How to Grow Herbs Indoors

How to Grow Herbs Indoors
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How to Grow Herbs Indoors

Guide to Growing an Indoor Herb Garden

Growing Herbs Indoors

  • Herbs and spices are relatively adaptable and highly versatile plants that can be grown indoors, either by planting herb seeds or plants.
  • Growing an indoor herb garden is an eco-friendly way to add flavor and nutrients to your home-cooked meals at a very low cost.
  • An indoor herb garden requires ample light—at least six hours per day for seedlings and at least twelve hours per day for newly planted seeds.
  • Keeping your herb plants moist is imperative, but leaving them in sitting water can be detrimental, so proper drainage is a must.

There's no better way to top off a home-cooked meal than with some fresh-picked herbs, especially when you've grown them yourself. You can cultivate virtually an entire spice rack worth of fresh, flavorful herbs from the comfort of your kitchen, including rosemary, basil, thyme, mint, parsley, cilantro, and many more of your favorite flavor-adders. And this is one gardening endeavor perfect for the novice—no green thumb required. Forget farm to table; with an indoor herb garden, it's all about windowsill to table!

Why Grow an Herb Garden?

You know what they say. “Meat-eaters are just bad gardeners.” Of course, that’s not entirely true, but learning how to garden is a good way to diversify your diet, add nutrients, and learn a thing or two about the natural world while you’re at it.

Oh, and if you regularly make herb-heavy dishes—hello, fresh pesto ????—then you already know that buying the pre-picked stuff from the produce aisle is not easy on the wallet. And if those herbs aren’t in season, they probably traveled from afar to get to your supermarket, which isn’t especially eco-friendly.

Another one of the main reasons why we so adore home-grown herb plants is because they bring a special flavor and dimension to everything you cook. The most popular herb garden mainstays are staples in many of your favorite cuisines, including Italian, French, Spanish, Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese, North African, and many more.

Think about it: What’s a wood-fired pizza without fresh oregano or a pad Thai without aromatic chives piled on top? Some fresh-from-the-windowsill herbs turn everyday cooks into serious chefs!

What You'll Need to Start an Herb Garden

Ready to dig in? (Just kidding—your micro-garden won’t require any digging). Here’s what you’ll need to create a sprawling indoor herb garden featuring all your favorite edible leaves and sprigs. Prefer to keep it as simple as humanly possible? We understand. Try an indoor herb garden kit that comes with everything you need for an eco-friendly, cut-and-come-again windowsill garden.

Herbs

Let’s start with the fun part: the herb plants themselves. We’ll cover in-depth the best indoor herbs below, but first you want to determine whether you want to start from seed or plants.

  • Herb Seeds – Growing a great big garden from herb seeds is a bit more difficult than starting with seedlings. However, purchasing herb seeds is, on the whole, more affordable and lets you control exactly how they’re grown. The key is to always buy seeds from a reputable retailer that properly labels their seeds and offers a quality guarantee—like Park Seed.
  • Herb Plants – Starting with a plant is a great option for the brand-new gardener who values speed and ease over affordability and control. Plants don’t require as much light, water, or general babying as seeds do. We recommend starting with plants only for particularly hard-to-grow herbs or if you are brand-new to gardening.

Containers

According to the Herb Society of America, the best containers for your herbs are those that have good drainage, such as yogurt cartons, egg cartons, empty juice boxes, and small clay pots. Just make sure to put a saucer beneath every container to catch any excess water! If you’ve got more than two or three herbs, consider using plant labels to ensure that you always know what’s what.

Intend to eventually transplant your herbs and spices from windowsill to garden? Jiffy Pots are an excellent option and can save you tons of time down the road. Growing in a Bio Dome Seed Starter is an awesome way to simplify growing herbs from seed, too.

Sunlight

Like any plant, your herbs need ample light to flourish. Always place your herbs on a bright and sunny windowsill or countertop—somewhere that provides at least six to eight hours of natural sunlight per day.

If you decide to plant from seed, you’ll need to shower your pots with 12 to 14 hours of light per day—so, unless you live in Norway and it’s the season of 20-hour days, you’re going to need some grow lights. The ideal temperature for herbs is between 65 and 75 degrees F, so keep that in mind when you’re setting the thermostat!

Water

The most important rule of herb-growing is to keep your plants moist and don’t let the soil dry up, but to also make sure they’re properly draining. If you’re working with seeds, bottom-water them by setting their containers in a shallow tray filled with water—this promotes growing deep roots and prevents dieback (the gradual death of the branches and shoots). Leave them in the water-filled tray until the soil at the top is moist, and then set the containers on a saucer.

Patience

Gardening is a game of patience, especially for first-time growers. But we’re sure that when you start to see those first green leaves pop up—and when you’ve got more basil than you know what to do with—it’ll all be worth it! Don’t let a failed endeavor stop you from trying again.

Windowsill Gardening: The Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

Now for the fun part: picking out the herbs. Remember that certain plants thrive better indoors than others, so you want to be careful when selecting your starter varieties. If you’re planning to head to the nursery to grab some plants, just make sure to select healthy-looking herbs that don’t have any discoloration or wilting. Keep your eyes out for signs of disease—mildew, bacterial blight, root rot, insect infestation, or any white, yellow, or black spots on the leaves.

Here are some of the best herbs to grow if you’re planting your first windowsill garden:

  • Basil – From fresh pesto to pizza margherita, basil is an herb garden fundamental that will not go uneaten. Try the large-leaf Italian variety for a milder, more Mediterranean flavor or the Thai variety for a bolder, spicier aromatic.
  • Mint – Prepare your mint julep recipes, because this is a summer staple that garnishes, brightens, and adds big flavor. Lamb, veggies, sauces, iced drinks—it all livens up with fresh spearmint or peppermint.
  • Rosemary – Rosemary is a delicious, versatile herb that loves full sun. It’s sometimes referred to as an “upside-down plant” because it loves dry roots and soaks up moisture through the air, so keep it properly drained. You’ll come away with a comfort food staple that brings a warm, sharp, earthy flavor to your dishes.
  • Oregano – A hardy staple offering a strong, earthy flavor, oregano is a mainstay in Italian, Greek, Mexican, Philippine, and Argentine cuisines. Keep your oregano plants moist and in the sunshine, but be careful not to over-water them!
  • Lavender – A staple of summertime in Provence, lavender grows really well hyper-locally, too. The calming, aromatic herb is a must for any relaxing recipe, whether you’re making hot tea or apothecaries, perfumes, potpourris, or sachets.
  • Chamomile – Amply scented and equally as soothing as lavender, chamomile is commonly grown and dried for relaxing nighttime teas. Its flavor is earthy, mellow, and sweet, so it’s often paired with other flavors to punch it up.
  • Chives – An easy to grow and endlessly versatile herb, you’ll regularly reach for the fresh chives in the window. The fragrant, flowering plants can be used fresh or dried to add a delicate, onion-like flavor to virtually any dish.
  • Thyme – Appealing to both ornamental and culinary green thumbs, thyme is an herb garden staple that thrives indoors. Unlike many other herbs, thyme can survive with indirect light, making it perfect for the kitchen counter or desktop.
  • Parsley – Chimichurri, tabbouleh, gremolata, salsa verde—can we all take a moment to stop and appreciate all that parsley brings? This multicultural heavy-lifter may not be the boldest or strongest herb in the garden, but it brightens and balances like no other. Plus, it’s easy to grow and adds a lovely ornamentation to the windowsill.
  • Cilantro – This super-leafy, citrusy herb brings a distinct flavor to whatever you’re cooking, which is why it’s a fundamental in Thailand, Mexico, China, North Africa, the Caribbean, and beyond. The plant’s dried seeds can be harvested and ground into coriander, making it a double-duty herb with lots of kitchen potential.

There are hundreds of herbs you can grow in your indoor garden, so don’t be afraid to go far beyond this list. From catnip and stevia to cinnamon-flavored basil that has traveled to outer space, there are thousands of varieties to explore. This is one reason why herb home-growers rarely get bored with this ultra-rewarding hobby.

Indoor Herb Garden Tips

If you’ve selected your herbs and gathered your supplies, now’s the time to get your hands dirty, perhaps quite literally. Follow these indoor herb growing tips to ensure that your seeds grow into big, strong, healthy and flavorful herbs.

  • Follow the directions on the seed packet. There, you will find detailed information on light and moisture requirements, soil tolerance, and more to ensure that each plant receives the proper care and nutrients it needs to thrive.
  • Keep each plant in its own pot. It’s important to specifically select herbs for containers and make sure that each seed has room to grow. The seed packet will provide information in exactly how deep to plant each seed.
  • Label your herbs. In the early stages of planting, it can be hard to tell your herbs apart (and, let’s face it, cilantro and parsley look really similar). You can easily label your plants with waterproof markers or soil stakes.
  • Know where you get the most sunlight. How much sunlight each window gets totally depends on your location. The best way to determine the sunniest spot in your house or apartment is to observe the natural light patterns over a period of time.

Cultivating a Deeply Rewarding Hobby

After you’ve used your home-grown herbs in one of your favorite recipes for the first time, you’ll quickly see how deeply rewarding herb gardening can be. If you’re committed to giving your plants everything they need to thrive, you can count on a garden that’s nutritious, delicious, and economical to boot. Park Seed is always available to help you master the art of all things growing, so be sure to rely on us as a resource!

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