Sure, you can enjoy fresh herbs from your garden or outdoor containers all summer long, but what about those dull cold winter months?
Growing herbs indoors is the solution! There are several herbs that lend themselves to easy growing in pots inside your kitchen.
Depending on the space you have and the conditions indoors, you can pot up most mints, rosemary, savory, oregano and even grow a bay tree. Chives, thyme, basil, parsley, lemon balm and lemongrass are among the best herbs to grow indoors. Compact varieties of many herbs are available, and very suitable for indoor growing.
If you’re bringing a plant from outdoors, examine it for insects. Trim away any dead or dying leaves, and cut the plant back by about a third before you place it in the container. It’s best to use unglazed terra cotta pots for growing your herbs indoors. These pots allow moisture and air to move through the walls of the pot, unlike plastic pots. Roots need both air and water, since they are living tissues. If the soil inside your pots of herbs is allowed to get waterlogged, you’ll soon have root rot.
Not every herb likes the same soil conditions. Basil and parsley like a richer moist soil, and need a lot of light. On the other hand, rosemary tolerates drier soil, and can even take some shade. Find out what your herbs prefer, and plant them in the correct soil type.
Make sure any pot used has drainage holes at the bottom, so extra water will drain out when you water your plants. The potting soil should allow water to move freely through, so add some perlite, vermiculite or coarse sand. Regular garden soil will pack too densely and restrict the movement of water.
Water your herbs only when the soil feels dry when you poke your finger in. Then water until water comes out the drainage holes in the bottom of your pot. Allow it to complete draining in the sink, and then replace it on its tray.
Herbs are light lovers, and need as much natural sunlight as you can supply indoors. Five hours of direct sun is the minimum. Place them in a south or west facing window for the best results. If you can’t supply that much natural light, then supplement the light with artificial grow lights.
Herbs that you grow indoors will also need some fertilizer periodically. They are not able to create a large root system, so can’t take in as much nutrients as one planted outdoors. Use a natural type of fertilizer such as fish or kelp emulsion rather than a chemical formula. If you’ve used a rich soil mix, you may not need to apply fertilizer.
What to Expect
You will probably find that herbs grown indoors are leggier and less bushy. This usually means they aren’t getting enough light. Selectively pinch out the growing tips to force more growth, but don’t over-harvest your indoor herbs.
You will also find that the essential oils, flavour and aroma of your indoor herbs is not as strong as those grown outdoors. However they are still acceptable, and much more flavorful than most dried commercial herbs.
Use your fresh herbs to enhance every day foods like omelettes or in potato salad. Use the mints in teas. Add fresh sage and thyme to sauces, and oregano to tomato sauce.
Have a little fun experimenting with growing herbs indoors, and you’ll soon find your winter meals rising to new heights of flavor and aroma.
Here’s a great short video with more tips for growing herbs indoors: