6 Tips for Planting an Indoor Herb Garden

6 Tips for Planting an Indoor Herb Garden

Now that we’re all morphing into makeshift homesteaders, you may be thinking about starting an indoor herb garden. Gardening can be a great way to help relieve stress, and herb gardens are relatively low-maintenance and easy to harvest. If you want to try your hand at growing fresh herbs indoors, here’s what you need to know.

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Can Herbs Be Grown Indoors?

Yes — if you don’t have the space for an outdoor garden, you can grow herbs indoors. Just keep in mind it’ll be trickier than growing herbs in an in-ground garden.

The main challenge is making sure your herbs get enough light, says Diane Blazek, executive director with the National Garden Bureau. Even in a sunny window, you’ll likely only be able to grow small plants, so manage your expectations. Don’t expect to grow enough basil for a full harvest to make pesto, for example — instead, plan to use a few leaves at a time, julienned over pizza or pasta.

The same is true for herbs like parsley, chives, mint, and cilantro. “All are easy to start indoors and grow to a small but still usable size,” Blazek says. “Just know that indoor herbs might be less vigorous and a bit more ‘leggy’ than their outdoor relatives.”

 

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How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden

indoor herb garden - growing herbs in window

Ready to give indoor gardening a go? Follow these simple tips to start your own indoor herb garden so you can get the healthy benefits of herbs when you’re cooking at home.

1. Choose between seeds or starter plants.

Starter plants are small plants that have already been growing for a while — like those you’d purchase from a garden center. These will grow faster and be ready to harvest much sooner than herbs grown from seeds.

If you’d rather start from seed, succession planting is key. “Start new plants every few weeks to keep a constant supply at the right size for harvest,” Blazek says. “That way, you won’t worry if you over-harvest and kill the plant.”

2. Get the right containers.

Keep these tips in mind when choosing pots and planters for your indoor herb garden:

  • You’ll need a larger pot than what you typically get when you purchase an herb plant or indoor growing kit, Blazek says.
  • If you have a big planter, it’s okay to mix and match different herbs in a single planter.
  • Be mindful about drainage. Choose a container with drainage holes so you don’t have to worry as much about overwatering, and add saucers or run-off trays under your herb pots.
  • Fill your pots with quality potting soil and a slow-release fertilizer mixed in for best results, says Dave Whitinger, executive director with National Gardening Association.

3. Find the sunniest spot.

Light is the most important element in growing herbs indoors. It’s also the biggest challenge.

While some herbs need more sunlight than others, a good rule of (green) thumb is that most herbs need about six hours of direct sunlight a day — ideally coming in through a south-facing window, says Blazek. This is hard to achieve in winter months, especially in northern states, so you may need to invest in a grow light to successfully grow herbs indoors.

Some herbs — like mint, parsley, and chives — can get enough light from a west-facing window, Blazek notes. Try to rotate your planters regularly so your herbs don’t lean too much into the sun and grow unevenly.

4. Water carefully.

When the soil looks dry, water your herbs thoroughly, until water flows out of the bottom and into the saucer or tray, says Whitinger. If it’s possible to place your container outside on sunny days and bring it in each evening, that can help aid growth, he adds. (Even a sunny porch or balcony can do the trick.) If you live in a dry climate, provide your herb plants with extra humidity by misting them with water frequently.

5. Monitor the temperature.

Most herbs can survive in the same indoor temps that humans live in (65 to 70 degrees), says Blazek. A tender plant such as basil, however, will begin to droop if it lives in a window and the temperature drops below freezing — especially if it’s touching the glass.

6. Use them or lose them.

Even in the best conditions, indoor herbs won’t last forever, Blazek says. The best approach is to offer your indoor herb garden as much light as possible in the conditions of your home — but also harvest your herbs as soon as they’re ready.

One easy way to enjoy your bounty: If you’re trying to eat more veggies, harvest a small amount of herbs and sprinkle them over roasted vegetables to add fresh flavor.

 

Which Plants Grow Best Indoors?

Oregano is a popular herb that’s a perennial, meaning it grows for multiple years, and can be grown quite easily in a sunny window, says Whitinger. Rosemary is another herb that many people grow as house plants.

Basil, parsley, sage, coriander, chives, and tarragon are all relatively easy herbs to grow and harvest at home, adds Silvia Grossi, the executive chef at Il Salviatino in who oversees the hotel’s organic herb garden in Florence, Italy.

 

Indoor Herb Garden Inspiration

Herb gardens aren’t just functional — they also add some life to your indoor decor. Here are a few indoor herb garden ideas to try.

  • Add decorative labels.

 

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  • Pick a color scheme for your pots, but vary the shapes and sizes.

 

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  • Corral your planters in a pretty farmhouse crate.

 

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  • Create a wall herb garden.

 

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Kelsey Ogletree

About

Kelsey Ogletree is a Chicago-based journalist writing about wellness, travel and food for publications like Shape, Cooking Light, Robb Report and AARP. When she's not writing, find her scoping out the latest in healthy snacks and whipping up new recipes for family and friends. Follow her on Twitter.

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