While many people grow their favorite herbs outside in the warmer months, then cut and dry the herbs for use during the winter, there are times when the dried herbs just won’t do the trick. When you are in the kitchen, cooking up one of your grandmother’s old recipes, there is nothing like using fresh herbs to add depth to the dish. Running to the grocery store to get fresh herbs can be inconvenient and expensive.
To get around this, many people maintain a simple culinary herb garden indoors so they’ll always have their favorites fresh and on hand. Calling it an indoor garden may be overstating things just a bit. Most culinary herbs that are grown inside are done on a windowsill in several small pots or one longer, narrow pot that will be home to several varieties of herbs. The success of an indoor herb garden all comes down to the planning.
Choose the best location. Herbs will grow the best if they get a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight every day. More is better. In most homes, this will mean situating your herbs in a south-facing window. If most of your windows are north facing or are obstructed by taller buildings, invest in a grow light and put it on a timer.
Another consideration is the location of your radiators or heat vents. While the herbs like to live at room temperature, they do not like the exposure to heat that comes from being too near a heat source. If you have pets that might find your plants interesting to eat or dig in, make sure they are in a location that is inaccessible to your furry friends.
Choose the right pot and soil. Herbs need adequate soil drainage in order to thrive. Regular potting soil will do a great job. Many people like to grow their herbs in clay pots, which provide fantastic drainage but may dry out very quickly in an environment that is artificially heated or cooled.
Plastic pots with drainage holes allow for the necessary drainage while holding in enough moisture. Small pots, about 3 or 4 inches in diameter are ideal for herbs. Cluster the pots together to help preserve humidity. Plants grown in pots can quickly deplete their soil of nutrients, so many experts suggest supplemental feedings for your herbs.
Choose the right herbs. Herbs that do not spread too much or which have flavorful leaves before the plant reaches full size are best suited to indoor herb gardening. Among these are chives, thyme, parsley, sage, oregano, and basil. For taller herbs, such as basil, select dwarf varieties that will do well on a windowsill or under a grow light. You will get less leaves, but the plants are easier to maintain.
Once your planning is complete, it’s time to go out and buy the supplies you’ll need. Getting live plants might be a bit tricky in the winter, so you may have to grow your herbs from seeds. It isn’t too hard, just be sure to check the expiration date on the packet and follow the grower’s instructions. In several days, you will see the beginnings of seedlings, and after several weeks, you can enjoy your first fresh herbs.