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Paul Abraham: Improve your mental health by windowsill gardening, even in a high-rise flat

By Paul Abraham of www.headingonwards.com

The most important thing to remember is that by cultivating even the smallest plant inside windowsill, will lift your mood and add lovely scents and lots of greenery to your home.

So, if you’re looking for a new hobby that will help calm your mind and lift your spirits, give windowsill gardening a go: you’ll soon see, and feel, a real difference.

The other great thing about windowsill gardening is that it costs very little to get started. A used butter tub makes an ideal growing container. Packets of seeds can be bought in supermarkets for £1 or £1.50 per packet, some even do special offers of three packets for the price of two, a gardening bargain!

If you have a friend or friends who intend to start windowsill gardening then why not share packets of seeds and compost with them to cut costs further.

You could even create your own little gardening club with neighbours or friends. Each person could put a £1 a week in to a “gardening” fund, just three people would generate £12 by the end of the month which enables you to buy compost/pots in bigger packs to save each of you some money.

So after choosing your windowsill, preferably one which gets plenty of sun, decide what you want to grow. Six super and easy to grow herbs are;

  • Sweet Basil: Basil brings a taste of the Mediterranean to your food! This popular annual herb is fast-growing so will last just one season. Young foliage can be picked as required, avoiding whole stems as this weakens the plant.
  • Chives: This onion flavoured herb is an easy to grow perennial herb – great for salads! They can be harvested from spring to autumn and will then die down over winter. Shoots will emerge again the following spring.
  • Rosemary: This woody-stemmed evergreen herb produces tasty leaves that can be harvested year after year. Rosemary can be added to soups, stews and casseroles; whole sprigs can be roasted with root vegetables or sprinkled over Italian breads such as focaccia to add flavour.
  • Parsley: Parsley is a biennial herb with a two-year life cycle. It is a hungry plant so ensure it is kept well fed and watered. Of the two varieties available, the curly-leaved parsley is commonly used as a garnish or in parsley sauce. Flat-leaved parsley has a stronger taste as is used more widely in Mediterranean recipes.
  • Thyme: This small leaved evergreen herb will form mounds of edible foliage all year round but it is best to ‘rest’ the plant in winter when it isn’t actively growing. There are many varieties of thyme available with different aromas and uses ranging from soups, sauces and adding to fish and meat dishes.
  • Lemon Balm: This herb is used in traditional medicine as both a sleep aid and digestive tonic. It can be consumed as a tea, taken as a supplement or extract, or applied to the skin in balms and lotion. Lemon balm essential oil is also popular in aromatherapy, where it is believed to promote calmness and ease stress.

If you decide to use butter tubs to grow your seeds in, then make some drainage holes in the bottom of the tub and place on a saucer or something similar to avoid marking and wetting you sill.

Seed packets now give really clear instructions on how to sow your seeds and watering advice.

One thing to always remember is not to fill your tub or pot full to the top, always leave a few centre meters from compost to the top to make watering your plants a lot easier.

To speed seed germination, a great little tip is to place the tub/pot in a clear plastic bag which increases the humidity and encourages your seeds to wake up and get growing.

Inside a plastic bag, your seeds will be able to survive as plants provide all the “air” they need for their own survival. Once your plants are growing and you decide to use some of your fresh herbs then remember to never trim more than 1/3 of the plants foliage. Pruning more than that can stress the plant.

If your herbs are flourishing and you want to preserve some for future use then it is really easy. All you need is an ice cube tray:

  • Always choose the freshest and healthiest looking shoots and wash well before chopping.
  • If you want to freeze whole leaves place them in the freezer on a baking tray and then put into bags once they have frozen individually
  • You can replace fresh herbs in recipes with the same amount of frozen herbs.

So there you have the basics of windowsill gardening, hopefully it will inspire you to give it a try and have fun and remember, talking to then helps them grow due to the carbon dioxide we exhale as we speak and if it’s good enough for Prince Charles to do then it’s good enough for us! Happy gardening.

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