herself over dinner, and you’d like to prove, once and for all, that your cooking skills are just as fantastic as hers.
But you’ve forgotten to pick up the mint for your kebabs on your way home. You’d never have to worry about running out though, if you had your own herb garden. If you’re intimidated by the time and energy you think is needed to grow herbs at home, think again. We tell you how to make your herb garden low on maintenance and high on satisfaction.
CURRY LEAF (kadi patta)
The curry leaf plant can grow into a small tree, but if it’s trimmed regularly, it can fit quite comfortably in your sunny terrace garden. You need a pot that is at least 12 inches deep to grow this plant. Ample daily watering and a monthly dose of fertilizer will help this plant thrive. Use liberally in Indian cooking, curry leaf is must for any herb garden.
Mint barely needs maintenance and will grow wild if you let it. It’s a water guzzler though, so make sure you give it plenty-about twice a day- and also fertilise monthly. The mint plant grows horizontally rather than vertically, so you don’t need a very large pot, but since it needs space to creep along sideways, you can grow it along with other plants, i.e., as a ground cover in pots with other plants.
Don’t worry; its roots don’t go too deep, so they won’t take away from the other plants’ nutritive needs. As an alternative, you can grow mint in smaller decorative pots all over the space. Spearmint and peppermint are the two most easily available varieties.
LEMON GRASS (chai patta)
This is one of the easiest herbs you can grow in your balcony. Get a small lemon grass sapling from your local nursery and put it in a 10-inch pot. Make sure you give it plenty of water and fertiliser, and within two months, the plant will grow to triple its size. The lemon grass plant does tend to grow a little wild, so trim once every few months.
Don’t confuse this with the plant your mother grew in her kitchen corner. This tulsi, also known as sweet basil, is commonly used in Italian cooking. Basil withers away if you overwater or keep the plant in a shaded are. Like all other herbs, it is an outdoor plant that requires plenty of sunshine. Its water needs are similar to any outdoor plant as well, ie, once daily, preferably in the morning. Give it a 10-inch deep pot at least, fertilise monthly, trim the flowers as soon as they appear, and your basil will thrive.