Growing Herbs Indoors
Imagine the next time you are making pasta sauce and you lean over your windowsill to access your indoor herb garden and pluck some fresh oregano, basil, and parsley to add to the pot. Not only do you get the best quality because they are just picked, but you also will save a lot of money. Fresh herbs at the grocery store are expensive! And they go bad quickly if you don’t use them all up. Growing herbs indoors is super easy and the rewards are innumerable.
How To Grow Herbs Indoors
Step One – Find a Good Spot
The majority of herbs prefer a well-lit, warm, location. A sunny spot by a window is best. A spot that faces the south or southwest will get the most sun. North-facing windows will not work since they are do not receive enough light. Six hours of sun per day is the minimum needed for growing herbs indoors. If you do not have space where your herbs will receive this much light, you will need to supplement with grow lights.
In addition, think about what the spot near the window will be like during all seasons. As the seasons change, the temperature inside changes too. In the summer, pots located right next to the window will get additional heat. In the winter, pots in the same location may get drafts since it is always colder next to the window. One of the great things about growing in containers is that they can be moved. Move them around seasonally if you need to. In general, herbs enjoy an indoors temperature around 65-70F. If you use air conditioning or heating, consider increasing the humidity where your plants are located so they don’t dry out.
Step Two – Choose Good Soil and Good Pots
Use a good quality potting mix, not potting soil. There is a difference. Potting mix is lighter and better for herbs. Do not use dirt from outside. It is too compact. And, if you go dig in your backyard, you’ll be bringing in all those organisms and microbes as well.
First off, make sure your pots have drainage holes and a saucer underneath! The pots must have drainage holes because otherwise water will sit at the bottom and cause the roots of the herb to rot. Any clay, plastic or ceramic container will work. Ceramic pots hold in water so are good for a drier environment. Clay pots drain better and are good for moister environments.
Choose pot sizes that match the herbs you are growing. Individual herbs should be grown in pots at least 6” in diameter. Multiple herbs should be grown in pots at least 10” in diameter and 8” deep.
Step Three – Give Them Air
Air circulation is very important to healthy plants. Stagnant air causes mold and fungi to grow. Cover a tray or the saucer you have the pot on with pebbles. Place the pot up on the pebbles and air will circulate underneath through the drainage holes.
Additionally, move them around in place so they don’t lean towards the light too far in one direction. A quarter-turn every week will promote a healthier plant.
Step Four – Don’t Over-water
Herbs do not need a lot of water. Place your finger in the dirt up to your knuckle. If the dirt is dry, it needs watering. If it is moist, leave it alone. To understand your herbs’ needs, write down each time you water them. After you’ve done this for awhile, you’ll see a general pattern and you can put your watering on a schedule. While herbs don’t like to be watered often, they do like consistency.
The best way to water your herb plants is to put them in your kitchen sink and soak them there. Water the dirt; do not get the leaves wet. Wet leaves become havens for disease. After the water has soaked through, water them again and let them sit until they have drained completely.
Step Five – Feed Them if They’re Hungry
While herbs don’t need a lot of fertilizer, they do benefit from an application as needed. Often, the herbs will let you know when they need feeding. If they have stopped growing or if the leaves are turning yellow and it’s not from over-watering, then they can use food.
Choose a fertilizer with low phosphorous levels. Phosphorous promotes flower blooming. However, you’re growing the herbs for their leaves, not their flowers, so it is best not to encourage blooming.
Step Six – Don’t Neglect Them
Herbs are to be used, to be eaten, to be picked! Use them. Cut them often to encourage more growth. Pinch them back even if you’re not using them so they don’t grow top heavy.
Choose the Right Herbs
Growing herbs indoors takes some skill as each herb has its own particular needs. It’s best to start with the easiest ones, which include Mint, Catnip, Oregano, Chives, and Parsley.
Loves lots of light and warm temperatures. Seeds can be surface sown and lightly pressed into soil. Trim back the plants to two inches to encourage bushier growth. Space 8-12″ apart. Basil normally requires 12-16″ for full growth.
Catnip is a type of mint so the growing needs are the same. Mint grows strong and will take over any pot you put it in so be sure to grow it on its’ own. Plant seeds 1/4” deep and in the beginning, until they are 3-4 inches tall, try to give them 16 hours of light per day. They will sprout in 10-15 days. They take awhile to become established, so be patient.
Scatter the chive seeds over your moistened potting mix and cover with 1/4” soil. In 2 weeks, they will germinate. Thin them to 4-6 inches apart so they have room to grow individually.
Oregano grows tall and wide given space. Plant 2-3 seeds in a 12” diameter container and thin them out once they get a few inches tall.
Spread the seeds over your moistened potting mix and cover them with 1/4” soil. They will emerge in 2-3 weeks. If too many come up, you will need to thin them to 3-4 inches apart.
More to come!
These are just a handful of herbs that can be grown indoors, we’ll be adding more information in the weeks to come!
Common Problems to Growing Herbs Indoors
As mentioned in the beginning of the article it’s important to have sufficient light for your herbs, avoid over-watering, and have good air flow. It’s just as important when starting the seeds.
Lack of light
If there’s not enough light, seedlings may grow tall and spindly. If the situation is not remedied they will soon fall over and die. Some herbs require sufficient light to stimulate the germination process. Avoid burying seeds deeper than required. Most herb seeds can be surface sown and lightly pressed into the soil.
Waterlogged soil will eventually rot any seeds that have been sown. Overly wet conditions can also be a breeding ground for fungi which can attack and kill seeds. Always use well-draining potting soil. The water should drain through the soil within 10 minutes. Make sure your containers have proper drainage holes.
Poor air circulation
A lack of proper air circulation can lead to fungi (mold) problems, especially when combined with over-watering.
We’d love to hear from you!
If you have any tips or questions about growing herbs indoors, please let us know in the comment section below.