Herbs have a variety of uses, including culinary, medicinal and religious, bringing color, fragrance and flavor to the home. While some herbs are better suited for outdoor gardens, because of larger bulb and root structures, there are many herbs available for indoor growing. Indoor herbs, grown year-round, are well suited for individual and group plantings.
Several types of basil, including Thai, Genovese, cinnamon and lemon, enhance salads, sauces and a variety of international recipes. All types of basil grow best in healthy, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0. Basil is readily propagated from seed or stem cuttings, and harvest can begin as soon as plants develop at least six sets of true leaves. Basil Gardening recommends the use of organic or slow-release fertilizers, according to manufacturer's directions. Artificial and quick-release fertilizers cause unwanted growth that takes away from the potent flavor. Snip or pinch off leaves from the top of the plant to encourage fuller growth. There are several ways to preserve basil, including freezing, drying or storing in oil or vinegar for shorter periods.
There are eight types of oregano used in cooking, ranging from spicy to sweet in flavor. Greek, Italian, Hot & Spice, Kaliteri, Cretan, Golden, Syrian and Khirgistan strains are used to flavor meat, poultry and seafood, salads and sauces around the world. Oregano thrives in well-draining soil and full sunlight, maturing within 35 to 45 days of planting. Harvest leaves when plants grow at least 8 inches tall. For fuller growth, trim plants back just before flowering. Utilize an organic, slow-release fertilizer, according to manufacturer's directions, every six to 10 weeks during active growth. Preserve oregano's by cutting and drying bunches.
Chives, which originated in Asia and Eastern Europe, are delicate members of the onion family. Two types of chives, common and garlic, grow well from seed or clump division from existing plants. Chives require well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0 and lots of sunlight for optimal growth. The National Gardening Association recommends using an organic 5-10-5 fertilizer, per manufacturer's instructions, at least once during the growth cycle. Chive seeds are quick to germinate but slow to grow and are ready for harvest when plants reach 6 inches in height. For best flavor, chives should be used fresh; however, freezing is a viable method of preservation.
Parsley, both curly and flat-leaf, is a member of the Umbelliferae family and a relative of root vegetables such as celery and carrots. Once used only as garnish, parsley can liven up soups, sauces and a variety of meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Parsley varieties grow best in moist, well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0 and lots of sunlight. The University of Minnesota Extension recommends using 1/2-strength liquid fertilizer, based on manufacturer's recommended dosage, every three to four weeks. Harvest leafy stalks from the outermost portion of the plant first to encourage fuller foliage. While parsley has fuller flavor when used fresh, it can be dried or frozen for later use.
Cilantro, also called coriander and Chinese parsley, is a pungent relative of the carrot. The powerful flavor of this herb, both seeds and leaves, is used in a variety of Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Cilantro is a cool-weather crop that does not tolerate high temperatures. For successful growth, sandy, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.1 to 7.8 and full sun are required, along with consistent moisture. Harvest can begin once plants are established. Gardening Know How recommends cutting off the top 1/3 of the plant, leaving the remainder of the plant to continue growth. To harvest seeds, the plants need to flower. After blooms fade, remove seed heads and allow them to dry before opening to release the seeds.