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Growing my indoor herb garden

I'm committed to using fresh herbs in my kitchen adventures, but every time I buy them at my local grocery store, I end up throwing half of them - and my money - away! I decided it was time to stop watching perfectly delicious herbs wilt and go unused, and I started to grow my own indoor herb garden. I was really skeptical about trying to grow anything in my apartment - we're on the first floor and we keep the curtains closed during the day to keep our place cool, so there is little natural light. Not to mention I've never gardened before. But, with a quick web search, I found tons of options out there for people like me. The options below are perfect for gardening beginners, whether you have very little space or if you live in an apartment or shared living situation.

Why grow fresh herbs? As part of a healthy diet, I try to eat as much fresh food as possible - herbs included. Herbs lose much of their oils during the drying process, so both health benefits (anti-oxidant levels, for example) and flavor suffer. Flavorful herbs are also a great way to avoid extra sodium intake.

Oh, and if you're committed to using fresh herbs regularly in your cooking, you'll save money. I chose to start growing my herbs because a $1 packet of seeds will save me $3 a week at the grocery store. I think that's a pretty good return on investment, don't you?

Hydroponic indoor herb gardens These are awesome because there's NO SOIL involved. More pros: they're incredibly easy to use (fool-proof, really) and they take care of themselves. Cons: they're definitely more expensive than ceramic pots and you need to plug them in for them to do their job. Here are two I found.

Aerogarden One of my friends recommended the Aerogarden to me and I remember seeing them when I worked at Bed, Bath and Beyond. A kit comes with almost everything you need, and the garden even includes the proper light. At $90, the "coffee-maker sized" Aerogarden 3 (to grow 3 plants) was a little out of my price range. I've seen a few sales, though - definitely do some shopping around if you decide to go this route! You could save $20!

Prepara Power Plant For under $40, I started my herb garden with the Prepara Power Plant Mini. I planted cilantro and basil first - I'll save the rosemary for the colder months, and I've heard that mint grows like a weed. So far, so good! I had a sprout in only 2 days and here's what it looks like after about 10 days:

Indoor garden

Simple herb gardens

To be honest, I chickened out from just going with pots with soil. There are so many more things to think about - fertilizer? Watering regularly without drowning the plant? Okay, I'm overreacting. There are other awesome ways to grow herbs indoors that have been successful for other apartment dwellers like me - there's more reading to do.

I recommend going the "starter kit" or "green house" route. They come as a whole kit, have all the reading you need, and can be really inexpensive. I bet you'll find them in the seasonal section of your nearby home improvement store or a local hardware store.

Herb-saving alternatives Once my plants start growing, I might also invest in an herb-savor. Err, maybe I'll put it on my Christmas list. This can definitely save you money in lost herbs (and even veggies like asparagus) in the long run...but it's still $30. The mini-pod might be the better way to go - still promising to keep your herbs fresh for up to 3 weeks, these are smaller and better for someone like me who only cooks for two and loves variety.

Of course, you don't need fancy gadgets. You can always dry your herbs in the microwave, too. Or - my favorite tip - freeze them in ice cube trays with olive oil! The options are endless.

Have you ever grown herbs in your apartment or small space? We'd love to hear your stories.

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