Fall is here, and winter is just around the corner. Are you already starting to miss those fresh garden herbs you love to season your food with? Then it’s time to prolong the growing season by creating an indoor herb garden.
It doesn’t matter if you have very little gardening experience or very little space to work with. Herb gardens are some of the easiest to start and maintain — no green thumb necessary. Growing your own organic herbs from home is far more convenient (and much more affordable) than going out to the grocery store to buy them. Nothing beats snipping a few leaves off your plant and putting it straight into the pot!
The first thing to do is pick your favorite herbs. Some popular ones that work well indoors are basil, chives, dill, lemon balm, oregano and thyme. If you love to cook, then having those herbs right where you need them when you need them is wonderful. Just clip a few fresh leaves of oregano into your spaghetti sauce or some fresh chives onto that baked potato and smell the aroma fill the kitchen.
Once you’ve decided on the herbs you want to grow, the next thing to do is find the right place to start growing them. You’ll need a sunny window available that gets at least five to six hours of sunlight each day. For best results, keep the temperature between sixty and seventy degrees fahrenheit. That may be a bit cooler than you keep your house during the winter. If it is, depending on where you live and how severe the winters are, the garage may be a good fit for your garden.
Pick The Pots
There are many different types of containers that work well for indoor herb gardens. Terracotta planters are popular, but not required. Just make sure that whatever pots you use have a drainage hole at the bottom. You don’t want your herbs to rot, and if excess moisture can’t flow out of the bottom, that’s exactly what will happen.
To prevent a mess, just keep a saucer or some other container below the pot to catch the extra water when it runs out. Any holed container that’s from six to twelve inches deep should work just fine.
If your space is limited you can plant multiple herbs in the same container with no problems. They’ll need enough space to grow roots, but if given that space they shouldn’t interfere with each other.
Get The Soil
It may be tempting to put soil from your backyard into the pots, but that’s not advisable for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the soil in your backyard is likely to dry out quickly when put into pots. That means more work for you to keep the plants watered.
Even more important is that the soil from your yard may contain diseases that will damage your plants. Unless you happen to know that you have great soil and you don’t mind the extra watering, your best bet is to use potting soil purchased from a nursery.
When you go to get it, just tell the experts working there what you intend to grow and where. They’ll get you the right mix. Be sure that the one you decide on is lightweight and can drain well.
Planting The Seeds
When planting your herbs from seeds, you initially want to plant the seeds in a peat pot. Many planters are just too big for seeds.
First fill the peat pot with the potting soil and put it into a small bowl of water until the pot completely absorbs all of the water. You’ll want to bury the seeds to a shallow depth of about three to four times the seed’s diameter.
When growing the seeds, initially only put the same type of seed in each pot. Once you’ve planted them, cover the peat pot with a plastic bag and voila! You’ve created a mini greenhouse. After the seeds sprout, then you can move the entire peat pot into the bigger planter.
To move the seedlings to the planter, first put two to three inches of soil into the larger pot, then place the plant. Once that’s done fill the pot with the soil and press firmly around the plant. Be sure to leave about an inch or so of space on top so you have room to water.
Tips For A Successful Herb Garden
Because you love your new herbs, you may be inclined to water them all the time — but don’t! Too much water can cause the roots to rot. Just make sure the soil is moist.
The same goes for fertilizer. Don’t overdo it. Once a month with an organic fertilizer designed for use with edible plants is all it takes.
When your plants reach six to eight inches in height you can start using the herbs for cooking. Be sure not to clip more than one quarter of the plant’s height at a time, and let the plant grow back to its full height before harvesting again. If you use a particular herb a lot, just be sure to have multiple plants available.
If your house doesn’t get a lot of natural sunlight, you can still grow an herb garden. Just use grow lights instead, or as a supplement.
Give the herbs plenty of space so they don’t crowd each other out, and don’t put the plants near any vents. You want to avoid big temperature fluctuations as it’s not good for the plants.
Specific Tips For Popular Herbs
Here are a few tips for growing some of the most popular (and yummy) herbs:
Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil is easy to grow, just be sure that you provide bright light and nice warm temperatures.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Chives are from the onion family. They are best used fresh and love bright light with cool temperatures.
Dill (Anethum graveolens): Regular dill grows very large (up to 4 feet), so you’ll want to choose a dwarf variety instead to save space. Unlike other herbs, dill won’t grow back once it’s harvested, so you’ll need to keep re-planting.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Lemon balm is easy to grow like basil. It’s got a great fragrance and works well in drinks and salads.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum): Who doesn’t love oregano? It goes in so many dishes and has a sharp, pungent flavor.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Thyme is a little different from the other herbs. When you plant the seed initially, only cover it lightly with soil (or not at all), and be sure to keep the plants moist until they’re doing well.
About the Author
Jonathan Leger is a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site on the history, education and care of a variety of roses at CabbageRoses.net – all photos are copyrighted to Jonathan Leger.