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Published by jack elliot

 

herbs are easy to grow; all you need is a windowsill. 

 

Basil, parsley and coriander are easy to cultivate: all you need is a windowsill – and some helpful advice

 

Your recycling bin will have any number of suitable growing containers in it, from takeaway trays to yoghurt pots: all you need to do is punch in some drainage holes. However, a windowsill propagator kit is well worth investing in;

 

 

At this time of year, annual herbs need to be grown as microgreens (baby leaves harvested when they are a few centimetres high), since the light levels are dipping drastically, so growth will be very slow.

Using just a few inches of growth from seedlings may seem wasteful, but the flavour is impressive and growth is fast at this stage.

Sow the seeds liberally across the surface of your pot (you want them roughly 1cm apart), water in well and cover with the propagator lid or a clear plastic bag. Within a week, you will have the first signs of growth.

I never cover basil seed with compost, but coriander and parsley will need a thin sprinkling.

Once they are 1cm tall, start aerating the plants by removing the propagator lid and brushing the leaves gently with your hands to force them to grow stronger. Cut the leaves when they are 5cm or so high.

You will get only a single cut, but it’s easy enough to sow successionally, so there’s always another pot ready.

 

Basil is my favourite indoor herb, but parsley and coriander can be treated in the same way. A packet of seed will cost around the same as a shop-bought plant and, sown judiciously, will last a year. You will have to buy compost and find a pot, but even with these costs you will save money over the year.

 

 

You can reuse the compost – just add a new layer of fresh compost and resow. You will be able do this at least three times – that is, unless you get mould or compost gnats (if the soil is too damp), in which case ditch the batch and start again.

Basil hates to go to bed with wet feet, so always water it in the morning. Coriander often grows leggy in very poor light levels. Parsley is notoriously slow to wake up, so be patient with germination.

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Parsley's a very slow germinator, and the seed can easily rot before it does so. Its viability (ie ratio of viable to dud seed) is also low. These two factors make it difficult to grow from seed.

I recommend pre-germinating it. Thus get a sandwich box or equivalent ( use something from your recycling bin, but try to find something with a lid), fill the bottom of it with 2 or 3 layers of kitchen roll or newspaper or toilet paper, sprinkle or mist with a sprayer water on it to make it nicely damp but not soaking wet and then scatter the seed thinly on the damp paper. Put on the lid and place the box in a consistently warm place - airing cupboard is ideal, whereas a windowsill is not. Check the box daily to ensure the paper does not dry out; when it does become a bit dry, dampen again. After a couple of weeks you should start to see tiny white shoots developing. When there are enough of them, carefully remove the tiny sprouting seed and place just beneath the surface of a container of seed compost, sprinkle a thin layer of compost on top, keep warmish (windowsill will now do) and the seed should germinate in the compost as normal.

You can do this with almost any seed; very good for peas, beans and sweet peas; also parsnip seed (slow to germinate; same family as parsley) and marrow/courgette/tomato seeds in spring in order to give them an early start.

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