Even if you don’t have outdoor gardening space, there are plenty of herbs that you can grow indoors successfully on a sunny windowsill. If you do grow herbs in your garden, fall is a great time to think about starting an indoor windowsill herb garden to grow herbs indoors so you can enjoy their fresh flavor all winter long.
Fresh herbs invigorate every meal and just make everything taste good. During the growing season, I love stepping into my garden and harvesting herbs by the handful for cooking whenever I need them.
- Grow Herbs Indoors: 5 Herbs that Thrive Inside:
- Some Helpful Tips:
- Herb Garden Starter Kits:
- I hope I have provided you with some tools to succeed in your attempt to grow herbs indoors over winter. The most important tip is to select herbs that can withstand low light of the winter sun and temperature fluctuations that they may experience on a kitchen windowsill.
- You May Also Like:
- Herb Garden Starter Kits:
- 1. Provide Strong Light For Your Indoor Herb Garden.
- 2. The Temperature Should Be Between 60-70 Degrees.
- 3. An Infrequent, Slow Thorough Watering is Best.
- 4. Select The Best Herb Pots For Your Indoor Herbs
- 5. Grow Each Herb in a Separate Pot.
- 6. Flush Indoor Herb Pots with Water To Remove Fertilizer Salt Buildup.
- 7. Select The Best Indoor Potting Mix Or Soil For Your Herbs.
- 8. Feed Your Herbs With A Seaweed Or Fish Based Fertilizer.
- 9. Provide Good Air Circulation.
- 10. Show Your Indoor Herbs Some Love.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Indoor Herb Garden – How To Have An Herb Garden Inside
- Starting an Indoor Herb Garden
- How to Grow Herbs Indoors
- Type of Container
- Herb Varieties & Lighting Requirements
- Make Your Own Potting Soil
- Self Watering Herb Gardens
- Window Gardens
- Revive the Shelf
- Keeping it Vertical
- Endless Flavor: Grow Garlic Indoors!
- Put That Empty Windowsill to Good Use
- Caddy Up and Create a Transportable Garden
- Get Another Handle on Recyclable Favorites
- Chalk it Up to a Great Idea
- The Power of Light
- Stackable Solutions
- Clothespin-able Planters?
- Let Your Rainy Days Just Drip Away…
- Within Reach
- It’s All in the Details
- Hang it Take Two: Add Lighting
- Hanging Around Takes Tres
- Modern Edges
- This One Takes the Cut
- Bring it on Back… WAY Back
- Harvestable Indoor Garden Solutions
- New Twist on an Old Favorite
- Re-clutter Your Gutter
- Window Space: Put it to Use
- Pots Galore!
- Aluminum Genius
- Simple Love, Simple Label
- Care For a Spot of Tea?
- Shelving Update
- Make Space!
- The Indoor Herbage How To: Read This
- Let’s Get Started!
- How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden
- Tips for Growing an Indoor Herb Garden
- More Indoor Herb Garden Resources:
- Recipes Using Herbs
- PRODUCTS TO GET YOU STARTED
- How to Grow Herbs Indoors: Easy? Maybe not. Rewarding? Hell yeah.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have fresh homegrown herbs on hand even during the winter months?
Fall is a great time to think about starting an indoor windowsill herb garden to grow herbs indoors. Now that the garden is winding down, I am potting up some plants so I will have a fresh supply of fresh herbs all winter. I simply dig up a few clumps, pot them into 6-inch containers with fresh potting mix, and place them in a south-facing window that receives plenty of light during the day.
I’ve experimented over the years with various ways to grow herbs indoors during the winter. Some do fine while others need more light and warmth than a kitchen windowsill provides. However, there are plenty of herbs that can be grown indoors successfully through winter on a sunny windowsill. Here are my top five favorite herbs that thrive inside:
Grow Herbs Indoors: 5 Herbs that Thrive Inside:
If you grow only one herb indoors over winter, let it be chives. The mild onion flavor compliments many dishes of numerous cuisines from breakfast to dinner. Sun: 4-6 hours. Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 55-75°F (13-24°C). Soil: All-purpose potting mix. Water: Twice a week when soil surface feels dry. Tips of foliage will turn yellow if the plant is too dry. Harvest: Once the plant is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut leaves as needed leaving at least 2 inches (5 cm) of growth above the soil. The plant will continue to grow. Purchase Chive Seeds
• How to Divide and Pot up Chives
Oregano is a staple in our household and is used most frequently in Italian dishes and as a pizza topping. Sun: 6-8 hours. Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 55-75°F (13-24°C). Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil mix. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix. Water: Water when soil surface feels dry about once a week. Oregano is susceptible to root rot so do not overwater. Harvest: Once the plant is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut stems as needed leaving at least two sets of leaves. Frequent trimmings produce a bushy, compact plant with healthier foliage making Oregano one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors over winter. Purchase Oregano Seeds
I’ve grown the same rosemary plant in a pot for the last three years. I bring inside each winter. Sun: At least 6 hours. Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 45-70°F (7-21°C) in winter. Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil mix. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix. Water: Allow top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings then water thoroughly. Rosemary likes to stay on the dry side. Harvest: Once the plant is 6 inches (15 cm) tall, cut stems as needed. New growth will continue forming on the stem. Rosemary grows slowly so don’t harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at one time. Purchase Rosemary Seeds
• How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
• Tips for Keeping Rosemary Alive Indoors
The intense flavor of Thyme complements most meats, including chicken, beef, pork, and game. I use thyme in winter in crockpot stews and roast. Sun: At least 6 hours. Temperature: Average room temperature around 50-75°F (10-24°C). Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil mix. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting mix and sharp sand. Or use cactus-potting mix. Water: Allow top 1-inch (2.54 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings then water thoroughly. Once established, Thyme is drought resistant. Harvest: Once the plant is established, cut foliage as needed leaving at least 3-inch (7.5 cm) stems to continue growing. Purchase Thyme Seeds
More than just a garnish, parsley adds a light, fresh flavor and burst of color to many dishes including, roasts, grilled steaks, chicken, fish and vegetables. Sun: At least 6 hours. Temperature: Average room temperature. Will withstand temperature fluctuation of 55-75°F (13-24°C). Soil: All-purpose potting mix. Water: Twice a week when soil surface feels dry. Harvest: Once the plant is established, cut stems at the base leaving at least 2-inch (5 cm) stems to continue growing. Purchase Parsley Seeds
Some Helpful Tips:
- If you start your indoor herb garden in fall, begin with established plants so they will continue to grow indoors over winter and produce quicker. Growing from seeds requires more attention and time before the herbs can be harvested and used. I like beginning with established plants potted up from the garden, purchased from a nursery or garden center, or rooted from plant cuttings. See: How to Pot Up Chives and 7 Herbs to Start from Seed
- If you have houseplants, it is a good idea to quarantine any plants brought in from your garden for a while to be sure there are no hitchhikers such as pests or disease. Leave these in a separate room for several weeks to be sure there are no surprises.
- Propagating herbs from cuttings is a quick way to establish a plant. Cut a 5-inch stem, strip off the bottom few inches of leaves, place stem in water to root, plant into pots once roots develop, and water frequently until established. Then water as needed. See: How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
- Fertilizer can be used to give the herbs a boost to help them grow indoors. Feed your herbs with liquid seaweed or to dress with compost in late winter as daylight begins to increase.
- If you don’t have a sunny south facing window, use a grow light or fluorescent light to supplement lighting: Build Your Own Grow Light System.
Herb Garden Starter Kits:
It’s easy to begin growing your own herbs with these herb garden starter kits. The herb garden kits make great gifts too.
- Herb Garden Starter Kit
- Tea Herbs Garden Kit
This article was originally published on September 30, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.
You May Also Like:
- 7 Herbs to Start from Seed
- How to Harvest and Dry Herbs for Storage
- How to Grow an Indoor Garden
- 10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Organic Food
Herbs can easily be grown indoors as long as you make sure to get started off the right way. The key to successfully creating an indoor kitchen herb garden is understanding the plant’s requirements & making sure to give them what they need. It’s that simple.
Set of 3 Happy Little Herbs Indoor Herb Garden with Tray (available on Etsy)
Follow these 10 important tips to create your own Kitchen Herb Garden Indoors and you will enjoy a healthy supply of fresh herbs for years to come.
1. Provide Strong Light For Your Indoor Herb Garden.
The more light you can provide for your indoor herb garden, the better off they will be. Did you know the intensity of the light contributes to the flavor of your herbs? Herbs grown in strong bright light will most definitely have the best flavor. Good strong light also encourages their growth. Providing enough light is one of the most important factors in successfully growing herbs indoors.
The Rustic Charm Herb Trio Kit with Planter Pots by Window Garden
Herbs prefer 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. A bright, sunny window or sunroom is an ideal location for growing herbs indoors. Southern facing windows are the best choice. You can add a small table directly in front of your window if the window sill is simply not large enough to comfortably fit your pots. Or if you have a great sunny window, but no place for a table, a suction cup window shelf is another way to create a good growing environment for your herbs.
If you don’t have a bright enough window, you can still be successful in growing herbs indoors. All you need to do is provide an additional light source. If you are growing just one or two herb pots, you can use a simple task light with a CFL bulb from the hardware store.
Small grow light setups are available for purchase in many garden centers & online retailers. They have many options available from a kitchen counter set up to a wall unit where you can grow a full herb garden. For example, the AeroGarden has created a whole line of indoor gardening systems have an LED light setup attached to the herb planter.
You can also choose to grow herbs that will do better with a little less sun. Parsley, Mint, and Chives can handle less than 6 hours of direct sunlight.
2. The Temperature Should Be Between 60-70 Degrees.
Temperature is another important factor to successfully growing herbs indoors. The ideal temperature for most herbs is between 65 to 70 degrees, which works very well in most home environments.
Occasionally when you want to slow the growth for your herb plants, the temperature can be reduced further to between 60-65 degrees. Some plants require a dormant period. If you are overwintering plants indoors, you can store them in a cooler location.
Do take care when placing herbs directly next to the window. If the leaves are touching the glass, they could burn as the glass heats up with the reflected sunlight. In homes with drafty windows, it may get too cold directly next to the window. You can easily remedy this problem by adding insulation to your windows (even a towel placed between the window & screen will help).
The most particular herb when it comes to temperature is basil. Basil loves the warmth and would prefer to be at a constant 75 degrees if possible. If basil gets too cold, you will know right away, the leaves will start wilt and discolor within 24 hours.
3. An Infrequent, Slow Thorough Watering is Best.
The key to watering herbs indoors is to allow the pots to dry out somewhat in between watering. Test the soil by using your finger. If the soil is dry about 2 inches below the top (give or take, depending on the size of the pot) then it is time to water.
Don’t worry that this is too dry & will harm your herb plants. The soil dries out from the top first, so although the top is dry, the soil is probably plenty moist at the bottom of the pot. The goal is to get the roots to grow deep down looking for water. This encourages a strong healthy root system.
Another important tip is to water your herbs slowly. If you water too quickly, the water may run straight through the pot and out the drainage holes before the soil has a chance to absorb it.
A slow thorough watering is best for indoor plants
Try to get into a regular schedule. Two to three times a week should be sufficient, depending on the moisture level in your home. Herbs should really never need to be watered daily. If you find you need to water daily, this could mean one of several things:
- The pot is too small for the herb plant. Tip the plant out & check the roots. Are the roots taking up the whole pot? This is a sure sign it’s time to move to a larger pot size.
- The humidity level in your home may be too low. In the same area as your indoor garden, add a tray filled with small pebbles. Pour enough water to just cover them. The water will evaporate around your plants giving them the extra moisture they need to stay healthy.
- It is too hot. The heat of the sun can dry out pots quicker. If your herbs seem to be drooping & consistently getting too dry you could move them back from the window a bit.
If you struggle with over or underwatering your herbs, you may want to buy a soil moisture meter. These handy gadgets will keep track of how much water the soil holds and let you know when it is time to water.
4. Select The Best Herb Pots For Your Indoor Herbs
Selecting the correct pots or containers to use when growing herbs indoors is a very important factor in determining your success.
Self-made pots are great, but make sure to include drainage holes and saucers.
- Drainage. Ensuring your Herb Pots have enough Drainage is probably the most import consideration. Any pot used to grow herbs indoors needs to have adequate drainage holes. Herbs do not like to be kept in standing water, so there needs to be a way for the water to drain out of the pot.
- Saucers. Make sure to have a saucer for every pot you use to grow herb indoors. You can very quickly damage a table or make a mess if you don’t have a container for the water to drain into. Several pots come with a saucer attached or coordinating items. You can also purchase plastic plant saucers for less than a dollar in the gardening section of most hardware stores. Or if you have a decorative tray, that works equally well.
TIP: To test the drainage of a container, fill it with water & watch how quickly or slowly the water drains from the bottom. If it drains too slowly consider adding a few pebbles in the bottom of the pot so your herb’s roots are not sitting in water. This test should be done before you add soil & your herbs!
- Size. The second most important consideration in selecting the best pot for your indoor garden plants is to select pots that are correctly sized for the type of herb you are growing. For example, basil has longer roots & will benefit from a deeper pot. If you choose a pot that is too big, it will be harder to keep the soil evenly moist. If the pot is too small for your plant, your herbs growth may be stunted.
- Materials. Choose an indoor herb pot based on the humidity level of your home. The amount of moisture can be controlled by the type of pot you choose. Ceramic pots will hold in the water, while clay pots can dry out faster. If you have a drier environment, use ceramic pot instead of clay or porous pots.
- Design. Have fun with the design. Use this opportunity to spice up your kitchen or living room with some colorful pots. And don’t limit yourself to the traditional pots. You can re-purpose many household items and turn them into unique herb planters. For example: you can punch holes in the bottom of some empty tomato tin cans. This makes for a very decorative pizza herb garden. Or consider using plastic inserts inside decorative baskets. This can be another opportunity for a family project. Head out to garage sales on the hunt for unique containers to use in making herb pots.
The herb pots below are one of my favorites trios. They are sold by the Etsy seller NaturalieCraftieHome. They cover all the bases above with the perfect size, style, and design to grow your own indoor culinary herbs.
Set of 3 Happy Little Herbs Indoor Herb Garden with Tray
The set comes with:
- 3 four inch white square herb pots
- Permanent Vinyl Labels with the Sayings: Happy Little Herbs
- The white metal tray (12-1/2 inches long by 4 inches wide)
- 3 Plastic Pot Liners.
They don’t come with the plants, so pick up your favorites are your local garden center. They are just too cute! Pick them up here ==>> Happy Little Herb Garden Pots.
5. Grow Each Herb in a Separate Pot.
When growing herbs indoors, don’t combine multiple herbs in one container. This is a fine practice when growing herbs outside or if you have a self-contained light system such as the Aerogarden setup.
But if you don’t have perfect conditions, it can be harder to create the perfect environment for multiple herbs in a single container. Planting herbs in separate pots gives you the most flexibility when growing indoors.
These 5 inch Cedar Planter Boxes created by PlantersPro’s are a stylish option for individual indoor herb containers.
You may need to rotate your herbs to improve the air circulation or adjust the amount of light they receive. One herb may come under attack by an indoor pest like fruit flies or need to be soaked in the sink if you forgot to water it. It is much easier to grow herbs inside when you use separate pots. This allows you to address each plants needs individually.
Those great little multi-herb planters you find in the grocery or garden centers are fine temporarily. But if you want to have long term success growing herbs indoors, then consider giving each herb its own container.
6. Flush Indoor Herb Pots with Water To Remove Fertilizer Salt Buildup.
Fertilizer buildup can occur when growing herbs indoors in pots. We need to fertilize our plants to keep them healthy, however over time a salt residue can be left behind. Salts may also be deposited from your tap water. You will see a white substance starting to accumulate along the rim of the herb’s container. This buildup is also in the soil which if left untreated over time can cause your herbs to suffer.
To correct the problem, simply hold the pot over a sink & thoroughly water it until water runs from the bottom of the pot. Allow the water to fully drain from the pot before placing it back in your indoor herb garden area. Repeat this process every few months to ensure the health of your herbs. This is another reason why you want to make sure your herb pots have good drainage.
7. Select The Best Indoor Potting Mix Or Soil For Your Herbs.
A good potting mix is important for indoor herbs
The indoor herb garden requires a potting mix that provides additional drainage. When selecting a potting mix, look on the label and make sure it is suitable for indoor garden plants. If you have a potting mix that seems heavy, you can add some perilite or vermiculite to the mix. Vermiculite will actually hold the water in a little more if you have a very dry climate.
Have you ever noticed that some packages are called potting soil & some are potting mix? There actually is a difference. The potting mixes are lighter and will container an aerator such as perilite (those little white stones you see in the mix). This is what we want for growing herbs in pots indoors.
Don’t ever use dirt from the ground in your indoor garden pots. It is much too compact to be suitable for indoor growing & will not allow the plants roots to breathe. There are also tiny bugs and parasites found in outdoor soil, that you just don’t want to bring inside.
Make your own potting mix blend with cocoa peat or peat moss, perilite and coarse sand. This is an economical solution to commercially prepared blends and it lets you modify the ingredients to better suit the types of herbs you are growing. Moisture loving herbs like mint appreciate a little extra peat. And Mediterranean herbs like it on the drier side, so you can add more sand.
8. Feed Your Herbs With A Seaweed Or Fish Based Fertilizer.
The best type of fertilizer to use for herbs is either seaweed extract or fish emulsion. Both have a higher concentration of nitrogen which promotes strong leafy growth. During active growth, such as the summer months you should fertilize once a week. For slower growth periods this can be reduced to once a month.
Some herb gardeners prefer to make a week solution & include it every time they water. If you would like to go this route, add the fertilizer at one-quarter of the strength indicated on the packaging. Here are 2 good options that fit the bill here:
- Sea Magic Dry Soluble Seaweed Extract which contains micro-nutrients and amino acids to promote healthy disease resistant plants.
- Neptune Harvest’s Fertilizer is a blend of fish/seaweed blend fertilizer in an easy to use bottle.
9. Provide Good Air Circulation.
Make sure there is good air circulation around your herb plants. If the herbs are too close together, they won’t receive enough air flow which can contribute to the spreading of disease. It’s a good idea to occasionally re-arrange your herb garden. Don’t let the air become stagnant around your plants. Give them a little breathing room.
Growing herbs indoors is a smart way to keep them handy for cooking
10. Show Your Indoor Herbs Some Love.
Yes that’s right, give your herbs a little love. 🙂 Talking to your plants actually does help by releasing carbon dioxide that the plants use to convert to food. You should also gently brush you hand over the tops of your herbs or encourage your children to give them a little pet. The movement simulates the motion of wind blowing and will help to encourage the stems to be strong.
Follow these tips and start your own indoor kitchen herb garden today!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Herbs Grow Best Indoors?
Dwarf or compact varieties grow best inside since their growth habit is ideal for smaller spaces. To find the best varieties, check out this article to see the 10 best culinary herbs for your indoor garden.
Where Can I Buy Herbs In Winter?
Herbs are easy to come buy in late spring and summertime, but winter can be a challenge to find healthy potted fresh herbs. The grocery store is typically your best option for live plants. I occassionally find potted herbs like Rosemary or Thyme near either the fresh flowers or close to the vegetable isle.
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Indoor Herb Garden – How To Have An Herb Garden Inside
When you grow an herb garden inside, you can benefit from enjoying fresh herbs year round. In order to be successful at growing herbs indoors, follow a few simple steps. Keep reading to learn how to grow herbs indoors successfully.
Starting an Indoor Herb Garden
Before starting your herb garden inside, decide what you’ll be growing in your indoor herb garden. Most popular herbs can be grown indoors. Some herbs you might want to grow are:
If you’re new to growing herbs indoors, you may want to start with just two or three of your favorite herbs and add more as you become more confident.
You’ll also need to choose a container for your indoor herb garden to grow in. The container should either have drainage holes or should be deep enough that you can add rocks at the bottom to create a drainage reservoir for excess water to run into. Herbs that are grown indoors cannot sit in waterlogged soil or they will die.
The soil you use in your herb garden inside should be rich in organic material. A good quality potting soil will work fine. Don’t use dirt from the garden, as this can get compacted easily and will strangle the herb plants.
Once you have chosen the herbs you will grow indoors and the container and soil, you can plant the herbs in the container as you would any other plant.
How to Grow Herbs Indoors
Once the herbs are planted, you’ll need to care for the herbs. Growing herbs indoors successfully has four important parts: light, temperature, water and humidity.
Light for Herbs Growing Indoors
Herbs growing indoors need at least six hours of sunlight to grow well. If they don’t get enough sun, they’ll become leggy and start to lose their flavor. Place your indoor herb garden in the sunniest spot you can find. If you feel that spot won’t provide enough light, supplement the sunlight with a fluorescent bulb placed less than a foot from the herbs.
You may need to rotate the container that the indoor herb garden is growing in so that all of the herbs have a even amount of sun and do not grow crooked.
The Right Temperature for Growing Herbs Indoors
Most herbs cannot tolerate cold temperatures. The herbs will grow best inside if the temperature around them is 65 F. (18 C.) to 75 F (24 C.).
Make sure your herb garden isn’t affected by drafts from windows or doors. Even small amounts of cold temperatures can kill some herbs.
Watering Indoor Herbs
Indoor herb gardens need to be watered regularly. They should never be allowed to dry out, but you should also not over water them. Check your indoor herb garden daily and water it when the top of the soil just starts to feel dry — though if you stick your finger into the soil, the lower layer will still be damp.
You can also add a bit of water soluble fertilizer to the water once a month to help the herbs get the nutrients they need.
Humidity for Indoor Herbs
Indoor herbs need both high humidity and excellent air circulation. Mist your herbs once a week or set them on a tray of pebbles filled with water to keep the humidity up. If you find your herbs are affected by mildew, you may want to consider adding a fan to keep the air circulation consistent.
Best Grow Light
for Indoor Plants
Type of Container
Let your imagination run wild when considering what type of container to grow herbs in. Just about anything will work, but keep in mind, most varieties prefer fast draining soil. As long as the container you select has adequate holes and drains well, you should be in good shape. Some of the most popular container choices are made out of terra-cotta, wood and cement (see Plant Up A Container). Although herb gardeners often prefer terra-cotta because of it’s natural wicking capability. If you’re looking for style as well as practicality, try using a Mexican strawberry pot. You can grow a bunch of different herbs in it and when you need some flavor for your food … it’s all right there!
The patented Smart Pot is a new and practically foolproof way to grow potted plants. These reusable, soft-sided fabric containers prevent roots from circling and release heat so they’re much cooler — plants develop a better root structure so plants stay healthier.
Another thing to remember when selecting a container is that size does matter. The pot must fit the plant – or plants – that will be growing in it. If the container is too small your herbs may quickly become root bound. On the other hand, if the container is too large your plants may spend all of their energy on root production and not grow the way they should.
With the right gardening supplies growing exotic and flavorful herbs is easy! At Planet Natural we have everything you need: pots, soils and seeds to get started, plus grow lights to bring the green-giving magic of the sun indoors. Now, let’s grow!
The essential oils that give herbs their flavor and aroma are produced in the largest quantity when they receive plenty of light. For best results, most herb varieties require at least 6 hours of sun per day. If growing indoors, many plants will do fine on a south facing windowsill. If the amount of light is not enough, you can supplement light with fluorescent lamps or a grow light, especially during the winter months.
When selecting plants for container gardening, consider the amount of light that is available for a particular spot and read the lighting requirements found on individual seed packets and plant labels. If planting several containers in one area, or several plants in a pot, do not mix plants with different lighting requirements.
With that said, it is wonderfully easy to provide plants with the light they need when your using containers. If you notice that they are not getting enough sun, just pick them up and move them to a sunnier spot. If they are in too much sun, move them to a shadier location. Shifting container locations is also desirable as the amount of available sunlight changes with the seasons.
Herb Varieties & Lighting Requirements
When you grow plants in containers, it’s important to provide them with a high quality potting soil or soil-less mix. In other words, you can’t just run out to the backyard, dig up a little dirt and call it good. Ordinary garden soil is much too heavy and dries out quickly. What you’re looking for is a soil that is loose and well drained. You can purchase a quality potting soil, or you can make your own. Here’s a popular recipe for container grown plants:
Make Your Own Potting Soil
Why purchase potting soil when you can make your own. A good potting mix recipe contains sterile garden soil and compost, peat moss (or coconut coir) and other additives as needed.
- 1 part coconut coir or peat moss
- 1 part compost
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part top soil
While most herbs require little fertilizer, you do need to pay closer attention to container grown plants. Because the amount of soil around the plant is limited to the size of the container, it dries out faster and requires more nutrients than the soil in your garden. For herbs, usually all that is needed is a good all-natural organic fertilizer which can be mixed in with the potting mix prior to planting. If your plants loose their color or look a little peeked during the growing season, apply a good liquid fish and kelp fertilizer at half the recommended strength every few weeks.
Apply fertilizers sparingly to herbs. Heavy applications will produce large plants, but the essential oils that produce their flavor and aroma will be greatly reduced.
Note: Plants can absorb nutrients through both their roots and through leaf pores. Foliar feeding (applying fertilizer solutions through leaf pores) can supply nutrients to your plants immediately. It is especially effective for giving fast growing plants, like vegetables, an extra boost during the growing season.
When it comes to watering, container gardens dry out faster and require more attention than backyard gardens. How much you water will depend on several factors including:
- Type of soil or potting mix used
- Amount of exposure to sun, rainfall and wind
- Average temperature
- Size of your plant(s)
If temperatures are warm, a container may require water once or twice a day. Watch closely and water when the potting mix appears dry and pale, or has shrunk away from the sides of the container. Also, poke your finger in the soil. If it feels moist, it’s all right. If it feels dry, start watering. Keep in mind, that many herbs prefer dry conditions. In most cases, they will not have to be kept as moist, as say, your favorite tomato plant. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to all herbs – so make sure you check the watering requirements for individual plants.
Tip: If your plants require more water than you can give them or you’re going on vacation, consider using an Automatic Plant Waterer. Simply fill with water and rest assured that your plant will be perfectly watered for up to four days. Available in TWO sizes, for large and small container plants.
Nothing completes a dish you’ve made with love than fresh herbs and spices to finish off your culinary masterpiece. Of course, you can buy what you need, dried and jarred, at almost any store, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some of your favorites year-round? Fresh?
Now you can! The following ideas should spark your inner chef to making tasty, and freshly seasoned meals at any time of the year, especially if you are looking for a little taste of summer during the colder months! Not to mention the ambiance it lends to your indoor spaces.
Table of Contents
Self Watering Herb Gardens
For simple, year-round culinary flavor additions, consider planting your own herb garden. This self-watering design allows you peace of mind and the ability to walk away from your garden without worry of it wilting or going dry. Of course, you will need to periodically care for and water, this makes things much easier.
If you have a sunny window, you may want to consider taking advantage of the power of the sun and place a few pots with various herbs and flowers to brighten your space. Growing kits are perfect solutions for helping bring these spaces to life as they often have everything you need to get up and going.
Revive the Shelf
All you need is an hour and about $20 to make this super cute wooden shelf planter. Supplies include some cut pieces of pine (a lumberyard will cut your wood for free if you bring measurements), paint, nails, wood glue, small clay pots, and a bit of rope to create this adorable hanging planter for indoor garden freshness!
Keeping it Vertical
Whether you hang it or prop it up, this awesome little vertical garden will make a big statement in your kitchen space, all while providing you with cooking yumminess. Personalize your buckets with a little paint, or replace handles with a bit of rope to make a rustic statement.
Endless Flavor: Grow Garlic Indoors!
Who doesn’t LOVE garlic?! This is a staple in my household and I hate when I buy a whole bulb and can’t use it all right away, or end up not having any at all. Never go without using this great indoor bulb growing technique. And perhaps, you can also put it to good use throughout the house with a variety of other plants! See it here.
*You might also like: Everything you need to know about how to grow Rosemary
Put That Empty Windowsill to Good Use
What exactly IS the use of a windowsill anyway? I’m assuming it’s purely aesthetic, (go with me here) and it’s otherwise wasted space -and so therefor you MUST spruce it up even more. A series of small, colorful pots, decent light, and a selection of your favorite herbs and plants is exactly what it is crying out for.
Caddy Up and Create a Transportable Garden
Words do not describe this simple, genius utensil caddy hack, but I’m going to try anyway. Born of a totally unplanned find, the mother of this idea walked into a store to purchase plants and walked out with a total reinvention of her original idea after spotting a cute, galvanized utensil caddy. Follow her simple steps to create your own portable indoor herb extravaganza!
Get Another Handle on Recyclable Favorites
Seriously, what can’t you make from an old pallet and mason jars? This dainty little table top planter fits as many, or as few, mason jars (or any other type of container) as you want for your garden favorites. Paint to match your style, screw on a couple drawer handles, and you have the cutest planter whatever side of the Mississippi you live on.
Chalk it Up to a Great Idea
Whoever invented chalkboard paint deserves a medal. I mean seriously, you can now paint on almost ANY surface and make it your own artistic creation. And that’s why this simple indoor garden hack using clay pots is pure crafting ingenuity. Tie on a little raffia and you have a cute, country planter.
*You might also like: 45 Amasing Indoor Garden Ideas: #27 is so Easy!
The Power of Light
Grow lights are an excellent way to provide everything your indoor plants need to thrive even in the darker winter months. Grow kits that include everything you need for the health of your plants are excellent options for beginners and take the stress out of choosing what is best.
If you are hard pressed for space, but still want to attempt some indoor gardening, take advantage of tiered planters that allow you to grow your herbs vertically, and thus take up less space. Many herbs require very little space as long as they are well watered and occasionally fertilized, and can thrive in small planting conditions, making this an excellent option.
Yet another DIY favorite, the clothespin has been used for ornaments, puzzles, picture holders… but what about a plant pot? It’s rather quite simple and I can’t figure why I didn’t think of this. Using a simple tuna can (or small cat/dog food can) and some clothespins you can make a unique little planter that looks like it took hours (but only takes minutes) to make!
Let Your Rainy Days Just Drip Away…
Once you see these planters you can’t unsee them ever again. For the life of me I am unable to figure out what’s NOT to love about these delightful rainy cloud planters. Totally eclectic and fun for any age, hang these on your walls for the perfect miniature herb garden in no time! To find where to purchase, click here.
Don’t let winter blues get you down! Using some supplies you probably have already lying around the house, along with some plastic lidded coffee cans (or tea and hot chocolate), you can create your own hanging herb paradise to last you through the coldest months. These are great if you are short of space and want something unique and personalized to fit your decor.
It’s All in the Details
Fairy gardens are all the rage as an added addition to your garden beds, but why not bring them indoors and bring an eclectic pop of interest to your decor? Find a cute base or two, pick out your favorite herbs, and bring your garden to life with a few cute necessities for a happy fairy household.
Hang it Take Two: Add Lighting
This might be my favorite indoor garden hack of all time. Up the ante with your upside down favorites (see #10) and add them into a lighting piece of your own design. You’ll want to be sure to use bulbs that don’t put out a lot of heat, but this is sure to be an original crowd favorite
Hanging Around Takes Tres
It doesn’t take long to collect the materials needed to create a recycled hanging plant display of your own using tin cans, old jars, thrift shop coffee mug finds, or even plastic soda pop bottles. Find your desired backdrop material, a collection of plants, and get busy!
This graceful towering style looks complicated, but couldn’t be more simple! A few hardware purchases, power tools, and a bit of innovation will give you this sleek, modern look that will wow your guests. Just cut, sand, screw, and plant!
This One Takes the Cut
In order to complete this project to par, you’ll need to cut glass bottles either with a cutter, or one of the many techniques available (hint: just search online). But once you have those two halves, you have a simple, self-watering, hands free design for plants on your indoor surfaces. Use in windowsills (see #4), countertops, table tops – or even add into cute table top planter (see #6).
Bring it on Back… WAY Back
Who doesn’t love a good thrift shop find? Or in this case, a few good thrift shop finds. Don’t pass up those old rusty kettles, pitchers, pots, and pans – instead get creative with your junk yard discoveries and create a one of a kind herbal garden.
Harvestable Indoor Garden Solutions
Aerogarden indoor gardening solutions are a great way for even the most amateur of gardeners to get experience growing indoors. These are all-inclusive kits that can be used over and over and even provide choices of the seedlings you can grow.
New Twist on an Old Favorite
One way or another, Mason jars have a habit of popping up over and over again whenever a project idea list is in the works. And it doesn’t take much to see why. Mason jars are versatile and fun – often lending a quirky touch to any decor. This original jar set-up takes a new twist when you create your own tabletop garden.
Re-clutter Your Gutter
Buy a short piece of new gutter and end caps, or recycle what you have, but either way, you will have a singularly unique planter when you re-clutter this gutter with your herb garden. Mount it on rustic barn wood, paint a pattern on it, or take advantage of some chalkboard paint to get the look you want and need.
This uncomplicated idea is a no-brainer. Find one big pot you can’t live without, put it near a patio window or other area that receives either good direct, or indirect light, and plant your herbs in all together. With enough depth for roots and good drainage (use a good 3-inch depth of pea gravel to keep water from pooling in large pots), perennial herbs can easily grow amongst one another without choking each other out. Plus your use of them will easily keep them under control.
Window Space: Put it to Use
Grab yourself an adjustable shower curtain rod, some hooks or similar, and cute hanging pails – put it in a sunny window, add herbs, and viola! You have a beautiful hanging window garden! This is one project that I think I’m going to have to put to good use!
Time to gather up all those dollar store planter finds, stashed away shed pots, and yard sale steals – and assemble into an eclectic collection of pots and herbs (maybe throw in a flowering plant or two) as an indoor garden. If you have an open table space that gets good lighting (consistent indirect lighting is fine), you too can create a garden table indoors!
Don’t crush those soda cans until you have as many as you need to create this inventive way to show off your indoor gardening skills. Spray paint, chalkboard stickers, and a little twine or ribbon finishes these mini planters. To complete the look, consider painting over old 6-pack holders and just add in your new ‘pots’ as a crafty way to show off your favorite herbs.
Simple Love, Simple Label
Mix and match and play with this idea using small clay or ceramic pots and a little pea gravel in the bottom of a shallow basket. Create some cute planter stakes with some stamps and popsicles sticks, and you have a uniquely you little herb garden to pick from all year long.
Care For a Spot of Tea?
Mismatched tea sets and old silver spoons make for a match made in heaven. Stack them, group them, set them on a tray- however you decide to display your “afternoon tea garden” is sure to be a favorite setting in your house. With a simple metal stamp set you can personalize your plantings even further.
Update an old shelving unit, or create your own, to bring to life a sunny wall with this unique dropped pot unit. The simple design can be actualized through your choice of wood stains and paints to provide a low-maintenance way to keep your fresh herbs and plants near at hand.
If you have the space for this awesome ladder shelving hack, take it. I find this idea to be such a neat use of space and an uncommon way to show off your treasures. And what better way to add in some of the above ideas to an equally artistic backdrop?
The Indoor Herbage How To: Read This
If you’ve found a favorite way to display your indoor herbs from the list above, you still need to make sure you can keep them alive. This isn’t a very hard task, but there are a few helpful tips to remember to keep your experience as maintenance free as possible, and to get the most out of your favorite flavors. This handy infographic not only give you some great advice, it also provides you with the best plants to grow indoors and their optimal harvesting time!
*You might also like: Can garden soil be used in pots?
Let’s Get Started!
How much fun were those choices!? I don’t know about you, but I’m unable to pick a favorite and can’t wait to try a few of them out with a mix of indoor plants and herbs.
Obviously, there is no reason why you can’t keep fresh herbs indoors year-round with the proper care. And as always, I’d love to hear which were your favorites, what additions you might have, and see your indoor herb garden results! Please share and tag your friends!
I love herbs, and growing them indoors is easy. Herbs add a texture, feel and scent to a room or a garden that is unlike any other plant. And, there is nothing like cooking with fresh herbs! But if you are like me, you like to do most things just a little bit different, so we found these DIY indoor herb garden ideas and projects that are just a cut above the usual terra cotta pots. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) And in case you need a little guidance as well, some advice for which herbs grow well and how to maintain your herb garden indoors.
Indoor Herb Garden Basics
- Herbs generally require full sun, so you need to choose the placement of your herb garden well. A south facing window is ideal. As much bright light as possible is a key to success growing herbs inside, away from their natural environment.
- Choose the right kind of herbs. Some herbs, such as basil, can be really tough to grow indoors because they really do need 6-8 hours of full sun each day, which is impossible to achieve in a window. Our favorite herbs to grow indoors include parsley, lemon balm, mint, chives and some varieties of thyme and oregano. The broader the leaf the better they do indoors. Lemon Thyme, or Doone Valley Thyme are favorites. In general, if an herb does well in partial shade outdoors, it will do well in a sunny indoor exposure.
- Herbs need good drainage. Make sure you provide well draining soil and pots, and consider using gravel in the bottom for extra drainage. Adding a little grit or sand to the potting mix is great too. If you are using a container that tends to hold moisture, such as glass, use some activated charcoal in the bottom as well. (Sold in the houseplant section.)
- Don’t overwater. Wait until the top inch of the soil is dry before watering most indoor plants. Overwatering is the number one killer.
- Fertilize weekly with a weak liquid fertilizer for good growth, and remember to cut your herbs and use them! Cutting them back encourages new growth.
- Now that you have the basics for growing herbs indoors down, lets get back to some amazing projects we found to create one of a kind herb gardens.
Indoor Herb Garden Projects
Try this complete tutorial for a potted hanging herb garden from ‘Fresh Mommy Blog‘. This is a step by step tutorial with lots of photos so you can get it right. Wouldn’t this look cool in front of a window?
Make this indoor herb garden planter from ‘Grillo Designs‘ in 10 minutes from a baking pan!
Make an up cycled DIY indoor herb garden with lotion bottles from ‘Lovely Indeed‘. What a great way to recycle!
This indoor herb garden idea is simply a wooden box planted tightly with herbs, then hung on the wall. Be sure to use a waterproof plant liner inside the box. From ‘Houzz‘.
Maryann from ‘Domestically Speaking‘ made these mason jar DIY indoor herb gardens with a simple coat hook and some wire. (Oh yea, and some gorgeous green and blue mason jars!)
Use any wall storage system to create a planter for an herb garden indoors. This one is from ‘Ikea‘. They have a bunch of different styles of containers to choose from, too!
Another example of using a wall storage system as an indoor herb garden planter, from ‘Favething‘.
Create a DIY herb planter lamp from a strawberry pot with these instructions from’ BHG.’
This idea is an easy one…we suggest inserting small pots and liners into the drawers first if the piece you are using has any value…
This indoor herb garden idea is simply old tuna cans (painted if desired), with stained wood clothespins clipped onto the edges of the can. You can get these old style clothespins at the dollar store. See how they did this lovely project over at ‘7th House on the Left‘.
This next DIY indoor herb garden idea is by ‘Intimate Weddings‘. They have a step by step on creating this teacup herb garden.
Another teacup herb garden by ‘BHG‘, that has a more contemporary feel, but still homey…
‘Apartment Therapy‘ brings us this great inspiration tea tin indoor herb garden!
This DIY herb garden idea from ‘Unsophisticook‘ is made from a utensil caddy from Walmart! We love this idea because it’s portable, which means you can take the herbs indoors to cook, then take them outdoors to get a little afternoon sun when they need it!
We hope you enjoyed all these DIY Indoor Herb Garden Ideas. Looking for more? You might want to check out our post on DIY Teacup Gardens & Planters!
Image Credits: Lovely Indeed, Fresh Mommy Blog, Grillo Designs, Houzz, Domestically Speaking, Ikea, Favething, BHG, Livenedup, 7th House on the Left, Intimate Weddings, BHG, Apartment Therapy, Unsophisticook
How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden
Enjoy fresh herbs all year long! Learn how to start an indoor herb garden, and which herbs do well for year-round cooking.
I’ve already confessed to you that I do not have a green thumb. I’ve always had this romantic notion that perhaps it’s an ability that will eventually emerge. My mother had one of the greenest thumbs I knew, and her passion for plants and gardening was always something I admired. She seemed to know everything about propagating clippings and nurturing vegetables, and she would eagerly visit friends’ gardens the same way I pore through photo albums when I’m at a friend’s house.
I still have hope that one day I’ll be able to test my theory, and often regret that I hadn’t set enough room aside for a vegetable garden when we landscaped our house. But it’s always good to start small, and the one thing I can manage is an indoor herb garden.
Whether you live in a small space or simply want more fresh herbs at your disposal, I highly recommend starting an indoor herb garden! Choose herbs that will flourish all year long.
Good choices include chives, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and cilantro. I like to throw aloe in there, since I’ve already mentioned to you how good it is for treating burns in the kitchen.
I started at my local nursery, where they carry organic herbs, fruit and vegetable plants. I was tempted to buy them all and so inspired. But I am starting small, and so can you.
Tips for Growing an Indoor Herb Garden
- Choose year-round herbs. Enjoy fresh herbs in your cooking all year long! Great ones to start with are: oregano, chives, thyme, parsley, basil, rosemary, sage and tarragon. Add some aloe for skin-soothing relief — technically it’s not an herb, but why not!?
- Give them sun. Ideally, 8 hours of sun a day — if you have a southern facing window, that works well!
- Soil choice matters. Opt for potting mix , which is more likely than potting soil to be composed of organic matter with good drainage. Plant them in slightly acidic soil; you can add a soil mixture that is good for azaleas and roses, for example.
- Give them breathing room. To keep things simple, I like to plant the herbs in individual pots, as long as they have room to grow and wiggle their roots! But of course, they can share containers – just be sure to give them space and room to grow.
- Water, but don’t overwater! I like to keep the little tags that come with my plants since I can never remember how much water to give my plants. The rule of thumb is to let the herbs dry out before watering.
Just one week later, and my plants are flourishing! The only caveat is my cat — she is convinced that the herbs are there for her digging-up pleasure (especially oregano). So if you have a tip for that, please do let me know.
More Indoor Herb Garden Resources:
How to Grow Herbs Indoors: Easy? Maybe not. Rewarding? Hell yeah. – Chowhound
Container Herbs – Burpee
Smart Techniques for Growing Herbs Indoors – Rodale’s Organic Life
Recipes Using Herbs
Boursin Garlic and Herb Buttermilk Biscuits
Chicken and Herb Spaetzle Soup
Green Goddess Avocado Toast
Seared Ahi Tuna with Chimichurri Sauce, Arugula and Avocado
PRODUCTS TO GET YOU STARTED
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How to Grow Herbs Indoors: Easy? Maybe not. Rewarding? Hell yeah.
A windowsill of fresh herbs is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a city dweller–with a little sunlight, you can have herbs ready to use in the kitchen in only a matter of weeks. We spoke with gardening experts to figure out what it takes to grow herbs indoors.
Growing anything isn’t easy (and yes, you may kill off a few plants before you get the hang of it); just start with the simple stuff. Even if you won’t be able to brag about your heirloom tomatoes, you can still feel the satisfaction of putting your own basil in a cocktail or stir-frying with some fresh lemongrass.
Which Herbs to Grow
Here’s a breakdown of what to grow, for clueless gardeners to the greenest of thumbs.
Bay Tree: A very slow grower. Be sure you pick up a Laurus nobilis, cautions Rose Marie Nichols McGee, coauthor of Bountiful Container and co-owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon; the Laurus nobilis is best for cooking with. Bay tree can become infested with scale if it gets too dry—use dishwashing detergent to wash off the leaves, then rinse them thoroughly.
Chive: Doesn’t require as much light as some other herbs. The Grolau variety was bred for growing indoors.
Kaffir Lime Tree: Kaffir lime leaves are often used in Thai cooking. Be sure you give this plant special citrus food.
Lemongrass: A good way to cheat, because it requires no soil; you can just use a stalk you get at the market. Make sure it has a good amount of stem and the bottom is intact; trim the top and put it in a container with a couple of inches of water. Connie Campbell, a New Hampshire–based master gardener, says, “It will send out roots and new sprouts and many, many new stalks from the bottom, and you can just cut those off and use them.”
Mint: Very invasive, so it needs its own pot. Peppermint is great for teas, and you’ll only need a little of it. You usually need a lot of spearmint for recipes, so it may not be worth growing in a container.
Parsley: It doesn’t need much sun, says Carole Ottesen, author of The New American Garden, but it’s a slow grower so may not yield a whole lot.
Vietnamese Coriander: Almost identical in taste to cilantro, says Campbell, and “very, very reliable.”
Oregano: Try the Greek variety. Needs a lot of light.
Rosemary: Keep it on the dry side and look for an upright variety like Tuscan Blue or Blue Spire. It needs a very sunny window and probably supplemental light. Since you don’t need a lot of it for cooking, it’s a good herb to grow. It’s very sensitive to overwatering.
Thyme: It will likely need supplemental light. Look for lemon thyme, which has a unique flavor and can’t easily be purchased in markets.
Basil: It’s a favorite to cook with, but it’s a tough one to grow. Your best shot is to grow it during the warm, bright summer months. Connie Campbell suggests the Spicy Globe or African Blue variety, the latter of which is more like Thai basil and does well indoors.
Cilantro: Cilantro is the name for the stems and leaves of the coriander plant. It often bolts, meaning it starts growing flowers and seeds instead of leaves. Leslie Land, gardening columnist and blogger, sows coriander seeds in a shallow flat (a plastic tray), then eats them as sprouts, root and all. “Sow the coriander seeds quite thickly, like almost paving but not quite. Only let seedlings get about four to five inches tall, then pull them up, roots and all, and wash them.” To make this economical, she says, just pick up coriander seeds in bulk at a health food store.
Sage: Rose Marie Nichols McGee says that sage is more susceptible to mildew and is very sensitive to overwatering. If you want to try it, though, Connie Campbell says to go for the dwarf sage, which is more compact than regular sage.
INDOOR HERB GROWING TIPS
Mother Earth Living
Light is the most important aspect of growing indoor herbs, and many people don’t have enough. Most experts agree that six to eight hours of light per day is optimal.
Orientation: A southwestern-facing window is your best bet for good light, says Diane Stahl, owner of Urban Roots, a Denver-based city garden store and greenscape installation company specializing in small urban spaces.
If you can’t get light from the sun: Get a few clamp-on reflector lights with compact fluorescent bulbs, says Rose Marie Nichols McGee. Connie Campbell says the lights should be placed very close to the plants, about four to six inches away. There are also light fixtures that mount under a kitchen cabinet if you want to have herbs on the counter. The bottom line is, no plant will thrive if you can’t give it enough light.
If you see brown spots on the foliage: “It can be a sign they are burning,” says McGee. That means the plants are getting too much light, but this is a rare scenario.
If the plants are growing longer stems and fewer leaves: They’re not getting enough light and are stretching to find more. Add supplemental light or move them to a place that receives more natural light.
Mother Earth Living
Herbs don’t need that much water. “Overwatering is the biggest mistake people make trying to grow herbs inside,” says John Lingle, owner of Lingle’s Herbs, a nursery specializing in organic herbs located in Long Beach, California.
When to water: You need to learn to read your plants and let them tell you when they’re ready for water. “The rule of thumb is to let all the herbs dry out completely,” says Urban Roots’ Stahl. It could take anywhere from a few days to well over a week before you need to water. “Put the index finger in the dirt all the way down to the knuckle and feel that root system,” says Stahl. Write down how long it takes for the plants to dry out, then try to develop a consistent watering system. Stahl says that though plants don’t like a lot of water, they do like consistent watering.
How to water: Put the plants in the sink and water the base where the stem meets the dirt, not the leaves; let the water soak through. Then soak the plants again. Let them drain completely and put them back in their saucers. You can water in the morning and let the plants drain while you’re at work. Never leave standing water in the saucer or you’ll rot the plant’s roots.
If the leaves are yellow: The first assumption you should make is that the plant has too much water, rather than too little. When a plant is too wet, the roots rot, leaving them less capable of taking up water. “It’s kind of a Catch-22, because when the roots start to rot, the plant desiccates and wilts, so people think it needs more water,” explains Lingle. Feel the soil and lift the container to see if the plant is very wet or dry.
Rule number one: Your pots must have drainage holes.
What material to use: Terra cotta, because it breathes. The saucer material is not as important, since its main purpose is to protect your counter or window sill. And forget about putting rocks in the bottom of the pot before you add soil: McGee says that will actually clog things up instead of promoting better drainage.
The best size: Bigger is better. For individual herbs, the pots should be no smaller than 6 inches in diameter. To grow multiple herbs together, you’ll want to put two or three in a pot that is about 10 inches in diameter and about 8 inches deep.
Wahsega Valley Farm
High-quality organic potting soil with good drainage is a must, and it should be rich, loamy, and not compacted. You can add perlite (buy it at any garden store) to increase drainage; Connie Campbell says a ratio of 1 part perlite to 25 parts soil is good. Don’t just take a shovel of dirt from outside and put it in a pot, she warns.”You’ll bring in all the organisms that are balanced by nature but won’t be under indoor growing conditions.”
How to judge drainage: New American Garden author Carole Ottesen says, “It lump together in a ball if it’s wet–it would always be grainy. If you squeeze it and it doesn’t stick together and it sort of crumbles, that’s good.”
Add eggshells: Rose Marie Nichols McGee says that Mediterranean plants like rosemary, thyme, and basil do well with a little extra lime; you can use eggshells for this. “I suggest they put the shells into a food processor with a little water and put a spoonful into each pot when you prep the soil for planting.”
Herbs are fairly hearty, but they still like to be fed a good organic fertilizer like fish emulsion (be aware: it stinks) or liquid seaweed. You’re growing herbs for their leaves, not their flowers, so find a fertilizer that doesn’t promote blooming. That means the fertilizer needs to have a low level of phosphorous. John Lingle suggests getting a gallon apple-juice jug and filling it with water and one tablespoon of fish emulsion to make a very weak organic fertilizer solution. Water the herbs with it, and then you won’t have to worry about when to feed them. You can even make your own fish emulsion!
Do what the plants tell you: The plants will let you know if they need to be fed, says Carole Ottesen. If they seem to have stopped growing, they probably need food. If the plants are turning yellow and you’ve already ruled out watering issues, this may also mean they need feeding.
Buy plant “starts”; (baby plants), not seeds–growing from seeds is harder. When you’re buying plants to grow indoors, buy an herb that’s never been planted outside; changing the environment can be traumatic for the plant. And as Diane Stahl points out, “If you shop locally, you find plants acclimated to your area.” Which can make it a lot easier on a new gardener.
Is this my best side? Rotate your pots every week, says McGee. “Don’t just leave them in the same position forever. Move them around so they don’t lean.”
They’re there to be eaten: Cutting your herbs encourages growth. But don’t cut more than a third off.
You’re not growing fungus: Herbs need good air circulation, says Stahl–stagnant air promotes fungal disease. You can combat this by putting your pots on a large tray covered in pebbles so that air can circulate up through the drainage holes.
Don’t try to fight nature: In the winter, plants may naturally be in a resting phase because of the changes in light, says McGee. “We can let plants be in a resting phase. Minimally water; just let them do what they do.”
Pest inspection: If you see aphids, rinse them off in the sink. If you see scale (it looks like a brown, rusty spot), wash it off with a mild soap or rub off each spot with a little bit of rubbing alcohol, and then rinse the plant.
Go back to the roots: Check potted perennials about once a year to be sure the roots aren’t growing out of the bottom of the pot. If they are, take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots: They should be healthy and white, not brown and growing around in a circle. If the roots look bad, you have two options: Trim off a little bit and transfer the plant to a bigger pot. Or, if the plant is the size you want, McGee says, you can just cut around the roots vertically, about a half inch to an inch, and slice the same amount off the bottom. Repot with extra soil, and take off about the same amount of upper growth as you removed from the roots.
Where to Turn if You’re Having Trouble
Contact master gardeners in your area; they are experts who volunteer time to run hot lines and answer questions via email about local agriculture. Your local USDA Cooperative Extension office can help you find one in your area.
Also talk to people at your local nurseries who know your climate (not the folks at the big-box garden supply counter).
Cooking with Your Herbs
Try out these recipes to make the best of your indoor garden and you’ll be surprised how much a difference fresh herbs make in your meals and what a great choice they are instead of just reaching for the spice rack.
Egg, Cheese, and Chive Tartlets
These open-faced breakfast tarts are elegant and tasty. Puff pastry topped with crème fraiche, cheddar, chives and covered with bacon (or pancetta) and a fried egg: it’s that simple. Garnish with more chives and you’ve got a quick and easy breakfast that’s easy enough to make for yourself or fancy enough to serve at brunch. Get our Egg, Cheese, and Chive Tartlets recipe.
Lemongrass, Red Onion, and Pork Kebabs
Lemongrass is what makes this dish so special. Marinate the pork in a mixture of garlic, shallots, brown sugar, lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil, and pepper and then refrigerate for several hours (or overnight). The red onion is a great contrast to the sweet and spicy marinade; grab some of your fresh cilantro to add as a garnish. Get our Lemongrass, Red Onion, and Pork Kebabs recipe.
Fennel, Avocado, and Mint Salad
A raw-food salad from the chefs at Pure Food and Wine in New York City, this combination of fennel, avocado, mint, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes is dressed with a pistachio-caper vinaigrette. The fresh herbs shine with the addition of lemon juice, lemon zest, and briny capers and this salad is an incredibly refreshing choice to serve alongside a main course or on its own as an entrée. Get our Fennel, Avocado, and Mint Salad recipe.
Fusilli with Parsley, Walnut, and Black Olive Pesto
A new take on pesto, CHOW’s version has a full two-and-a-half cups of fresh parsley, toasted walnut, goat cheese, (instead of the traditional parmesan) kalamata olives, and is a snap to throw together. You can substitute any kind of nuts and experiment with different types of cheese as well to vary the flavors. Get our Fusilli with Parsley, Walnut and Black Olive Pesto recipe.
Grilled Greek Salad
The marinade for this grilled Greek salad is full of fresh oregano and thyme, which are blended in a food processor along with freshly squeeze lemon juice, white wine, olive oil, onion, kosher salt, and black pepper. Grilling the salad differentiates it from the boring old Greek salad on every diner’s menu – the marinade makes the perfect salad dressing and can be made in advance to save time. Get our Grilled Greek Salad recipe.
Roasted Rosemary Walnuts
Bar nuts are normally addictive, but these roasted rosemary walnuts are a game changer. Olive oil, a tiny bit of sugar, chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and freshly ground pepper make for a salty, sweet, completely irresistible snack to serve with cocktails. Make a double batch so that you can keep them around and use the rest as a perfect hostess gift – it’s hard to keep them around the house for very long so consider yourself warned. Get our Roasted Rosemary Walnuts recipe.
Pasta with Corn, Thyme, and Parmesan
Frozen corn makes this main course easy to adapt year-round and it features fresh thyme as well as fresh chives. Shallots, olive oil, garlic, wine, and fresh thyme are sautéed together and then finished with heavy cream and parmesan. This recipe tastes best served as soon as its finished cooking and doesn’t reheat well, so invite your friends over and make an evening of it. Get our Pasta with Corn, Thyme, and Parmesan recipe.
Basil and Mozzarella Scones
Savory scones are a delightful afternoon treat. These cheesy scones are great as a pairing with lunch or dinner or served with a glass of wine. There’s almost a full cup of coarsely chopped basil in these scones and you can substitute almost any other herb you have in your window garden. Other add-ins are also a good way to change up the recipe – think sundried tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, or dried fruit. Get our Basil and Mozzarella Scones recipe.
Asparagus and Cilantro Soup
If you love herbs, than this is the soup for you. Fresh basil, oregano, and cilantro are the base for this asparagus soup that manages to be both vegetarian and gluten-free (if you use tamari, not soy sauce). Again, it’s the fresh herbs that you grow in your own home that really make the difference in this soup–garnish with crème fraiche or a dollop of sour cream and you’ll really have a decadent dish. Get our Asparagus and Cilantro Soup recipe.
Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds
Chef Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water in San Francisco really knows how to put fresh sage to good use. The sauce is a combination of raw pumpkin seeds, olive oil, salt, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fresh sage leaves, cut thinly in a chiffonade. Delicate, nutty, and a little bit salty, this velvety sauce brings out the pumpkin flavors in the tortelloni but can be used on pretty much any type of pasta and still be fantastic. Get our Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds recipe.
Original story by Roxanne Webber, updated by Caitlin O’Shaughnessy
Fresh herbs can be a glorious addition to any meal. They taste great, are healthful, and can be easily grown on your windowsill or kitchen countertop. There’s nothing quite like chopping basil you grew yourself to throw on top of tomato sauce.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, then here’s the best way to plant an indoor herb garden you can enjoy year-round.
What Herbs Should I Grow?
Start by figuring out which herbs you already use the most. Check your refrigerator and spice rack for your most-used herbs. Look at some of your favorite recipes, and then imagine how much better tasting your meals would be if you could cut herbs fresh from your own garden.
Cilantro, mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives, and parsley are good candidates for beginning herb gardeners. Later on, you might also try bay, chervil, oregano, or tarragon.
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How Do You Start an Herb Garden?
You can grow herbs from seeds, but the faster way is to buy seedlings. You can find these at your local nursery, or try the garden department at Home Depot or your local home center.
You can grow herbs side-by-side in a large pot (just make sure not to plant herbs that need a lot of water and a little water right next to each other). However, it’s best if you can dedicate a small pot for each herb. Label them with a stick or mark the pot with the type of herb. If you are tight on space, a tiered stackable pot works great for growing multiple herbs.
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Make sure the pots have good drainage, as most herbs grow best in moist soil. A quality garden soil is all that is needed for repotting your herbs from the plastic holders to your new pots. Be gentle with your herbs and try not to disturb the delicate root ball when repotting.
How Often Should I Water My Herbs?
Herbs require moderate watering on a daily basis. With proper drainage you should not have an issue with overwatering. Unlike many houseplants that can be watered weekly, herbs require a bit more water throughout the week.
Trim your herbs with pruning shears instead of tearing them off with your hands. These will leave clean cuts that will do less damage to the plant. Remove leaves from the top of the plant and let the larger leaves at the bottom continue to soak up the sun.
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How Much Sun Do Herbs Need?
It’s best to provide your herbs with plenty of direct sunlight throughout the day, which is why a window sill is ideal. But if the windowsill is too hot, move your herbs to a cooler area. Experiment with different spaces in your home for best results.