How to grow an indoor herb garden

Almost no green thumb required to start your own indoor herb garden. What are you waiting for?

Growing your own indoor herb garden is easier than you might think. Plus home grown herbs taste great, are organic (if you want them to be), local (duh) and convenient. Here’s what you need to get started:

Indoor herb gardening tools

  • a narrow box that fits on your windowsill (if this box for your balcony you may want to buy brackets to attach to the railing or a box specifically designed to sit on the railing)
  • soil (any garden variety will do)
  • organic fertilizer
  • herb seeds, herb seed kits or herb plants (herbs that grow best indoors are basil, dill, parsley and summer savoury)

When you have all your supplies and a window sill picked out you are ready to plant the seeds. Eric Rutgers, owner of Everdean Greenhouse and horticulturist for 22 years recommends the following steps for successfully planting your herbs in their new home.

  1. Pour the soil mix into the container and leave it slightly loose, not too packed down.
  2. Make a hole in the soil with your thumb about one inch and a half deep.
  3. Drop a couple of seeds of one herb into the hole and cover it again loosely with the displaced soil, then repeat with your other herbs.

Tip: If you know one of your herbs will grow quite tall, like dill, place this herb in the middle. If you know an herb will grow out and spread, like sage, place it on the side of your box so it won’t overwhelm the other herbs. The placement of your herbs in the container can be pretty random as long as you have the right conditions for your group of herbs.

When choosing the right herbs to plant you will want to consider two things:

  1. What herbs will you use the most and get the most satisfaction from?
  2. Which herbs will thrive in the conditions you have available?

Rutgers stresses that conditions can make or break your herb garden. “The difference between a lush herb garden and just a container of soil can be whether or not your sill is sunny all day or covered by a cloud, or whether you get a light afternoon breeze there or high winds all day,” he says.

Most herbs thrive in sun. In full sun they will grow fuller and taste more flavourful. However four to six hours of sunlight is enough to keep your herbs healthy and delicious. If possible, try and keep your box of herbs a few inches away from the glass in the window so the sun reflecting through does not burn your plants. Keep in mind there are some shade-tolerant herbs that will do better than others with limited sunlight like bee balm, thyme, sage, anise hyssop, chives, and garlic chives.

Herbs grow best in soil that can properly drain — most herb containers will take care of this for you with properly placed draining holes or with a loose gravel or mulch layer at the bottom. If the herbs are over-watered or do not drain properly there is a chance mould will build and suffocate your herbs. But do not wait for the soil to be completely dry before watering them.

Rutgers recommends only fertilizing the plants after they have grown a few inches. It is at this stage that the plants get the most benefit from the fertilizer.

Do not let your herbs go to seed, meaning keep the herb from blooming flowers. When an herb goes to seed it loses most of its distinguishing flavour and becomes bitter. If you see your plant starting to bloom, pluck the flower off. Dead leaves should also be plucked off your herbs along with the blossoms. Continual trimming back of the herb will encourage fuller growth and keep it from going to seed. Most herbs, if cleaned and dried after trimming, will last in an air tight bag or container in your fridge up to six months.

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