Caption: Artificial lights ensure herbs receive enough bright light to successfully grow indoors. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Company/gardeners.com
by Melinda Myers
Add garden fresh flavor to your meals year-round. Grow a few of your favorite herbs indoors, harvest and enjoy.
Select a variety of herbs you and your family enjoy and use for cooking, decoration, or fragrance. Basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, mint, parsley, sage and thyme are some of the easier herbs to grow indoors. Purchase plants or seeds from your local garden center, favorite garden catalog or produce section of the grocery store.
Most herbs need six to eight hours of bright light each day. A south-facing window in winter is best but an east- or west-facing window may be sufficient. Increase success with artificial lights. Set the timer for 14 to 16 hours a day and keep lights 6 to 12” above the plants.
You will find lots of energy efficient and stylish options for just about any space. Sleeker designs like Gardener’s Supply Micro Grow Light Garden can be placed on the kitchen counter or a small table. Furniture grade options like Bamboo LED Grow Light Garden (gardeners.com) make it easy to grow herbs in just about any room in the house.
Use a variety of plants to create an attractive display in a large windowsill planter. Combine plants that have the same growing requirements to ensure success.
Or place each herb plant in its own container. A four- to seven-inch pot is a good size when starting with smaller plants. Growing individual plants in their own container allows you to provide the specific watering, care and transplanting they need.
Select containers with drainage holes or reduce maintenance and increase success with self-watering containers like Viva self-watering planters. Just fill the water reservoir that gradually releases water into the soil for the plants to use. You will need to water less often.
Fill the container with a well-drained quality potting mix. Many contain a slow-release fertilizer, providing weeks or even several months of nutrients for your plants. Just check the label for details and adjust fertilization as needed.
Water the containers thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil is dry. Pour off excess water so the plant does not sit in the excess and succumb to root rot. Or place pebbles in the tray to elevate the pot above any water that collects in the saucer or tray. This means less work for you and better growing conditions for the plant.
Incorporate a slow-release fertilizer or use a dilute solution of any indoor houseplant fertilizer once the nutrients in the potting mix are spent. Follow label directions and do not overdo as too much fertilizer can harm your plants.
Begin harvesting most herbs when they reach six to eight inches in height and as needed. Use a sharp pair of garden scissors, snips, or hand pruners. Make cuts above a set of healthy leaves so the remaining plant is neater and tidier in appearance. As the plant grows, you will be able to harvest larger quantities and more often.
Start with a few of your favorite herbs and expand your collection as you gain experience. Soon you will be confident and eager to try more challenging favorites.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.