How to Grow Spices At Home


* This article may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Lots of people have herb gardens, but not everyone has a spice garden! Learn how to grow your own spices at home with this step-by-step guide.When I first learned that there was someone successfully growing spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin and vanilla at home in North Carolina, my mind was honestly blown. I had honestly never considered it could even be possible to grow “exotic” spices like these at home in North America. But Tasha Greer, author of the brand new book Grow Your Own Spices is here to prove that it’s not just possible to grow spices at home in most gardening zones, but that you can actually improve your garden and sharpen your skills 

Whether you’re a new gardener or you already have a bit of experience, growing a few spices at home can help you increase your harvests and expand your gardening skills for all of your crops. Here’s how…

 

The 3 types of spices, and how to grow them at home

 

Seed Spices

Seed spices like dill, fennel, fenugreek, nigella, cumin, sesame, mustard, and caraway are excellent for boosting overall crop production and learning seed saving skills.

Seed spices must flower to produce abundant seeds. Those flowers are not only critical to spice production but also perfect for attracting beneficial pollinators to your garden.

The more pollinators you attract, the more fruitful your other pollinator-dependent plants like cucumbers, squash, apples, peaches, etc. will be.

Also, growing and harvesting seed spices employs the same basic skills as saving seeds to plant in the garden. You must plan for pollination, identify the perfect time to harvest, and store those spices like you would heirloom and open pollinated garden seeds.

Once you know how to grow and harvest seed spices, you’ll be ready to save seeds for your vegetables too. 

Related: 13 Culinary & Medicinal Herbs You Can Grow At Home

 

Underground Spices

Growing spices like ginger, turmeric, garlic, wasabi, and horseradish for their harvestable underground parts is also a great gateway to expand your understanding of soil amendments and good watering practices.

Spices harvested for their rhizomes, roots, enlarged stems, and bulbs require deeper, more fertile soil than many of the shallow-rooted annuals grown in a typical vegetable garden.

To achieve that kind of soil, you must become skilled at making soilless potting mixes or amending your native soil with aged compost and other aerators like leaf mold or coconut coir to promote drainage. You will also need to maintain soil fertility using liquid fertilizers like homemade compost tea to get the best yields.

Learning to make your own potting soil mixes, improving native soil, and maintaining soil fertility to grow underground spices are key skills that will also make a big difference when applied to your vegetable production.

You’ll also need to master the art of deep watering to ensure moisture and nutrients are available in the root zone for those spices.

Deep watering takes longer at first as you need to slow soak your beds and containers to allow the water to penetrate and saturate fully. Yet, after a few deep waterings, your soil will begin to hold moisture longer so you can water less frequently going forward.

By trading the habit of watering shallow soil daily, for watering fertile soil deeply and only as needed, you drive roots, organic matter, and soil life further underground where it’s easier for nutrients and moisture to remain stable and available to plants. Also, plants with deeper roots are naturally more drought and disease resistant.

Practicing these skills while growing underground spices, then applying them to your other crops, can dramatically improve your yields throughout your vegetable garden.

 

Perennial Spices

Perennial spices such as cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and peppercorns require a long-term commitment to care. Yet for those of us who don’t live in a tropical climate, they are also fantastic teachers that can help us learn to create our own microclimates for growing plants outside their native habitat. Plus, you can keep them indoors part, or all of the year, to add stunning beauty to your indoor home space.

Lots of people have herb gardens, but not everyone has a spice garden! Learn how to grow your own spices at home with this step-by-step guide.

Cardamom and patchouli growing side by side.

 

Creating microclimates for growing spices

Microclimate creation can seem daunting at first. But really, it’s just a matter of adapting the skills you already use to keep your home comfortable for the health of your plants. 

Your home is a microclimate!

As an example, most of us like to cool our homes to about 78. Yet we may only heat our homes to 68 degrees. This is because our tolerance for heat increases in summer just as our comfort zone for cold expands in winter. So, we adjust our thermostats seasonally to accommodate our tolerances.

For perennial spices, it’s the same. They need more heat during their active growing season but can tolerate cooler conditions when daylight diminishes. In some cases, our comfort preferences coincide directly with our plants’ needs.

As such, our homes are often the perfect environment for many spice plants too. To grow spices indoors, though, you may need to make a few adjustments to your indoor conditions with respect to the following. 

 

Humidity

Tropical and subtropical spices like more humidity than humans typically do. Keep a bowl of water near your plants or run a small humidifier in their vicinity. Or mist the plants with a gentle spray of water regularly to increase humidity.

Additionally, grow several humidity loving plants close together. They will work together to create a humid mini-ecosystem.   

 

Light

Spice plants also have specific light requirements for peak productivity. For example, black pepper and vanilla like bright, filtered sunlight such as through the leaves of a taller plant. Young cinnamon likes part shade but mature cinnamon likes full sun.

Cardamom is adaptable to anything from full sun to part shade while growing. But it needs full sun once it is mature enough to start flowering.

To achieve the right light for perennial spices at home, start them on the outer perimeter of the light radius of your sunny side windows. Then move them closer to the window every few days until you find the light level they love. Also the shade side of the plant toward the sun every few days so you get equal sun all around.

Spices are quite responsive to changes in light quantity. When you get it right their leaves will appear more supple, glossy, and perky. When you get it wrong, they’ll look lackluster and depleted. It’s kind of like us in bad lighting!

Keep in mind, you’ll also need to adjust plant position throughout the year as the sun angle changes. Also note, areas around windows can be cooler than the rest of your house in winter. So, you may need to make environmental adjustments to keep plants tropical warm near cool window areas. Alternatively, use indoor grow lights if you don’t have a warm, sunny window available.

There is so much to learn from growing a variety of spices for seeds, underground parts, or perennial harvests. Moreover, all the skills you use to keep those spices healthy are directly applicable to your annual vegetable garden and perennial food plots. So, why not pick a few and get started?

 

3 exotic spices to try growingat home

Here are three of my favorite spices that are fun, relatively easy to grow, and highly rewarding for beginner and advanced gardeners alike!

 

1. Fenugreek

(Full sun, cool season annual, grown for seed)

Lots of people have herb gardens, but not everyone has a spice garden! Learn how to grow your own spices at home with this step-by-step guide.

Fenugreek is a nitrogen fixing legume that grows great outdoors in the ground or in pots. It takes 3-4 months from planting seeds to when you’ll harvest seeds. You can find seeds online through various herb and heirloom seed sellers.

Fenugreek is self-fertile which means you can get seeds with just one plant. However, you’ll want to plant several together to harvest for spice and attract pollinators with its incredibly fragrant aroma. 

  • In early spring, after risk of frost, soak seeds for a few hours immediately prior to planting. Then plant about ¼ inch deep in prepared garden soil. 
  • Grow 3 plants together in a 2-gallon pot. Or grow 4 plants together per square foot in your beds.
  • Otherwise grow fenugreek as you would bush-type spring peas.
  • Allow the fine, narrow pods to dry on the plant.
  • Shell small batches like tiny dried beans or thresh/winnow larger batches.

 

2. Turmeric

(Part to full sun, tropical, perennial grown as an annual)

Lots of people have herb gardens, but not everyone has a spice garden! Learn how to grow your own spices at home with this step-by-step guide.

Turmeric is grown much like ginger. However, its large wide leaves, resembling banana leaves, make for a more impactful house or patio plant.

Turmeric grows best when temperatures are above 70. It’s stressed by temperatures below 55. Grow it indoors in cold weather and move it outdoors in warm weather. Alternatively, in areas with warm fall conditions and late first frosts, you can start it indoors and transplant it outside when your tomatoes go out.

  • Order a turmeric “mother” from a reputable supplier online. These are usually delivered pre-sprouted for early spring planting.
  • Plant the mother 2 inches deep in a 3-gallon pot filled with a compost rich potting mix.
  • Grow in a sunny window, indoors until you put your tomatoes out. Then move the pot to a wind protected, full or part sun location outdoors. Or continue to grow indoors in a very warm, sunny location.
  • If transplanting to outdoor garden beds, start indoors in a 1-gallon pot of aged compost. Then, transplant the entire contents of the pot into beds with deep, rich soil once temperatures are consistently above 55.
  • Fertilize turmeric weekly while watering using compost tea or organic liquid vegetable fertilizer.
  • Harvest rhizomes starting in late summer once they are of sufficient size for fresh use.
  • For drying, long-term storage, or to save and replant next year — wait until the leaves begin to die naturally in fall to harvest.
  • Use the fingers that grow from the side of the mother as spice. Save the mother (central body of the rhizome) to plant again in spring.
  • To dry, boil the fingers to soften then dehydrate and powder.

 

3. Vanilla

(Filtered-light-loving, tropical perennial)

Lots of people have herb gardens, but not everyone has a spice garden! Learn how to grow your own spices at home with this step-by-step guide.

A new vanilla cutting just starting to climb.

Vanilla is a vining orchid that grows in forest litter. It’s also an epiphyte that attaches to (but doesn’t harm) taller plants using aerial roots.

  • Buy vine cuttings or pre-started plants online.
  • Start it, or pot up, in a 2-gallon pot of orchid soil mix.
  • As it grows, give it trellising to support its length. The vine must grow up 3-5 feet then grow back down to flower. Lattice type trellises, or a wide board, will allow the plant to zig zag up and down in small spaces.
  • Vanilla feeds on decaying bark and leaf matter. Top off your pot with fresh orchid soil mix as needed to keep it nourished. Also, use orchid plant food or compost tea one monthly to feed the microorganisms that help decay the soil mix.
  • For happy vanilla, keep the growing medium constantly moist but never boggy.
  • Aim for relative humidity above 60%. Mist the vines in dry conditions.
  • Keep it above 60 in winter and as close to 80 as you can get it from mid-spring to fall.
  • When it begins to flower, in about 3-4 years, hand pollinate new flowers each morning using a toothpick. Here’s a wonderful video tutorial that shows you how. 

–> Check out this video to learn how to pollinate vanilla flowers.

 

A world of spices to discover

These three examples are just the beginning of all the amazing spices you can grow at home. There’s a whole world of spices out there to explore.

Let the adventure begin!

 

Want more??

P.S. Want more? The October 2020 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine is all about spices: from their fascinating history to how to grow and use them at home. Subscribe now for FREE and get the latest issue delivered straight to your inbox!

P.P.S. Click here to preorder Tasha’s book, Grow Your Own Spices and get it as soon as it’s available this December!

 

 


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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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Okay, I’m just gonna come out and say it: I’m a total sucker for pumpkin spice.

Call me #basic, but it’s the truth.

In fact, I’m all about everything fall: the colours, the coziness, the sweater weather, and yes, pumpkins and pumpkin spice. There’s just something comforting and nostalgic about it; Like grandma’s kitchen or the warm scent of pumpkin pie that wafts from the table at holiday dinners with family and friends.

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As much as I'm honestly kinda over the garden by this time of year and ready to tuck in indoors and rest for a while, I know that the effort I put into my garden in the fall will pay a huge return come next spring and summer when we're ready to plant and then harvest our next round of crops.

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And of course, garlic should be planted in the fall before your first frost to ensure huge bulbs next summer. Us homesteaders always have to be thinking ahead a few seasons!

I'm taking you into our garden as we're tearing it down and planting out our garlic. I'll show you our fall gardening routine and I'll walk you through planting garlic so you can start growing it at home too! (It's honesty the easiest, most rewarding crop that we grow).

It's time for the grand finale in the garden this year as we tear it down and prep it for next spring. Will you join me for one last hurrah?

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Sometimes I question why I do what I do. Why do I take on so much? Why do I bother making everything from scratch and growing a garden and preserving food when I could just as well buy it from the store and save myself a ton of time and effort?⁣⁣⁣
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Why am I working hard to build a business out of my passion when I could just as easily go to work for a pay check and just enjoy homesteading as a hobby on the side?⁣⁣⁣
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Why do I choose to do everything the hard way and see against the grain? Why not just go with the flow and hope for the best?⁣⁣⁣
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I can’t say for sure that I would have chosen to follow all the same paths that I’ve gone down over the past few years had I not become a mother, but what I 𝘥𝘰 know for sure is that my beautiful daughter is worth every ounce of hard work; every dollar I’ve invested in our future goals and dreams; every late night work fest and canning session; every seed planted and loaf of bread baked.⁣

She’s worth it because I want to give her the best I can in life. I want her to eat good food and live a long and healthy life. I want to teach her how to be self-sufficient so that she has the skills she needs no matter what kind of world awaits her in the future. And I want to show her that anything is possible and any dream is worth pursuing, even if the work that it takes to achieve it is harder than following the herd and taking the road of least resistance.⁣⁣⁣
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This little human right here: this is my why. This girl and her goofy smile make everything worthwhile ❤️⁣⁣⁣
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What (or who?) is your why?
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This growing season has seriously been the strangest I’ve experienced so far. Summer came so late we thought it wasn’t gonna come at all. Our greens and peas and spring crops produced for weeks longer then they normally do as we waited FOREVER for our tomatoes and peppers and summer crops to grow and ripen.

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Can you imagine how bland and boring our food (and life) would be without spices??⁣

Seriously! We take them for granted nowadays because they’re so readily available in our pantries and on grocery store shelves. But for thousands of years throughout history, spices were coveted, revered and hard to get. For around 1,500 years, spices travelled overland on camelback and horseback on the Silk Road from China to the west. And then, just over 500 years ago, explorers set out into the unknown to find a maritime trading route, and one of those explorers just so happened to stumble on the Americas along the way, essentially shaping history and the modern world as we know it. ⁣

But besides history and geography, the science behind spices is just as fascinating. Their culinary and medicinal uses have had a huge impact on the world and on the dishes we enjoy on a regular basis today. Oh, and did you know that, scientifically speaking, it’s actually possible to GROW even the most “exotic” spices at home, right here in North America??⁣

I LOVE to geek out on this sort of stuff, so doing the research for the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine was actually so much fun. (If you hadn’t guessed, this issue is all about spices!!)⁣

I’d love to tell you so much more right here, but I’m a bit limited on space! However, you can read more about the fascinating story of spices, their culinary and medicinal uses, how to put them to use in your kitchen and yes, even how to grow them at home in the October issue.⁣

So if you’re already subscribed, be sure to check your inbox for the latest issue (it came out yesterday). And if you’re NOT yet subscribed, then head on over and click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to subscribe for FREE, and get the latest issue delivered straight to your inbox!⁣

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In the garden, some plants are dead or dying. There’s brown, crispy stems, dried pea pods bursting with next year’s seeds and a natural layer of mulch in the form of fallen leaves. But at the same time there’s still so much life. So much greenery and colour. So much of summer still left.⁣

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But this year our return to our “normal” fall routines is anything but. For many families, there is no return to school. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Instead, more families than ever before have found themselves educating their children at home for the first time, whether by force or by choice. And trying to balance all of the usual September tasks with navigating full-time homeschooling can feel daunting, to say the least.⁣

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I just love Ginny’s approach to homeschooling and if you’re anything like me, I think you will too. You can check out her full post by clicking the link in my bio or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homeschooling-on-the-homestead/

It’s also Ginny's first time guest posting so be sure to leave a comment while you’re there and let us know what school looks like for your family this year.⁣

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead
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I’ve been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders lately. Between balancing work and the garden and all of the canning and preserving tasks this time of year, I’ve already got enough on my plate. Add a string of social commitments, back-to-school and extracurricular activities, and I’m definitely feeling the pressure, as I usually do this time of year.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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But lump on a pandemic, worsening political tensions, division and civil unrest, intensifying environmental disasters (we’re currently socked in with smoke from the California wildfires), and it all just becomes too much to bear some days.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I know I’m far from the only one who’s feeling this way. And yet, we all have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going even when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed and burnt out. Even when the present is frightening and the future is uncertain.⁣

I’ve developed some strategies over the past few years that have helped me keep moving forward and get things done even when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, and I want to share them with others who need help coping with stress and overwhelm right now too.⁣⁣
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You can check out my list of 10 tips for managing stress and overwhelm on the homestead (and in life!) by clicking the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead and then clicking the link to the full blog post at the top.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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You can also grab my free time management planner by clicking the link in my bio and then clicking on “Free Resource Library,” (find it under “Homesteading & Self-Sufficiency Resources” in the library).⁣⁣⁣
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No matter what you’re struggling with right now, I hope some of these tips help keep you navigate these extra stressful times and stay focused and moving forward with your to-do list, as well as with your big goals and dreams. But most of all, I hope it reminds you that if you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed right now, you’re not alone.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to read more.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I don’t think I have a jar big enough for this pickling cucumber 🥒 ⁣

What do you do with the huge pickling cukes that inevitably get missed in the garden??⁣

Please leave suggestions below! I’ve got two of ‘em! 😂
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Late summer is truly the time of abundance (and by far the busiest time of year for us).⁣⁣⁣
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We’ve got so much food that’s ripe for the picking in our own garden, plus baskets full of produce that we purchase locally when it’s in season and preserve for the winter.⁣⁣⁣
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Between harvesting and preserving (and trying my best to document it all for you along the way), there’s little time for much else in August.⁣⁣⁣
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We’re busy sweating in the garden and the kitchen, working around the clock to preserve all of the fruits (and vegetables) of summer so that come winter we hunker down and relax knowing we’ve got a pantry full of food to sustain us.⁣⁣⁣
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While there have been more times than I like to admit when I’ve asked myself why we do this when we could be at the beach or floating down the river like everyone else, come winter I am ALWAYS grateful for the time and energy we invested in the spring, summer and fall to grow and preserve all of the food that lines our pantry shelves.⁣⁣⁣
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With everything that 2020 has brought so far (and more uncertainty to come), this year I’m feeling grateful even in the thick of it; Even while I’m sweating and pulling late night canning sessions and constantly scraping dirt out from under my nails. This year it’s more apparent than ever how much growing and preserving our own food is worth the time and effort that it takes.⁣⁣⁣
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If you feel the same way and you’re looking to get even better at gardening, preserving and homesteading in general, or maybe you’re finally ready to start living a more sustainable lifestyle where YOU have control over your food supply, I highly encourage you to check out the Gardening & Sustainable Living Bundle (link in bio @thehouseandhomestead). It’s packed with almost $600 worth of resources designed to help you take control of your food security and live a more self-sufficient life, and it’s on sale today only for just $19.99!⁣

If you ask me, we would all be wise to invest in our own food security as we head into fall and winter 2020, so click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to grab your bundle now. The sale ends tonight at midnight so don’t wait!!
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