Grow Your Own Herbs…Right in Your Chicago Apartment

Growing your own herbs can be quite rewarding. By growing your own herbs, you get the health and taste benefits of having fresh ones, but without paying the high prices of buying them at a grocery store. Plus, many of the herbs you already use regularly are easy to grow right in your apartment. Sweet basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, mint and others can all be grown using these simple guidelines.
First, choose if you would like to purchase herbs that are already growing in a nursery container (these can be purchased at places like Whole Foods, Home Depot or the farmers markets outlined at the bottom of this post), or if you plan on planting seeds. Seeds are cheaper, but can take up to six weeks to start seeing plants.  If you plant bulbs, it is almost immediate that you will begin to see rapid growth, and be able to use them in your favorite recipes.
Next, get some small pots that would fit on a window ledge, table or counter top. Put small stones in the bottom of the pots in order to drain the plants, and then fill with a nutrient-rich soil (at least three inches is necessary).  This soil can be found for about $5 per bag at the same locations listed above that you can find herb bulbs and seeds.  When planting, put each (plant or seed) about an inch down, and then cover with soil.
If you plan on planting multiple herbs in one larger pot, keep them a few inches from each other so there is no aggression between the growths.
Remember to have a dish or tray of some type under each of these so that the excess water has someplace to collect.
Herbs only need about six to eight hours of full sunlight per day, so they will still flourish during the limited sunlight of a Chicago winter.  If you don’t get much natural light in your apartment, you may buy an incandescent grow light at any local hardware store (such as Home Depot), and the bulb itself will only cost about $4-$6.  These lights can be put into a regular table lamp that you can set about 10 inches away from your herbs to maximize light.  Leave the light on while you are away at work for the day, and your herbs will get enough light for you to turn it off when you come home.
Once herbs begin to grow and flower, they can grow quite rapidly.  The key is to cut the leaves, or “fruit” off of the sides of the plant as opposed to the top.  If you see some leaves starting to brown or discolor, then merely clip those off so that new growth can appear.  Browning may also be a sign that you need to water more frequently.
Have a cat? Keep her out of your herbs by planting lemon-thyme. It’s non-toxic and will help keep your kitty away from your prized herbs.
As stated earlier, you can find already growing herb bulbs at local farmers markets to transplant into pots in your home.  What do you do with all of these luscious herbs once they are growing?  Those same farmers markets often will have demonstrations and recipes to share what are the best ways to incorporate your herbs into amazing meals.  Here is a list of the most popular:
Gold Coast:  Neighborhood Farmer’s Market  WHERE: Division Street Farmers Market at 50 W. Division St. between State and Clark  WHEN: Every Saturday from 7am-2pm from the beginning of May through the end of October
Lincoln Park:  Neighborhood Farmer’s Market  WHERE: Lincoln Park High School Parking Lot at Armitage Ave. & Orchard St.  WHEN: Every Saturday from 7am-1pm from early May through the end of October
Lakeview: Chicago Nettlehorst French Market  WHERE: Nettlehorst School Parking Lot at 3252 N Broadway Ave. between Melrose St & Aldine Ave  When: Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 30

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