If you come from an Italian family, or know anyone who does, you likely have fond memories of walking into the home and smelling amazing scents wafting through the air. Oregano and basil melded with tomatoes and garlic. Just reading about it can make your mouth start to salivate. No self respecting Italian cook likes to resort to dried herbs either. A good deal of flavor and character is lost when herbs are dried and it’s just hard to get the same results. The good news is that it’s extremely simple to grow an Italian herb garden. In fact, these are ideal plants to propagate indoors, in pots or containers.
Choose a Container
First, you will need to choose a container. There are dozens of options here. For an indoor herb garden, terra cotta or plastic pots are common. However, anything that can hold soil will work fine. The most important thing to plan for is drainage. Your Italian herb garden will not want to be too wet. If you want to use a container that isn’t porous, like ceramic, be sure to place pebbles or stones on the bottom to help with drainage. Most commercial pots have a drainage system already built in, so this is mainly a concern if you use alternative containers. Also, be sure that your container isn’t too small or too large. Small containers can’t handle the root growth needed, while large containers may encourage plants to put too much energy into the roots at the expense of the plant.
Preparing Your Soil
Herbs aren’t as picky as some other garden plants. In fact, as long as you begin with a good potting soil, you will probably not need to fertilize your Italian herb garden much. After your plants are established, you may want to feed lightly with a natural fertilizer, such as fish emulsion. A mild preparation is ideal.
Planting Your Seeds
Now, it’s time to plant your Italian herb garden! Of course, you are likely already familiar with the herbs that go into Italian cuisine. For those that need a little refresher, you will be working with basil, sage, rosemary, parsley and oregano. If you want to add some others, try fennel and garlic. Your seeds should come with planting instructions. Take note of those as each variety has slightly different preferences. For example, some herbs will do best when pressed on top of the soil and not buried within. Also, germination can have quite a range. Expect your parsley to take at least two weeks before poking up. Don’t be afraid to plant plenty of seeds. They might not all pop up and if they do, you can easily thin later. If you decide to plant garlic, it’s a bit different than the other herbs. It is propagated by bulbs and likes deeper feeding than the other Italian herbs.
That’s really all there is to it! Keep your pots watered and make sure that each plant gets appropriate sunlight. While lack of sun won’t necessarily cause your plant to fail, it can affect the flavor and intensity, so monitor that carefully. Above all, enjoy your Italian herb garden and the smells and flavors that it brings to your kitchen.