Indoor Herb Gardening

In The Herb Gardening Handbook, Andrew Perry captures the essence of gardening when he states, “There is something incredibly rewarding and relaxing about the gentle, rhythmic nature of growing.” This is emphasized by daily observations of indoor herb gardens.

Fortunately for the novice, herb gardens are a low-risk way to learn edible gardening. You can begin with seeds, cuttings, or seedlings. Seedlings provide the most immediate reward as you don’t have to wait before clipping a few sprigs from your plants to embellish recipes.

Herbs prefer consistent moisture, but too much water turns leaves yellow and rots roots. Herbs grow best in containers with drainage holes and saucers that protect surfaces underneath. If you want to experiment with solid containers, such as Mason jars, place pebbles in the bottom to collect excess water.

Ideally most herbs grown indoors should be placed in south-facing window-sills. Growth is slower in north-facing windows, in the middle of a room, and during winter when daylight is limited. Thankfully, modern technology helps compensate for less than ideal conditions.

AeroGarden’s hydroponic kit is compact enough for a window ledge. It includes six herb seed pods, liquid plant nutrients, a full-spectrum grow light, and an indicator reminding when to add water or plant food. Click and Grow’s Smart Garden 3, with three pods, is designed for households that don’t use lots of herbs, and it has an extension arm that raises lights as plants grow. No windowsills? No problem. Garden Therapy offers a unique kit with six different types of seeds, planters that stick directly to window glass, and a marker to write herb names on the window.

Basil, cilantro, chives, chervil, parsley, rosemary, bay laurel, mint, oregano, sage, thyme, and lemongrass are among the easiest herbs to grow. Encourage productive growth by harvesting them on a regular basis. Pinch leaves off, or use kitchen shears. If you notice long, woody stems, cut back the top third of the plant. But don’t remove more than a quarter of the plant at once as it could cause distress and kill the plant.

Unfortunately, indoor herb plants won’t last forever. Eventually they outgrow their containers or become root bound and need to be repotted or transplanted outdoors. Perennial herbs such as lavender, mint, oregano, and sage can be planted in the ground after any threat of frost. Pots of annual herbs — including basil — can be moved outdoors until the end of the growing season, then brought back inside as cold weather approaches. Beware of bringing pests indoors too. To avoid this risk, leave perennials outdoors and grow new indoor herbs each year. Or grow insect-deterring herbs such as mint, basil, lavender, chives, and rosemary.

Indoor herb gardens add greenery and fragrance to your home while making cooking more convenient. No more last-minute trips to the store for recipes that call for fresh herbs. No more waste when herbs come in large bundles but you only need a pinch. Simply enjoy the pleasure of cooking with fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Master Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources, and more.

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