Herbs are great edibles to grow in our Singapore apartment homes. They are required in small amounts but greatly elevate our dishes. Start your own herbs at home with these helpful tips, you might be picking fresh herbs straight from your balcony or windowsills for your next recipes.
1. Pick herbs that match your gardening experience
Herbs have different growing difficulty level in the Singapore climate. Easy to grow herbs are heat-tolerant and less sensitive to soil moisture. Examples of beginner-friendly herbs are:
- Thai Baisl
- Curry leaf plant
- Laksa leaf plant, and
- Indian Borage
On the other hand, the most challenging herbs are Mediterranean herbs. Examples are rosemary, sage, and thyme. As opposed to our hot and humid climate, these herbs originate from the warm and dry Mediterranean environment. As a result, growers have to put in more effort to reproduce these conditions in our gardens.
2. Prepare the right potting soil
Herbs love soil with good drainage. High water retention or water-logged potting soil can easily lead to root rot. If you are buying your potting soil off the shelf, choose a mix like this Vege Potting Soil that comes with 10% perlite or LECA pellets. These gritty materials ensure good aeration in the soil.
For growing Mediterranean herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, or Sage which dislike over-watering, top up with perlite or LECA pellets up to 40% of your soil composition.
3. Manage exposure to sunlight and heat
Herbs have to get about 4-5 hours of the equivalent of direct sunlight daily. In fact, most herbs prefer full sun exposure. Light powers photosynthesis that produces food for the plants. If no location in your apartment can possibly get your plants that amount of light to maintain their healthy growth, turn to artificial light for help.
The most indicative symptom of insufficient sunlight is slow or no plant growth. Other symptoms include plants appear leggy as they try to reach towards any available light. As for variegated plants, purple ruffle basils for example, can lose leaf variegation and become solid green if there is too little sunlight received.
While direct full sun can boost your herb growth, be aware that the full sun also comes with high heat. Most herbs do not do well in the high temperature of Singapore's afternoon sun. When your plants are less than 2 weeks old or just been bought back from the nursery, keep them below 30°C. Place your herbs in a shady spot in the afternoon.
Image Credit: NPark
4. Space out your herbs
Italian Parsley in Vertical Planter
Maintaining sufficient space between herb plants promotes air circulation and light exposure. Sowing small herbs like parsley and coriander close together works fine. However, for larger herbs like basil and lemon balm, compacted leaves lead to poor airflow. Poor airflow between the leaves makes the plant a haven for fungal and pest in high humidity Singapore.
There are two ways to maintain good spacing between your herb plants. Firstly, space out your large herbs minimally 25cm apart when seeding or transplanting. Secondly, prune your herbs diligently. Pruning not only encourages your herbs to become fuller or bushier, but it also opens airflow. Better air movement prevents insects from settling in and reduces fungal or bacterial diseases.
5. Fertilize your soil regularly
Similar to other plants, herbs rely on the soil to get their essential nutrients. The absence or lack of these nutrients can lead to stunted growth, weak plants, or cell death. Start fertilizing your herbs when they are one month old. After that, fertilize monthly and top up with a thin layer (2-3cm) of compost to ensure your herbs are well-fed.
For a better understanding of plant nutrition and fertilizing, refer to our complete guide on fertilizing
6. Water sparingly
In general, herbs require less water than leafy or fruiting vegetables. However, we tend to water our plants generously due to the hot weather in Singapore. The common mistake we make when growing herbs in Singapore is overwatering.
Herbs are adapted to growing in drier conditions. Herbs that prefer dry soil are rosemary, thyme, sage, and lavender. Only water them when the soil is almost drying up. These herbs are prone to root rot due to overwatering. It is advisable to get a soil moisture meter, only water when the meter drops to 1-2.
Soil Moisture Meter
Herbs that are slightly more moisture-loving include basil, mint, Indian borage, and dill. If you are using a moisture meter, keep the soil moisture of these herbs at 3-4.