Gardening is a hobby that you can spend a lifetime learning about. Seasons change, seeds fail or thrive, and just when you think you know it all, you realize how much there still is to learn. Direct Energy’s Gardening Series is a follow-along guide to embrace the beauty and challenges involved in being a gardener. As a craft that requires patience, creativity, and endurance, gardening can be enjoyed by those of all ages, and is one of the most satisfying ways to spend an early morning or late afternoon. Follow along as we show you how to begin, which herbs grow the best, and other tips on how to plant a garden that will flourish under your care.
There’s nothing quite like snipping a few bits of fresh herbs right from your kitchen’s window sill to add to your cooking dinner.
If you don’t have a yard or patio, it’s possible to grow herbs indoors as long as you select the correct location and grow the right herbs. You can also harness the power of indoor LED lights to boost the light edible foods need to grow.
We share our top garden tips for a successful indoor herb garden.
1. Use the Right Lights to Grow Herbs Indoors
Most edible plants require a fair amount of sunlight, so choose a location in your home where the window sill or portion of the room receives 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. If you don’t have that much sun in your home, opt to grow your indoor herb garden with artificial lights.
Keep in mind that since grow lights are artificial, you will need to expose your herbs to longer periods of light than you would with the sun.
The best lights to grow herbs indoors are either high-intensity discharge lights, (HID) which produce twice as much light as incandescent or fluorescent lights, or light emitting diode (LED) lights, which allows for smaller fixtures, taking up less space. LED lights also emit less heat, and uses significantly less energy.
2. Pick Planting Containers for Your Space
Depending on your space and where you intend to grow, will determine how you plant and grow your herbs.
Be sure that whatever pot or container you purchase, you have a water catcher to save your walls, window sills, and counters or floors from getting wet.
For windowsills, long rectangular boxes are ideal. If you are planning to grow them on your counter top, then small round pots will be suitable. If larger space if available, a larger pot will allow for a few more varieties clustered together, like a miniature rambling herb garden.
3. Decide Between Seeds Versus Seedlings
Consider starting your herbs from seed to grow more herbs for a lower price. You can also guarantee that your seeds are non-GMO, organic and heirloom if this is important to you.
Grow seeds using the cup half of a cardboard egg container. Fill each cup with nutrient rich, organic potting soil and plant a few seeds per cup. Keep them moist but not overly saturated using a spray bottle of water.
You can also use little peat pots to start seeds, and then transfer these directly into the soil inside the pot you’ll use.
Some seeds respond better to sprouting when soaked prior to being planted, so check the label before seeding.
If seeds are too complicated, then purchasing seedlings will allow you to envision what your pots and miniature gardens will look like. This also gives you a bit more encouragement if this is your first time to grow herbs or edible plants.
Keep in mind not to plant too many herbs in one pot as their root structure will over crowd, producing a lack luster crop of herbs.
4. Know the Best Herbs to Grow Indoors
An easy rule of thumb with the easiest herbs to grow indoors is to consider ones you’d use in Italian cooking!
Parsley, Italian basil, chives, oregano and rosemary will all grow well inside with enough light. Rosemary needs to be purchased as a seedling or plant rather than seeds.
Also, keep in mind that parsley and basil are annuals, so they will need to be replanted each year.
But it’s not just the flavors of Italy that will do well.
Consider Thai basil, sage for those Sunday roasts, and various types of mint for your smoothies. Mint loves to stay moist, so you can consider putting one in your bathroom if you receive adequate light.
Micro greens, while not really an herb, are also an easy edible to grow on a window sill.
4. Know How Much to Water Herbs
Individual herbs will determine how much you’ll water it.
Basil, parsley and chives all need water about once a week. Rosemary can go a little longer and tends to thrive with partial neglect. Something like mint, however, enjoys its roots staying moist.
Water your herbs at the base of the plant rather than the leaves. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. You can do a simple test by pushing your finger into the surface a half inch to check moisture.
Over time you will get to know your indoor herbs, much like a pet, and understand that their water needs are!
5. How to Harvest Herbs
Harvesting herbs from inside the home looks a little different than harvesting flowers, fruits and vegetables from the outside garden.
You won’t want to clip the entire stem of the plant. Simply pick what you need, leaf by leaf.
With mint, you’ll learn that it produces long tendril-like stems that will reach beyond the rim of the pot. When this happens, feel free to prune or clip the mint back to near the dirt. Otherwise, simply harvest the larger leaves at the base of the plant.
The same goes for basil. Harvest the largest leaves first, allowing those smaller leaves to come into their own and grow large, too.
6. How to Keep Your Herbs Healthy
Since indoor herbs will be growing in pots, they won’t be receiving nutrients from the ground soil. Consider fertilizing them once a month with an organic solution such as seaweed, fish emulsion, or blood meal.
When the plants begin to look leggy and lacking leaves, trim them back to allow the plant to invest its energy into producing new, healthier growth.