Nothing spices up home cooking like fresh, homegrown herbs. Just imagine how wonderful your favorite recipes would taste if you could easily harvest your favorite herbs right from your kitchen windowsill. This dream is well within reach. Growing an herb garden inside is easier than you might suspect. If you've got a sunny window or can invest in a few inexpensive grow lights, you'll be amazed at just how easy it is to set up and grow your own indoor herb garden. Follow the step-by-step instructions below and you'll be snipping fresh herbs to add to your recipes in no time at all.
Decide Where to Grow Herbs Indoors
Ready to get started? The first thing you'll want to do is look around your home and find the perfect place(s) for your indoor herb garden. Windowsills work great for herb gardens, but that's not the only option. If you have shelves or other flat surfaces in front of any sunny windows, those can also work. Take a sweeping look around your space to get a sense of where you want to put your herb garden and how much space you have available.
- It's best to grow individual herbs in their own container.
- Start with four- to six-inch pots that have drainage holes.
- Plan to place each pot on a saucer to catch dripping water.
Keep in mind that you don't have to cluster all of your herbs in the same place. For example, you may want to put the herbs you cook with most often in a kitchen window and cluster the others in your den, family room, or another area.
Determine How You'll Provide Enough Light
Light is key to successfully growing herbs indoors. Most herbs need six+ hours of sunlight every day. You may be lucky enough to have a south-facing window (the direction that gets the most sun) that is sunny all day and pretty much all year. If so, great! Your herbs won't need any additional lighting. If you don't have a spot that gets this much sun, you'll need to provide your herbs with artificial lighting in the form of fluorescent grow lights.
- If you're going to rely solely or mostly on natural light, be sure to keep the window clean.
- To a plant, 13 hours of time under a grow light is the equivalent of six hours of sunlight.
- Grow lights are available in many configurations, so it's not hard to find one to fit any space.
If you decide to use grow lights, invest in ones that include a timer so you can preset them to operate the number of hours your plants need on a daily basis. You'll need to adjust seasonally (as the days get longer or shorter) but otherwise, you won't have to think about turning lights on and off.
Finalize How Many Herbs You Can Grow
How many herbs should you grow? As many as you want and have room for. You can grow as many herb types (and plants!) as you can fit into the space you identify, as long as they'll be able to get the light they need.
- Consider how many four- to six-inch containers you can fit in the space you want to use for growing herbs.
- Consider plant size in addition to container size, as many herbs will grow in a bushy shape that's a bit wider than the container.
- Determine how many plants will be able to get enough light via the window and/or the grow lights that you plan on using.
You don't have to start with a full herb garden; you may want to start with just a few in a sunny window and see if you enjoy having an indoor herb garden. If you do, then you can expand your display to fill the windowsill or to go into other rooms, including areas that may need grow lights.
Decide Which Herbs You Want to Grow
Now that you know where you're going to place your herbs and how you're going to make sure they get enough light, it's time to decide which herbs you want to grow. Most herbs will grow well indoors, so start by making a list of the ones that you use the most. They definitely belong in your indoor herb garden! Review a list of the best herbs to grow indoors for inspiration, along with this herb cooking chart.
- Research each herb that you select to verify if it's best to start it from seed or from a rooted cutting.
- Purchase seeds for herbs that grow well (and fairly quickly) from seed.
- For other herbs, ask a friend who already grows herbs if they will share cuttings.
If you can't find, or don't have the patience for seeds, and no one you know has an herb garden, visit your local garden center. Chances are that they'll only have herbs that are in season at that time, so you may have to go back a few times throughout the year to fill up your collection. You could also try rooting fresh herbs purchased from a supermarket or farmer's market. If they're newly cut, they may work just fine for this purpose.
Select Soil That Will Set Your Herbs Up for Success
Once you have your seeds or seedlings, it's time to start growing your indoor herb garden. Most herbs prefer well-draining soil, whether they are planted inside or outside. This is especially important when growing herbs indoors in containers. If their roots get too soggy, the plants will rot.
- Don't bring in soil from outside for your indoor herb garden, as you could end up bringing pests into your house.
- For the easiest option, purchase a sterile potting mix that's specially formulated for indoor plants.
- You could also make your own potting mix by combining peat moss (two parts), perlite (one part), and vermiculite (1/2 part).
Loosely fill each container with soil before you plant your seedlings or sow your seeds.
Plant Your Herb Seeds and Seedlings
Now that the containers are loaded, it's time to plant your herbs and let them start doing their thing.
- Use a pencil or your finger to make a hole for seedlings and insert them into the soil, then pack soil around them to hold them in place.
- Be sure to read your seed packets carefully. Some herb seeds should be covered with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil, while some should not be covered at all.
- Once your seeds or seedlings are in their new home, be sure to water them thoroughly.
After you water your newly planted seeds or seedlings (the first time and every time), wait for the water to drain through and dump any excess water out of the saucer. This little detail is an important one - it will help prevent root rot.
Get Ready for Always-Available Fresh Herbs
That's it. Starting an herb garden is as simple as following the steps above. Once your herbs are planted, you'll need to keep them watered and make sure they're getting all the light they need. In exchange, they'll keep you stocked with deliciousness all year long. Some herbs prefer to stay moist, while others should dry out completely in between watering. Take the time to review guidelines for tending to each type of herb you decide to grow. Check on them regularly to make sure they continue to thrive, making adjustments as needed along the way.