All great cooks and healthy eaters know that the tastiest meals are made with the freshest herbs. Like the sweet basil in mom’s homemade pasta sauce, or the sprinkling of fresh rosemary that takes your famous roasted red potatoes from good to great. But what do you do if it’s winter- or even more permanent, you live in a condominium way up in the sky with no outdoor space? You plant an indoor herb garden! With a bit of preparation, you can have fresh herbs ready in only a matter of weeks. Here’s how…
What you’ll need to get started:
- Pots with drainage holes
- Fresh soil (sold in bags at your local home improvement store)
- Herb seed packets (best herbs for cooking and growing indoors: oregano, rosemary, basil, mint, chives, sage and thyme)
- Plant markers or make your own
Creating Your Herb Garden
Fill the bottom of each pot with 3/4-inch gravel, then fill completely with high-quality soil. Gently press seeds into soil 1/4 inch deep. Pots should be at least six inches in diameter for a single herb. To grow multiple herbs together, say three, you’ll need a pot about ten inches in diameter.
Find a Happy Place for Your Garden
For your herbs to thrive indoors, they need as much natural light as possible. Place them in a sunny spot near a window where they’ll get at least 4 hours of sun daily. Six to eight hours of light per day is optimal, and windows facing south or southwest offer the best exposure. If you can’t get light from the sun, buy a few reflector lights with compact florescent bulbs from your local home improvement store. The lights should be placed about four to six inches away from the plants. If you see brown spots on the foliage, it means the plants are getting too much light. If the plants are growing longer stems and fewer leaves, they are not getting enough light. Simply adjust the plant’s exposure to light and rotate them weekly for even growth.
When to Water
Overwatering is the biggest mistake you can make when nurturing your plants. Let your herbs dry out completely between watering. You can check the plant’s moisture level by putting your finger into the dirt all the way down to the root system. To water, put the plants in your sink or a large container and water from the base. Do not water the leaves or the top of the pot. Let the water soak through the pot’s base and repeat again. Once the water has drained completely, you can return the pots to their saucers where the plants will continue to drain.
The Importance of Drainage
To avoid root rot, you will need to provide your garden with proper drainage. Clay pots are great for allowing proper drainage. However, be aware that they can dry out quickly, especially when exposed to winter radiator or forced air heating. For this reason, you may want to consider a plastic or glazed container. Place a saucer under your pot to catch excess water and to protect surfaces. Also, don’t forget to remove any standing water that collects in the saucers. The saucer should not be clay since it will allow the moisture to pass through; use plastic, glass or metal instead.
Comfort is Key
Just like you, most indoor herbs are most comfortable around 65 to 70 degree temperatures. When growing herbs, it is important to remember that both air conditioning and heating leads to dry air, which can stunt their growth. Give your plants a weekly spray shower to keep them happy and healthy.
Fertilizing Your Plants
Your plants will tell you if and when they need to be fed. If they stop growing, they probably need food. It’s the same thing with turning yellow. If you’ve ruled out watering issues, your plants may simply need to be fed. Use a fertilizer like fish emulsion or liquid seaweed. Both promote leaf growth.
Putting Your Herbs to Use
Your herbs are there to be enjoyed, so don’t worry about cutting them. Cutting them actually encourages growth. Just be sure not to cut more than one-third off the stem. Once your herbs are grown, here are some ways to put them to use:
- The herbal chef. Of course, your herbs are delicious to eat! We love these 10 recipes that put your fresh herbs to use.
- Ice, ice, herbal. Not only will freezing your herbs help preserve them so nothing goes to waste, but herbal ice cubes can also make an excellent addition to a glass of water or a cocktail.
- The healing herb. Herbs are a go-to ingredient for natural home remedies. Whether you’re trying to soothe a headache or remove dark circles under your eyes, here are 12 unique ways to put your herbs to use.