Lifestyle, Nutrition

How to Grow Your Own Herbs & Reduce Sodium Intake

If you read my post on 8 Ways to Eliminate Bloating, you may remember that high levels of sodium in your diet can cause issues with bloating and water retention. In fact, that’s really just one way an over-abundance of sodium can be harmful. Our bodies require moderate amounts of sodium for regular function, but many American’s are consuming close to twice the amount of sodium recommended by USDA guidelines.

I started becoming mindful of my sodium intake a few years ago when I participated in a clean eating challenge with a friend. One of our agreements was no excess processed salt in meals, which I initially thought would be no big deal. Until I realized how much I had been relying on my salt shaker in my cooking. With it suddenly gone, things started tasting a pretty bland pretty quickly.

So I began trying different ways to naturally kick up the flavor in our food. One way was to add a little heat (like with hot peppers), but my husband is not a spicy food fan. Another option was using fresh herbs for seasoning. The fresher the better too, as I realized they often held ten times the flavor of their dried counterparts. After a while of buying fresh herbs in the supermarket, I realized growing my own herbs would be a cheaper, more sustainable longterm solution.

Now, to say “I’m not much of a gardener” would be an understatement. (Also not much of a housekeeper, as you can probably tell by my dirty windows. Judge me if you must.) Some people have a green thumb. Mine is more like a black thumb; black like the plague that ravaged 14th Century Europe. (But you know, with flowers and tomatoes.) There probably isn’t a crypt large enough to contain the mountain of plant bones (or I guess stems?) I’ve left in my wake over the years.

I had good intentions. Mostly ones that revolved around the fantasy of someday being an accomplished grandmotherly figure who wins prizes for best neighborhood garden and blue ribbons for vegetables at county fairs. But honestly, after years of failed attempts, wasted money in gardening supplies and a suspicious trend of plants wilting when I walked into a room, I gave up.

Until I found herbs. Herbs are different. They aren’t overly needy or demanding and, as I discovered, most are pretty easy to keep alive. (I have a three-year-old rosemary plant that’s still going strong, in spite of still being periodically forgotten about, left outside uncovered in the frost of winter and moving to a new home.) What I’m saying is that if I can do it, you can do it. And getting started is easier than you might think.

All you need to begin is a little clipping, like this mint sprig. It’s usually a faster, easier process growing a new plant from a clipping than sprouting your own seeds. It’s also cheaper if you have any friends with herb gardens who don’t mind sharing a clipping from one of their fully grown plants. (Unless you decide to take up a life of plant clipping crime; dashing around neighborhoods at night, pillaging herb gardens with a mask and a pair of scissors.)

However you come across it, once you’ve secured your clipping, it’s as easy as putting it into a container of water and placing it beside of good light source. For it to work best, you really need to try to get a fresh clipping. Don’t bother trying to grow the pre-cut herbs you find in the grocery store; I’ve tried and failed at that multiple times. They’ve usually been disconnected from the main plant and sitting on a shelf too long to have much success.

While I’ve grown plants from small clippings (sorter than my pinky), I prefer to use ones closer to the size of my palm or hand, if possible. I also find that they sprout faster if you give the bottom of the stem open space in the water, so it isn’t pressed up against the side of the container. Once your clipping station is set up, you leave it alone and wait, adding water to the container as needed the water level drops.

In a couple of weeks, the plant should begin sprouting new roots! Which is very thrilling to see for the first time, if you’re an unintentional plant serial killer like me.

I wait for the roots to grow a little bit of length moving onto the next step.

When they’re ready, fill a container with potting soil and transfer the clipping in; make sure to give the roots a little depth in the pot. If your clipping is smaller, you can plant it in a smaller container, like a coffee mug, and as the plant grows gradually upgrade it to a bigger pot when it’s ready. Set it in an area with good sunlight and continue tending and watering as needed.

I will warn you that this can become addictive. Since taking this picture a couple months ago, our sunroom has continued expanding into a bit of an herbal jungle. I’d show you an updated picture, but after repotting some plants yesterday, the place is currently a travesty of scattered soil and potting containers. (And I don’t feel like opening my housekeeping skills to further judgment than absolutely necessary today.)

I absolutely love it though, because it’s like an unending supply of fresh herbs for my kitchen. Some of my bigger plants have graduated to sitting out on the back deck and I hope they will keep growing into full-fledged bushes someday. And as you use them in your cooking, pinching or snipping bits off as you need, it actually makes for a good pruning routine to keep the plants growing and healthy.

If you were looking for a few easy options to get started, I would suggest mint, oregano or rosemary as I’ve enjoyed the greatest success with these plants. I use rosemary and oregano in everything from soups, sauces, roasts and even sprinkled on my eggs in the morning. The mint is wonderful in desserts, infused with fruit water or in smoothies and protein shakes. Mint is also a natural repellent for a variety of pesky insects and practically grows like a weed. I’m planning to sprout a couple more mint plants to grow monstrously huge and keep on our back deck for mosquito seasons.

I love basil, but it can be a little trickier to keep alive. I lost my two big basil plants last fall to some lousy soil fungus (may they rest in peace). But fortunately, when I realized the main plants were unsalvageable, I was able to snip a clipping from the top and begin regrowing it again (this time as three plants so I can do big batches of pesto sauce when they’re bigger).

Not only has my herb garden let me enjoy fresh, incredible flavors in my cooking and cut back on the need for using excessive salt, but it’s also turned into a hobby that I really enjoy. I’m still no expert (I can’t keep a sage plant alive to save my life), but this is definitely something that you can get started doing as a gardening novice. It could also be a fun family activity for the kids to get involved in the garden and in the kitchen!

Do you have any experience with herb gardening? I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you have learned over the years! Or if you have the answers to keeping sage alive, please feel free to enlighten me so that I don’t keep killing more of them.


All writing and images copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods

44 thoughts on “How to Grow Your Own Herbs & Reduce Sodium Intake”

  1. You’ve totally motivated me to start an herb garden. Quite frankly I’d been thinking of it…but I needed a little push. I live in a city where a real garden isn’t possible. And this is perfect because I love using herbs.

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  2. I’ve always wanted to grow my own herbs and spices! Growing up my mom always had herbs growing around the house. I

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  3. I’ve been thinking of growing my own herbs at home too! You inspired me to finally try it out. It seems to be easy with your detailed description. 🙂

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  4. This is a fabulous post! Thanks for sharing these tips for growing herbs. I adore growing herbs and veggies, but never thought that it would be a perfect way to reduce sodium by adding so much flavor to foods without extra salt. Brilliant!

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  5. That is so cool that you grow your own herbs! I have a black thumb so have killed many an herb…. fortunately I am turning my husband into a spice lover so that could be a good way for us to reduce sodium!

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  6. I work in a greenhouse, but I don’t have a whole lot of time for growing herbs. It seems like such a good idea, and a great way to add health benefits because you have the fresh plants on hand ready to go!

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  7. We started growing our own herbs a few years ago and though I had never done it before, I fell in love with the whole idea. It’s great to be able to add flavor to our food in a pinch (literally!) and also add mint to my daily cup of tea.

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    1. I make a lot of salsa and go through it quickly too. But honestly, I tried growing it and found it was more trouble than it’s worth. It’s high maintenance and you have to prune it back constantly before it grows long enough to seed (because once that happens it’s not really good for cooking anymore). And to have enough to use for big batches in cooking, you’d have to have a lot of big cilantro plants to harvest the amount you would want. Lol so I gave up on that and just buy cilantro at the store.

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