Owning a house with a garden has become a distant possibility for most of us owing to lack of housing space, soaring prices of real estate etc. In spite of this, having your own tiny garden is not at all impossible. A few herbs that are needed daily in the kitchen can be grown quite effortlessly. These herbs can be planted well in terracotta pots or used tin and plastic containers. All you need is a few minutes of your time daily and a well-lit spot near your windows or a balcony if you have in your home.

The common herbs that you can grow in containers are:

1) Mint (Mentha): This fragrant herb is a favorite in the Indian kitchens. It is used in a variety of preparations such as chutneys, gravies, marinades, and as garnishing for some dishes. Fresh mint is alsogrowing-mint300x2991 used in some cooling and appetising drinks. In addition to these, mint is also used in various face masks and body scrubs to improve skin texture and to get rid of blemishes. The fresh green color of mint is very soothing and pleasing to the eyes. The essential oils that are responsible for the typical aroma of the mint also helps to keep away flies and mosquitoes. To grow mint, you can obtain seeds or saplings from the local nursery. Better still, the next time you buy a bunch of mint, save a few thick, firm and healthy-looking sprigs of mint. remove all the leaves and plant these sprigs, about 2 to 4 sprigs in a medium-sized container. Water these just enough so that the soil is kept moist and place the pot in sunlit area. Within no time, the sprigs will form roots and the mint will start filling out nicely.

2) Tulsi or Basil (Ocimum sanctum): This is a beautiful is2plant which is sacred to all Hindus and is a must for every home. Traditionally, tulsi is used to cure coughs and colds,  sinuses, fevers, various skin ailments and to boost immunity. Tulsi leaves can also be used to flavour pasta dishes, salads, and pizza toppings. It sstrong aromatic flavour gives a distinct taste to the food. Growing tulsi around the house keeps the air pure and also keeps flies and mosquitoes away. There are different varieties of tulsi that can be planted. Two of the popular varieties are Krishna Tulsi: Has beautiful purplish leaves with tiny purple flowers and has the most medicinal properties. Ram Tulsi: Of a fresh green color is lighter in color than Krishna Tulsi.
One advantage of plating tulsi is that it seeds itself; meaning the seeds keep spreading and germinating by itself.

3) Lemon grass (Cymbopogon): Also known as citronella grass, this tall grass-like herb has a beautifullemon_grass lemony scent and looks quite ornamental with long silvery-green blades. Lemon grass is used a lot in Asian cuisines such as soups, curries, noodles and teas. Most commonly it is added to tea during rainy and winter seasons. Lemon grass is used as a cure for colds and coughs, sore throats and cinuses.
A very easy-to-make tea flavoring can be made from lemon grass as follows:
Washed and finely cut lemon grass about two cups full. Dry these thoroughly in the sun for a couple of days. Next combine these leaves with a quarter cup each of cloves, black pepper, dried ginger (Saunth) and make a fine powder in the mixer. Store this in an airtight container. While brewing tea, add this powder to tea in a proportion of half a teaspoon for one cup tea. Let it boil for a few minutes and then strain and serve. It is an excellent drink especially you have arrived home soaking wet in the rains. This will boost your immunity as well as keep infections away if taken regularly.

4) Coriander (Coriandrum sativum): An essential ingredient in the Indian cooking, it looks very beautiful coriander1with its lovely green decorative leaves. Coriander has beneficial antioxidant properties and the leaves are also found to have antibacterial properties against Salmonella. Coriander is also used as carminative and as a digestive aid. Coriander is used in a number of preparations such as chutneys, gravies, various rice preparations, salads and as a garnishing ingredient. It is also used to prepare a variety of snacks in Maharashtra such as the popular lip-smacking kothimbir wadi. To plant coriander, crush dried coriander seeds witha  flat-bottomed cup or a rolling pin in such a way so that the seeds are halved. This facilitates faster germination. After sowing seeds, cover the seeds generously with a layer of soil and place the pots in such a place so that they are not within easy rich of the birds, especially sparrows who love to eat them.

5) Methi or fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): Mostly used to prepare vegetables such as methialoo-methi, methi matar malai etc. and in methi parathas. Dried methi leaves, commonly called kasoori methi is used as a spice in many preparations. To facilitate faster germination of methi seeds, soak the seeds overnight and then plant the seeds.

To prepare the pots for planting:

1) If you are using terracotta pots, ensure that they have drainage holes at the bottom. If using plastic or tin containers, poke a few small holes at the bottom for draining excess water.

2) Cover these holes with broken pieces of clay pot or small pieces of bricks. Next pour a layer of sand over it. These two layers act as a filter and trap the soil from flowing out with water. This will also ensure that the holes do not get clogged up with soil.

3) Pour soil over the sandy layer which has been mixed with a fertiliser of your choice. Preferably use compost or vermicompost. A mixture of rice husk or cocoa peat may also be added to it.

4) Place the pots or containers in plastic dishes so that the water drained out does not spoil the flooring.

These plants can also be used as accent pieces as a part of the interiors. Keeping these plants separately at strategic locations or grouped together on a window sill will give a distinct and aesthetic appeal to your home. The color variation and the shapes of leaves of these plants will create an interesting effect, eg, mint, basil, and lemon grass kept together will create quite a striking effect due to their distinct fresh green, purplish green and silvery green colors. Similarly you can experiment by grouping these plants using various combinations. Smaller pots can be used as a center piece for your dining table when entertaining guests. Along with this arrangement being pleasing to the eyes, it will also give off subtle and earthy fragrance, very pleasing to the senses.

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