Growing herbs indoors can add a whole new element to your decor. It's also a great way to keep fresh herbs on hand for cooking or medicinal use. Some varieties make beautiful house plants and may even add a relaxing fragrance. Whatever your reason, growing herbs in your home can offer many benefits.
Tips for Starting an Indoor Herb Garden
Follow these tips to get your indoor herb garden started.
Choose a Location
If you'd like to start growing herbs indoors, you'll first need to be sure you have a bright, sunny location. A windowsill in a south or west facing window is ideal during the summer. In cooler months, it may be better to move your tender herbs to a table or shelf with a fluorescent light. This will assure that herb plants get all the necessary light and will also prevent them from die-back that occurs from being against a cold window. Depending on your space and interests, you can consider installing a greenhouse window to provide maximum sun exposure for your herbs.
Choose pots large enough for the full-grown plants. Small pots will cause plants to become root-bound and eventually die. Fill the posts with soil -- most experienced gardeners prefer to use a non-soil mixture of perlite, peat moss and vermiculite. Others feel it is better to use an organic potting soil. You can opt to start your seeds in the potting mix and later transplant into the organic soil. The choice is yours.
Once you've collected your supplies and established a growing area, you'll need to choose how to grow your herbs, either from seeds or established plants. Both ways are simple and reap positive results.
Seeds are very easy to start with, even if you are a beginner. Most herb seeds are very small, so you can simply press them into the potting mix. A good rule of thumb is that seeds should be at a depth of three to four times the diameter of the seeds. Using a spray bottle or mister, moisten the soil. Using a regular watering can may result in soil and seeds being splashed everywhere.
Gently keep your seeds moist so they can germinate properly. Damp is good, soggy is not. Many people have the most success by covering their planted herb seeds with plastic wrap or a plastic baggie to create a greenhouse of sorts. This will help keep seeds warm and moist. Once they germinate, the plastic can be removed.
The easiest way to start your indoor herb garden is to buy established plants. You can find plants at a local nursery or home center. You may also be surprised to find how many grocery stores carry herb plants, often in their produce department.
Herb plants allow you to have instant gratification. Simply place it in a decorative clay pot and you are done. You can also create more visual appeal by placing a few different herbs into a larger pot. They can grow together for a lovely display.
Care of Established Plants
Use an organic fertilizer once a week. This is especially important if you intend to use your herbs for cooking. You certainly don't want to add chemicals to your food.
Regular pruning will keep your herbs looking bushy and attractive. It is also a great excuse to add some fresh flavors to your sauces, meats and other dishes. Pinch off flowers, unless the flowers are your goal, as with chamomile, to keep plants growing all winter.
Water your plants early in the morning so soil and leaves are dry by evening. Wet soil can be a haven for fungus which will make your herbs unappealing at the very least. You should also be sure your herbs are not over crowded as this, too can lead to fungal problems that may kill your plants.
Herbs grow best in temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees. Some also like humidity. However, this does not mean you should mist them, which can encourage mold and fungus to form on leaves and soil. Instead, fill a tray with pebbles and place pots on top of them. Pour water over the pebbles, adding more as needed. This water will provide needed humidity without causing any problems for your plants.
Types of Herbs to Grow
There are many varieties of herbs. If you are having trouble deciding, consider a theme garden based on what you would like to do with the herbs.
Herbs for Vinegar
If you enjoy herbal vinegar, consider planting tarragon, dill or chives. The possible combinations are nearly endless and just depend on your favorite flavors. To make your vinegar:
- Pack a quart jar full of the desired herbs.
- Pour apple cider vinegar over the top and cover with plastic of cloth.
- Put it aside for about four to six weeks.
- Strain through a coffee filter before use.
Herbs for Tea
Herbs for tea are also very popular. Excellent varieties to try are chamomile or any of the mints. Lemon balm leaves add a natural lemon flavor to warm or iced tea. Flowers or leaves can be harvested, dried and brewed into a relaxing herbal tea.
Perhaps the most common reason to grow herbs indoors is for culinary purposes. Growing culinary herbs indoors is simple and rewarding. Herbs can be grown easily in a sunny window or under a regular fluorescent with well-drained soil.
If you love Italian food, consider planting a spaghetti herb garden. Grow oregano, parsley, garlic chives and basil. Use them liberally while preparing your favorite sauce. Even a store bought sauce can be dressed up with the right herbs.
With just a little effort, you can have fresh chives for your baked potatoes or fresh basil for your pesto. Even those who do not have room to grow plants outdoors can enjoy their own little indoor garden. Your food will taste wonderful, you'll feel good about growing your own fresh food and the mental boost of home-grown foods in the winter can help you battle those dreary winter blues.
Some common culinary herbs that you can grow inside include:
Perhaps you'd like to try growing herbs indoors because you want to add the lovely aroma of your favorite herbs to your home without chemical-laden sprays. You can do this by growing aromatic herbs. Of course, most aromatic herbs are great for cooking or even for medicinal uses, but there claim to fame is really their intoxicating scents.
Try beautiful lavender for a relaxing fragrance and a lovely centerpiece. Sage smells simply wonderful and is a terrific addition to meats and other tasty dishes. Sweet marjoram also is a wonderful aromatic herb. Enjoy the attractive plant but be sure to dry some for potpourri as well.
Growing medicinal herbs indoors is like keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet. You instantly have what you need right at your fingertips to make healing salves or tinctures, teas or compresses. Many of these herbs are beautiful as well, so they will make a nice addition to your home's decor.
German chamomile is a great choice for an indoor medicinal herb. Sprinkle seeds in a large, decorative flower pot and soon you'll see it overflowing with cute little white flowers with cheery yellow centers. Harvest these blooms and dry them for a mildly sedating tea.
What kitchen is complete without a soothing aloe plant? Easy to grow, this medicinal herb is a must-have to heal mild cuts and burns. Many varieties of mint grow well indoors too. They make a perfect remedy for stomach problems and headaches.
It's a wonderful feeling to use herbs you've grown and nurtured. Enjoy your indoor herb garden and be creative. You can find so may uses for herbs in your home, you may find yourself running out of places to grow these versatile plants.