As someone currently growing kitchen sage, rosemary, and spearmint in their kitchen window, let me be the first to tell you that growing herbs indoors can be both rewarding and fun! There’s something special about being able to grow your own herbs and use them in your cooking.
However, indoor herbs can’t just be planted and forgotten about. It’s important to learn what each plant needs so that it can grow healthily and thrive!
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Why Grow Indoor Herbs?
Not everyone has a yard where they can plant a vegetable garden, and even those that do may find that it’s easier to grow herbs inside. Whatever your reasoning, growing indoor herbs can have many benefits that are worth considering.
Herbs are one of the easiest types of edible plants that you can grow and thrive with very few problems. No matter where they are planted, it seems like they are determined to grow. Even when planted in smaller containers, they can thrive with the right type of attention and care. This makes them excellent for folks just getting started with gardening or growing houseplants. Growing herbs is also a fun way to get kids involved with gardening.
Similarly, growing herbs indoors can also give you easy access to fresh ingredients for cooking. Trust me, fresh rosemary tastes loads better in pasta and soups than any dried versions you can get at the store. Fresh herbs straight from your planter have a richer and bolder flavor, and they can instantly transform any dish you make. Once you start using fresh herbs in your kitchen, you’ll wonder how you ever got on without them!
The Best Types of Herbs to Grow Indoors
When it comes to choosing which herbs you want to start out with, some can be easier than others.
- Basil: This herb is a staple in many dishes, and it is one of the easiest to grow indoors. Basil loves bright sun and heat, so it will be right at home on a sunny window sill. It is worth keeping in mind that basil won’t grow indefinitely, and after a while, the stem will start to turn woody. Once this happens, it’s time to plant a new batch of seeds so that you can continue to have this fresh herb on hand.
- Chives: This herb has a light onion flavor and can be used to spice up a number of dishes. Similar to basil, chives love bright light and do well in sunny places. The best thing about chives is that they will continue growing with the right kind of care. With regular trimming, you can help them thrive while keeping the trimmings handy for your cooking.
- Rosemary: This herb has a rich flavor and an incredible scent. Capable of adding a boost of flavor to soups, meats, and even olive oil, it is also very easy to grow indoors. Although rosemary thrives in cooler temperatures, it will do just fine in hot, dry conditions as long as there is enough light.
- Parsley: This herb can add a splash of color and flavor to a lot of cooking and, like the others on this list, it enjoys a lot of light. When planted in a deep pot, parsley can grow without a lot of fuss and keep providing you with fresh leaves throughout the year.
- Mint: There are numerous types of mint to choose from, but all of them are fragrant and delicious. With moist soil and a lot of sunlight, mint can grow surprisingly quickly. So quickly, in fact, that if planted outside in soil it can take over your garden! With this herb, you’ll always have mint on hand for drinks and desserts.
These are just a couple of the easiest plants to grow indoors, and they are some of the best that beginners can start off with. These herbs are also relatively easy to find, meaning that even if you accidentally forget to water yours one too many times (we’ve all been there), you can easily replace them and try again!
Learning to care for herbs is a process, so don’t give up!
The Best Places to Grow Herbs Indoors
Many herbs are big fans of sunny places, and windows that get a lot of light will be a great place to set them up. Make sure that all of your herbs are getting at least six hours of natural light every day. South-facing windows are great for this. However, herbs like mint, parsley, and thyme, can grow just fine with less light, making west-facing windows a good spot for them.
If you want to grow plants in a space where sunlight is sparse, you can use a grow light to help them thrive. Grow lights are also good to use during the winter when days are much shorter. Lights like this make it possible to grow herbs almost anywhere in your home without fear of them dying off from lack of sun.
Common Pests and Diseases
Herbs aren’t just tasty to humans, they’re also tasty to pests. While pests are more common on outdoor plants, they can make their way indoors in an attempt to make a meal of your herbs.
The most common pests include aphids, mealybugs, fungus gnats, whiteflies, and spidermites.
When it comes to diseases, herb diseases are extremely rare, and in most cases, your herbs will grow without a problem. The ones to be aware of include:
- Chives: Rust and downy mildew
- Basil: Powdery mildew
- Oregano: Root rot
- Dill: Stem rot and phoma blight
Treating Pests on Indoor Herbs
To get rid of pests like these, take a few minutes to gently hose down your plant with a kitchen sink sprayer. This will help dislodge any pests and any eggs that might be present on the leaves and stems. After this, inspect your plant (especially the underside of the leaves) and remove any remaining visible insects by hand.
To keep pests away from your herbs, find a clean spray bottle and fill it with three or four cups of cool water. Add about one tablespoon of antibacterial dish soap and rubbing alcohol. Shake the bottle to mix these ingredients together and mist your herbs until they are lightly coated. Wait two hours before exposing your herb to sunlight, and try to mist only the leaves as much as possible.
Repeat this process once a month and rinse any gathered herbs with clean water before eating them.
By doing this, you can help keep your plants healthy and pest-free all year long.
What Do Indoor Herbs Need?
Growing indoor herbs will require a few key things to ensure that your plants can grow happily and healthily. To help you plan for growing your own herbs, here are the supplies you’ll want to prepare.
The Best Soil for Herbs
Herbs can grow well with a premixed potting mix that combines soil and growth-promoting ingredients and fertilizer. I recommend an organic potting mix like Espoma Organic Potting Mix, which contains all-natural ingredients to help promote fast and healthy herb growth. An organic mix like this may be preferred by growers who want to keep their gardening as natural as possible.
How to Water Herbs
A good rule of (green) thumb is to water your herbs at least once per week, although newly planted herbs may require water twice a week until they are established.
Try to water your herbs during cooler periods, usually in the early morning, to avoid fast evaporation. This will enable the herbs to soak in as much water as possible and it can help keep the soil moister for longer.
How Much Light Do Herbs Need?
As noted above, a lot of herbs do well in south-facing windows that can provide at least six hours of light every day. Barring this, a grow light can be used to ensure enough light is being received.
However, some herbs will do just fine with less light, and oftentimes herbs will come with tiny cards that advise how much light is recommended for them.
Fertilizing Your Herbs
Many potting mixes will include some form of fertilizing component in them. However, you don’t want to rely on these, and you should fertilizer separately as well.
A few of the most common are granulated fertilizers and fish emulsion, both of which are added to water and then distributed to the plant. When adding either fertilizer, you’ll want to apply only one-quarter of the amount listed on the package. This is because the standard ratio for these fertilizers is often too strong for potted indoor plants.
Never apply fertilizer to a dry plant. Try to water your plant beforehand to ensure that the roots are saturated. This will prevent the roots from burning and it can also help make absorption easier.
Simple Steps For Growing Herbs Indoors
Now that you know the basics of what your indoor herbs need, you can start putting together a checklist of everything you need to do to give your herbs the best start possible.
Pick a Pot and Soil
Once you’ve decided what types of herbs you want to grow, spend some time picking out the soil and pots that you want to use. It’s advised to always grow herbs in separate pots so that you can manage their watering needs individually. Trying to grow too many herbs in one large planter can lead to problems in the future. Whether you want decorative planters or practical ones, make sure each is both large enough and deep enough to promote healthy growth.
Plant Your Seeds or Plant Cuttings
Many people start off a herb garden with seeds, although you can also use cuttings. Using cuttings is also a great way to expand your garden. For instance, I’m currently using a spearmint cutting to grow another mint plant.
To use a herb cutting, cut about a three to four-inch spring off of your plant and place it in water. Once the roots start growing to about an inch in length, you can plant it in its own planter to grow a whole new herb plant!
You can also buy starter kits which include the plants, soil and pots, which makes it super easy to get started growing indoor herbs.
Place Your Pot in The Best Area for Light
Find a spot in your home that can provide the best light for your herbs. This is usually by a sunny window, although if you use grow lights, this can really be anywhere. If you don’t have a large enough window sill, you can place a table by the window to set your plants upon.
Water Your Herbs Regularly
If you’re new to gardening and caring for herbs, remembering to water them regularly can be a challenge. (Especially if you’re forgetful like me!) To make watering easier you can set a reminder on your phone, computer, or mark your calendar. This can make it easier to remember to water your herbs. Eventually, it will become a habit that you’ll naturally follow.
Harvest Your Herbs
When harvesting your herbs, always make sure to use sharp clean scissors or plant cutters. Dull blades can cause damage and harm the growth of the plant. Herbs like basil, cilantro, and dill can be harvested as soon as the plant is strong and established. Cut the stems in the morning or late afternoon, and remove the leaves later.
Basil and sage can be harvested just before their flowers bloom. Once bloomed, the leaves will start to lose their flavor, making them less potent. You can also snip off the flowers to make the plant last longer. Once these plants start to flower they will begin producing seeds that you can use and will no longer grow new leaves.
During the summer, you should start pruning herbs like sage and rosemary once a week. Gently trim away the top two inches of new growth to encourage the plant to grow fuller.
Experiment With Different Plants
Herbs are great for folks just getting their feet wet in the world of gardening, and they can be some of the easiest and most rewarding plants to cultivate.
When choosing the indoor herbs you want to grow, don’t hesitate to branch out and try plants you might not have thought of growing before. The worst that can happen is the plant dies and you have to start over.
However, this shouldn’t discourage you. Growing herbs successfully is a learning process and you can always learn from your mistakes and do better the next time!