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What You’ll Need
1. Sunny location. Herbs do best when grown in sunny conditions. For best results, select a window that receives at least six hours of sunlight. South-facing windows are best, but east- and west-facing windows can also work. North-facing windows don’t provide enough sunlight for herbs to grow. Supplemental lighting, from fluorescent bulbs or grow lights, placed 8 inches from the herbs can be added in areas that don’t get enough sunlight.
The ideal temperature for growing herbs indoors is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18 to 21 degrees Celsius, during the day, dipping down into the low 60s to mid 50s at night.
2. Containers with drainage holes. The container type isn’t important, but it must have holes for drainage. Pots should be at least 6 inches across to allow enough space for roots to grow. Larger pots are better, because the soil dries out more slowly and needs to be watered less often.
3. Well-drained soil. Well-drained soil is a must for herbs. Use a potting or planting mix, which is best for containers, as it doesn’t get overly moist as many potting or garden soils can.
The herbs for your indoor herb garden can come from a variety of sources.
Transplants. If you have herbs growing outdoors, you can bring them inside (ideally in fall) and transplant them into your windowsill containers. Some herbs, such as rosemary, may lose their leaves temporarily as they adjust to the lower light levels indoors but should soon recover and grow new leaves. Purchasing herbs as transplants from your local nursery is a great way to get started growing herbs indoors as well.
Seeds. If growing herbs from seed appeals to you, try basil and chives, which are the easiest to start from seed.
Cuttings. Another way to obtain herbs for your indoor herb garden is to root them from cuttings. This method is inexpensive and can be done using cuttings from herbs growing in your garden or using a sprig of fresh herbs from your local grocery store. Rooting herbs from cuttings works well with basil and mint.
Simply take a leafy stem of the herb you’d like to grow and remove the lower leaves. Place it in a clear container filled with water so that no leaves are submerged. Roots will begin appearing within a few days. Change the water every other day. Once the roots reach 1 inch in length, transplant the herb into a pot filled with potting mix.
Caring for Indoor Herbs
Don’t overwater. Herbs don’t like wet soil, so it’s important not to overwater them. Check the soil moisture by inserting your finger 1 inch into the soil. If it’s barely moist or almost dry, water until water runs out the bottom drainage holes.
Fertilize monthly. It’s important not to overfertilize herbs, which will promote flowering when all we want are the leaves. Fertilize monthly with a liquid fertilizer at half strength, or use an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, for best results.
Other Indoor Herb Care Tips
- Rotate your potted herbs weekly to ensure that the entire plant receives sun and grows evenly.
- Keep the herbs from touching the window, where outside temperatures can cause their leaves to freeze in winter or burn in summer.
- It is important to note that herbs will grow more slowly indoors, and the leaves will be thinner and a lighter green than those grown outside due to the weaker sunlight indoors. This is especially true of basil, which needs a lot of light to grow well indoors.
Harvest old stems first. Cut off up to one-third of an individual herb at a time, concentrating on the oldest stems first, which will promote new growth of more flavorful leaves.
Growing herbs indoors takes a little effort, but the rewards are great when you are able to enjoy their fresh flavor all year long.