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If you are not lucky enough to have an outdoor space for a garden, or your growing season is getting closer to an end, you can still enjoy some fresh herbs even with the limited indoor space or in winter! How you do it? You just start an indoor herb garden!
How to start an indoor herb garden?
There are a few things to consider when starting an indoor garden:
- Light – depending on the season, you might want to consider either east or south/west window for your indoor herb garden. In winter, a south window would be ideal as the days are shorter.
- Temperature – we found that many herbs are not very fussy about the temperature, as long as it is not feezing 🙂 We grow ours on a windowsill, and our house is warmer during the day and cooler at night. However, if your house is too warm, it might cause some herbs like parsley to bolt (flower). If you use herbs in cooking often enough, it should not be a problem 😉
- Containers – a few main things to consider: good drainage, size and how easy they are to relocate if needed.
- Soil – using good soil can help avoid many issues. If you are not ready to mix the soil for your indoor herb garden, just use a potting soil blend found in your local nursery.
- Herbs – mint, lemongrass, oregano, are the easiest to start and grow indoors. I have more suggestions below. 🙂
You can grow herbs using containers
The containers don’t need to be fancy or match-y 😉 You can actually find interesting and funky containers in the thrift stores or maybe even in your own house! Just make sure they have good drainage! A hole (or a few) at the bottom of a container will make it!
Here are a few ideas for you.
(Interested to learn more about how to grow vegetables in a small space? Check out this post by my good gardening friend Kristen of Shifting Roots :))
If natural light is an issue, or you don’t have enough room for planters on your windowsill, you may want to consider an indoor garden kit as well. Just make sure you plant mint in its own container, as it is pretty invasive and will take over if you plant it with other plants.
Just choose the ones that will work for your family and enjoy them!
Which herbs can be grown indoors?
There are hundreds of herbs that can be used for cooking, teas and medicinal purposes that can be grown in containers. My recommendation is to start with the ones you like and use, are easy to grow, and are costly to buy fresh in your area.
Here is my list of the herbs that are good for cooking and are easy to grow even for a beginner gardener:
- Basil – we love basil fresh in salads and of course in pesto! There are so many kinds and colours of basil! If you don’t know what your favourite kind is, buy a seeds blend and try them all to find your favourite 😉 You can easily root a cutting in water and plant it into a pot when the roots are about 2-3 cm (1″) long.
- Dill – we use dill a lot! We add it to borscht when we serve it. We add it to our homemade pickles and fermented tomatoes and cucumbers, we add it to salads. The list can go on and on. Spread the seeds generously in a container so you can cut the plants whenever you need them and add new seeds to keep a constant supply of this multi-purpose herb 😉
- Cilantro – some people can’t stand the smell of fresh cilantro. In our house, it is the most used herb, even before dill 🙂 It is great in chili, it is great in spicy oriental salads, it is delicious on almost anything! Grow it similar to dill to keep a constant supply of fresh leaves.
- Mint – did you know you could easily propagate mint from cuttings and grow it in a container year-round? We grow mint outdoors, and we have many kinds of it as well, but we are in Canada. Our garden might freeze in winter and the plants will go dorm. So, we just take cuttings of our favourite kinds and grow them in containers for the fresh leaves for teas and mojitos 🙂 One container goes a long way for us during winter months.
- Oregano – do you love pasta as much we do? If so, oregano is a must-have herb in any garden! Yes, you could use dried oregano as well, but nothing compares to the freshly-cut fragrant oregano! Same as with mint, we just take a cutting from our garden plant and grow it in a container in winter. It is very easy to grow from seeds as well, so don’t worry if you don’t know where to get a cutting from 😉 Alternatively, you could also dig a small plant out and plant it into a container and move it indoors in the fall.
- Parsley – I guess it is another friend of dill and coriander that is welcome in our kitchen! Fresh leaves are great for salads and add a great aroma to vegetable broth. Did you know that parsley is a natural “chewing gum” for fresh breath? Try it next time you chew on it and let me know if it did work for you 😉
- Thyme – we have been lucky with thyme growing through winter outdoors for a couple of last years. But it is also a very easy herb to grow in a container indoors. We love adding thyme to our homemade sourdough bread. If you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out! Or maybe it is just a European thing and I am biased? 🙂
Of course, there are so many more, but once again, chose the ones you like and will use!
Common herb gardening mistakes:
- Watering too much
While some herbs like more water and will tilt if they don’t get enough, others like it dry 🙂 For example, thyme and oregano are the plants that grow and thrive in hot climates, so don’t let them sit in water. Check if the soil is dry and then add water. You would want to use a watering can with a narrow neck that would not splash and wash away the soil. Or ideally, add water at the bottom so the roots reach it and draw it up. That helps to develop the root system, and the healthy roots are half a success to plants growth.
- Not watering enough
That is another extreme. We need water to thrive, so do plants. Set up reminders for yourself if you think you will forget to water your plants. Add water if you check the soil with your fingers, and it is dry for a depth of a finger knuckle. Also, if you see the plant struggling (wilted leaves), add water even if it is not a “watering time” yet.
Some plants, like oregano and thyme, don’t mind being on a drier side. Whereas others, like basil and mint, would thank you for a little bit more water.
- Bugs and diseases
Yes, even if you grow your herbs indoors, you should still be ready to deal with either bugs or diseases. Most of the herbs are natural pest repellents, so pests are usually not a problem unless you grow other plants indoors as well. A simple garlic solution can help. Just chop garlic clove, add water and let the mixture sit overnight. The next day, run the liquid through a mesh strainer and spray the affected plants.
Also, fungal diseases might be a problem. Make sure you use healthy soil and don’t overwater plants.
We mix our soil using 1 part of coconut coir, 2 parts of worms castings, and 1/2 parts of perlite and vermiculite. If you can find sea soil, you can add 1 to 2 parts of it as well.
Or you could simply purchase a soil mix at a local nursery. I will provide links to the products we use at the end of the post, in case you are wondering 🙂
An indoor herb garden is fun for kids!
If you have little (or not so little) kids, starting an indoor herb garden can be such a fun learning activity for them! Let them play with soil and teach them that they need to be gentle with plants.
Get kids gloves for them to teach them gardening safety and simply have fun talking about different plants, what they are good for and how they grow.
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