Growing an indoor herb garden can be very rewarding, providing a welcome splash of greenery during the long, gray winter months. When you're growing herbs in pots on your kitchen windowsill, you can reach out and pluck a handful of fragrant basil leaves or snip off some savory chives any time you need them. Most herbs grow well in the natural light from your windows; if sufficient natural light isn't available, a grow light is inexpensive and easy to set up.
If you're an experienced gardener, you might want to try growing your herbs from seed or cuttings. If you're a beginner, it's a good idea to start with a growing plant. This lets you experience the satisfaction of harvesting fresh herbs right away. Most garden centers carry an inexpensive selection of herb transplants for your garden. You can sometimes find potted herb plants at larger grocery stores, especially during the winter.
In smaller rooms where shelf or windowsill space is limited, you may need to get a little creative. Suspend pots from ceiling hooks or create a visual focus with a vertical herb garden. You can hang your pots from curtain rods or mount Mason jars containing potted herbs on a board. Fabric shoe organizers make great vertical gardens -- just slip your potted herbs into the pockets. A repurposed stepladder creates a visually appealing vertical space for your indoor herbs.
Some herb plants can get quite large and sprawling. Where space is at a premium, choose dwarf plants that keep a compact size and won't grow too big.
You want your herb plants to stay full and bushy, with plenty of new leaves. Pruning stimulates new growth and ensures a bushy plant with lots of fresh leaves. Avoid snipping off more than 1/3 of the plant's total volume.
What are the best herbs to grow indoors? Choose herbs that you'll regularly use in your recipes and teas.
In a kitchen with limited natural light, the easiest herbs to grow indoors are ones that do well in shady spots. Mint, parsley and chives only need about four or five hours of light each day and are a great option for lower light environments or places where you are supplementing light with a grow light.
Basil is an excellent choice for an indoor herb, but it needs to be kept relatively warm, preferring temperatures of around 75°F.
Other herbs that are great for growing indoors include cilantro, dill, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme. If you're planting in the same pot, be sure to consider water and light needs of neighborhing plants. Herbs that grow well together are ones that thrive under similar conditions.
Light: Having the right light for your indoor garden is crucial. Most herbs need six to eight hours of sunlight to thrive. The best spot for your homegrown herbs is a south or southwest facing window. If that's not possible, consider a grow light. Herbs can get leggy if they're not rotated -- give the pots a half-turn every week.
Water: If you're not sure how often to water herbs, remember that less is usually more. Most herbs only need to be watered two or three times per week, requiring less water in the winter when their growth slows. Avoid overwatering. The first two inches of soil should be reasonably dry (test with your finger). Yellow leaves are a sign that you're watering too much.
Soil and drainage: Always use pots with drainage holes. Terracotta is better than plastic; it's air-permeable and lets the soil breathe. Use good quality potting soil rather than garden soil, which is usually too dense.
Temperature: Most popular herbs will be happy at normal room temperatures (with the exception of heat-loving basil). If you're growing your herbs near the window, be careful that they're not in a draft. You should also ensure that plants don't get scorched – during warmer weather, move them away from the glass.
Fertilizer: Consistency is key here. Once a month, apply a good-quality organic fertilizer. Choose one that promotes healthy growth instead of flowering.
Insects: Inspect your plants regularly for pest infestations. Aphids are the typically biggest issue for indoor herb gardens and can ruin a plant in a matter of days. You can get control and prevent insect infestations by inspecting your plants regularly and manually removing or rinsing your plants in your kitchen sink. If the problem persists and a pesticide is required, look for an organic option like Earth’s Ally Insect Control, which suffocates and repels insects without harsh chemical smells in your home.
There’s much satisfaction to be found in growing your own food and if you’re just starting out in gardening, a little indoor herb garden is the perfect way to learn.