Keeping my meals nutritious often means I have to give up some of those delicious junk food ingredients (you know, like extra salt and saturated fats) and add in flavor with healthier alternatives. I’ve found herbs and spices to be some of the best ways to give a dish some extra pizzazz, and when they’re fresh they typically have even more great nutrients and better flavor.

That’s why apartment gardening is such an excellent option for your health and your wallet. Creating an indoor garden of your favorite herbs can help you save money on groceries down the road and get excited about cooking fresh and flavorful meals.

Plus, you can take your garden with you if you decide to move to a different place when your lease is up! If you aren’t sure how to get started, here’s a beginner’s guide for apartment gardening:

Do Some Research

The first thing you’ll want to do when beginning an indoor garden project is to get online and do a little research. Where you live, the light and temperature conditions of your apartment and the season are all factors that play a role in how your herbs will grow. Some herbs are a little more high-maintenance than others, and that’s worth finding out at this stage, too.

Find the Right Spot

During your research, you should try to figure out which spot in your apartment is best for an indoor garden. People typically prefer to grow herbs on south-facing windowsills, which will get plenty of sunlight even during the winter.

If you have limited window choices, or your apartment doesn’t get a lot of natural light, you’ll likely have to supplement with fluorescent bulbs to keep your plants healthy. In that case, choose a spot next to an outlet (where you can plug in a lamp), and preferably keep them near the kitchen to make cooking with your herbs a little easier.

Decide What You Want

After doing some research, it’s time to decide which herbs you’d like to start growing. Here are a few kitchen herbs that are great for beginners since they’re all simple to grow indoors:

  • Chives: Chives are pretty low-maintenance, but they’re easier to grow from seedlings than seeds.

  • Oregano: A delicious addition to homemade marinara sauce, oregano is also pretty easy to grow. Make sure it’s getting plenty of sunlight– it likes around eight hours of light per day.

  • Basil: Basil is great for making your own pesto sauces or simply adding fresh leaves to your dishes. This is another herb that needs a lot of bright light, so make sure it’s in your sunniest spot.

  • Mint: Mint is one of the most popular cooking herbs, and it doesn’t require a lot of light to grow quickly. Make sure it gets some light everyday, but shadier spots will work fine.

  • Parsley: Though parsley grows pretty slowly, it’s a low-maintenance option for your indoor garden. Plus, it can be used in a variety of dishes.

If you have a particularly green thumb, you may even want to try your hand at growing some vegetables inside your apartment. Produce from the supermarket is pretty pricey, but there’s also nothing quite as satisfying as eating a homegrown fruit or vegetable. Avocados, tomatoes, and carrots are all good for growing inside, as long as you can provide the right environment for them.

Buy the Seeds

To grow plants indoors, you’ll need either seeds or young seedlings. You can generally find these at garden stores or in the garden sections of department stores, but during fall and winter the selection may be slightly limited.

It’s also easy to order seeds online, so that may be a better option during the off seasons. You may even want to check with your friends or parents who have gardens– using cuttings from their plants is a great way to save money.

Make Pretty Containers and Labels

One of the best parts about apartment gardening is that an herb garden can be just as decorative as it is practical. Find pretty clay pots (you can decorate your own) or DIY repurposed containers to plant the seeds or seedlings in, and paint them with pretty designs if you’d like.

Choosing the right containers, however, isn’t all about which ones are prettiest. Most herbs fare better in small pots that provide ample drainage, so no matter what container you select make sure it has holes in the bottom. Because you want excess water to drain out, make sure you’re also using saucers underneath to protect the surface the herbs will be sitting on.

Take Proper Care

Once the seeds are planted in their containers, it’s time to help them flourish. Position them in spots that provide the right amount of light, and water them regularly. Again, herbs don’t like sitting in too much water, so let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.

If you’re growing plants during the winter, make sure they’re protected from drafts and frost overnight by pulling curtains or another insulating material across the window before you go to sleep.

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