I’ve put together all my tips and tricks in this Guide for How To Maintain Living Herbs for months at a time!
I started buying living herbs from the grocery store about a year ago. They’re a great way to have more fresh herbs available without so much waste. It seems every time I buy a package of basil, it turns brown within a couple of days, (maybe it’s because we live up north and our produce isn’t always the freshest – who knows).
So… I started my living herb collection with basil being the star of course, and we love having it around. Just last week, I used it for Saucy Italian Baked Eggs and Fresh Vietnamese Salad Bowls. Living basil costs $4.98 for 1 bunch here versus $1.98 for a package of cut basil. It ends up being way cheaper in the long run to buy the living herbs because they last for 6-8 weeks for me.
There’s a few key points when it comes to how to maintain living herbs:
- Don’t fill the water level too high in your container. You only want to cover the roots, if you submerge the stems they will rot and the plant will die. I water my plant every 2-3 days depending on how much sun we get.
- I’ve found that quart mason jars make the best containers for keeping your living herbs alive. The living herbs available where I live always come with fairly long stems. This makes them kind of floppy if left to their own devices. The quart mason jars are just tall enough that they provide some stability to hold up my plants.
- Try not to pick too many leaves at one time! I’ve tapped out several plants with my over neediness (especially the basil). Living herbs grow slower here than my garden herbs do in the summertime, so it’s best to let them recuperate for a few days in between pickings.
- Sun for a few hours a day is great, but sun all day everyday will bleach out your leaves. They’ll still taste fine but they might look a bit different than usual.
- When harvesting you herbs, you always want to trim back to where there are two new leaves starting. This helps the plant branch out and grow bigger. If you cut back too far the plant won’t regrow itself. And should any flowers appear, definitely pinch them off. If a plant flowers and goes to seed, it will stop producing (this actually applies to all plants). Also, to keep your plants producing be sure to trim any dead parts of the plant back. A few stems die every time I get a new plant. I just trim them back to keep them from getting slimy and ruining the healthy stems.
- There will come a time where your herbs are going to be tapped out. After all, you’re just keeping them in water. If it’s been over a month, your plant is looking pale, and it’s no longer producing much – it’s time to purchase another plant.
- When you’re buying plant’s from the grocery store, diligently guard them from being smashed by your other groceries. Living herbs are fairly fragile, so I always carry mine out of the store, and never let them put your herbs in with the other groceries at the checkout. This is key for how to maintain living herbs because if they come home damaged, you’re more likely to loose them!
- You can actually plant your living herbs in potting soil if you like. My mom always brings in some basil indoors from her garden in the fall. When that plant runs out, she purchases living herbs from the store and puts them in pots to get her by until spring comes again. I prefer to keep mine in water in the mason jars because they are the perfect size to sit on my windowsill.
I’m not sure how many mason jars full of herbs I can fit on my sunniest window sill. But I’m sure trying to add to the collection. This winter I’ve had basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. And I’m hoping to add mint this week if it’s back in stock.
What’s your favorite fresh herb?