Are you bored on the weekends without your outdoor gardening tasks? Last month’s post—all about growing microgreens indoors—was meant to have gotten you through the winter lack-of-gardening blues. If you find yourself still in a slump, let’s find something else for you to grow and gather for use in the kitchen. Let’s try growing some herbs indoors, shall we?
Why Grow Herbs Indoors?
Now, they may not be unctuous eggplant or juicy tomatoes, but herbs are an easy way to add fresh flavor to winter meals. Some of my favorite winter soups and stews are made all that more delicious with the addition of fresh herbs. One favorite bean-based soup contains nearly whole bunches of parsley, cilantro, mint and dill. That’s quite a flavor punch! And growing those at home is completely doable—given the following of a few tips, of course.
Ten Tips for Growing Herbs Indoor
Here are 10 tips to get your indoor herb garden from concept to completion.
Find your light. When growing herbs indoors you’ll need high light—and 6 to 8 hours of it—for good growth. Find this light in a south-facing window. If good light is hard to find in your house, you could set grow lights over your herb-growing area to provide supplemental light. We really enjoy working with the folks at NextLight, providers of full-spectrum LED grow lights. As we mentioned last month, these NextLight products are “plug and play,” come with all the cords and can be set up in no time.
Find your favorite herbs. Grow herbs you love to eat. If your soups and stews call for parsley and dill, or you enjoy fresh basil with your Sunday morning omelets, that’s what you grow. You have the option of growing them from seed, of course—‘tis the season—or you can opt to purchase full-sized potted herbs at your local garden center. You can also sometimes find them in a grocery store’s produce department. Some of the easier herbs to grow are basil, chives, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme.
Maintain a favorable temperature. A constant temperature between 65F-70F is ideal for herbs. If your home is a bit on the cool side in winter, waterproof heating mats (also found in garden centers) placed under your herb pots can keep them warm.
Pro tip: Basil is a prima donna and would love to be kept at 75F or warmer.
Consider the container. Speaking of containers, most all plants—herbs included—do best when planted in a container with a drainage hole. This keeps the soil and roots from becoming too moist. Don’t forget the saucer—if your windowsill or a nice side table will appreciate it.
Pick an appropriate potting mix. You’ve got your pot, now fill it with a quality product for best root and plant growth. Our Organic Mechanics Container Blend Potting Soil is formulated to provide excellent drainage while also holding moisture. It’s the combination of compost, coco coir, aged pine bark (forest products), rice hulls and earthworm castings that give the mix that ideal aeration. And here’s a sweet bonus: Studies on earthworm castings find they encourage growth of beneficial microbes which can aid in plant growth and nutrient uptake.
Keep up the humidity. A home’s indoor humidity level during winter is comparable to a desert, which can keep a plant from growing its best. A humidifier is good for plants (and for you, too). Another option is to place small pebbles in the saucer, fill it with water, and place your pots on top of that. The pebbles help to increase the surface water from which water will evaporate, thereby raising the humidity levels directly around the plant itself.
Flush herbs to remove salts. Ever wonder what the slow build-up of a white substance is on the surface of your potted plants’ soil? It’s salt residue from fertilizer use. This salt can eventually throw off the soil’s pH balance and inhibit proper nutrient uptake. There’s a simple remedy, however: Hold the pot over a sink and water the pot until water begins to drip out of its bottom. Let it flush until the water stops dripping out. This flushing should take care of the salt buildup for a while.
Provide air circulation. Just because plants are inside doesn’t mean the environment is pest- and disease-free. The indoor environment can become stagnant and stale, and as plants grow, the air around them can foster disease issues. A small fan will circulate the air around your indoor herb garden, freshening up the air around them.
Harvest! Using your herbs is a good thing! It ensures the herbs you use are young and tasty as well as keeps the plant a manageable size. Snipping a few leaves and sprigs here and there also helps promote lateral bud growth, which forms a nice, full-looking plant.
The best thing about growing herbs indoors in the winter is that these pots of herbs will be full grown by the time the weather warms. Just a week or so of acclimating the herbs to the outdoor environs and they’ll be ready for planting outside.
By the way, have you signed up for our monthly e-newsletter? It’s filled with useful tips on such topics as repotting houseplants, scouting for pests, how and why to use soil amendments and how to acclimate your plants to the great outdoors. It’s a useful read! Sign up for it at organicmechanicsoil.com/newsletter-sign-up.