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In your quest to make your own tiny victory garden, you’ve already done your homework and gathered your supplies. Now it’s time to plant. For those of you who have only a windowsill to work with, you might be wondering what you could possibly plant there. Here it is: I’ve been casually gardening for a few years, and no matter how much excitement I get from a tomato plant or cucumber vine, few plants bring me as much consistent, ongoing pleasure (and utility!) as herbs.
Herbs? For the tiny garden? Groundbreaking, I know — but hear me out. Herbs have always been the true-blue workhorses of both the garden and the kitchen, but especially now, when sourcing fresh ingredients is a little more challenging. There’s just something so rewarding about stepping outside, snipping off a few chives or parsley leaves, and adding them to a recipe. And since herbs continue producing leaves throughout the growing season, instead of having one short-lived harvest, you can enjoy them for months on end. “You get more bang for your buck with herbs,” says Maureen O’Brien, community garden educator at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “Especially with shelter in place, I’m using a lot of pantry staples, and the herbs really liven it up.”
Herbs Grow with (Almost) Any Amount of Light
Generally gardeners have to base their planting decisions around their sunlight: Fruiting plants, such as beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini, require a bare minimum of six hours of sun, although they really benefit from closer to 12. But leafy vegetables, including most herbs, can get by with less, and most do well in a huge range of climates and conditions, from sun-drenched Southern patios to Brooklyn windowsill gardens.
Got a Windowsill? Grow Mint, the Weed You Cook With.
If you only have space for one pot of herbs, which should you choose? That question really comes down to what you enjoy cooking with the most: Leafy herbs, like basil, parsley, and mint, are all easy to grow and can thrive in a multitude of conditions, but in terms of yield and ease, mint is king.
“Mint is crazy easy to grow,” says O’Brien. The plant grows so quickly that it’s a great confidence-builder for new gardeners, and if you use a lot of leaves at once, you won’t have to wait too long for the plant to replenish itself. It’s a perennial, which means it will likely pop back up next spring for you to enjoy all over again. And while it’s easier to grow mint from an established plant rather than from seed, the plants themselves are easy to divide and propagate, which makes sourcing a breeze: you can probably just ask around and find a neighbor willing to chop off a sprig and share it with you. (In fact, when it comes to mint, a lot of gardeners are more than happy for you to take some off of their hands, given how quickly it takes over.) Plus, with uses in both savory and sweet recipes, it’s endlessly versatile in the kitchen — and the home bar. What’s not to love?
Mint is as close to “set it and forget it” as edible plants get, but to ensure yours yields mojito materials through the growing season, be sure to plant it in potting soil (regular topsoil can be too dense for root growth in containers), and choose a container with enough room for the roots to grow.
Watering: There’s no formula for watering besides checking in with your plant daily. If the soil is dry a couple inches below the surface, it’s time for a drink. “In the high summer, you’ll often want to water once a day and sometimes twice a day because it’s so hot,” says Pennington. “You have to be really vigilant; it’s your daily morning meditation to go out and inspect your plants.”