What is an herb garden?
An indoor herb garden is literally what it’s titled, an herb garden that is grown in your home. An herb is the leaf or stem of a plant that is commonly used in cooking or medicine, and an herb garden is a collection of these green, non-woody (meaning not a tree or shrub) plants. Herbs differ from spices in that spices are made from the seeds, roots or bark of plants. While you can include spices in an herb garden, herbs tend to be simpler to grow and harvest than spices.
What does an herb garden typically include?
Indoor herb gardens often include those herbs most commonly used in cooking including basil, chives, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, oregano, and parsley. Some gardens also include herbs for medicinal use, though these are less common. You can choose any herbs you would like for your herb garden, though unless you simply want them for aesthetic and air quality purposes, herbs you regularly use are a better choice.
Why choose an indoor container herb garden?
Growing herbs indoors is often considered easier than outdoor herb gardening, because it allows you to control all elements of the plants existence. You are in control of the light, moisture, temperature, and fertilization. Indoor herbs are also less prone to pests and parasites. On top of offering complete control to the grower, indoor gardens also allow for an extended growing season. This can provide fresh grown herbs for use even in the colder months. Growing your own herbs is a great way to save money on the shopping bill as well. As an added extra, having plants growing in your home will improve air quality, as well as add beauty and create humidity, which can be low in the winter months.
Growing an herb garden is as easy as keeping a house plant alive, most anyone can keep one. This guide on how to grow an indoor herb garden will walk you through what you’ll need, the different types of herbs, how to get started and how to maintain your herb garden once complete.
Planning an Indoor Herb Garden:
The first step in any gardening project is to sit down and plan your garden.
Some good questions to ask before beginning an herb garden:
How much work do I want to put into this garden?
One of the few disadvantages of an indoor garden is with control comes great responsibility. You can no longer rely on a rain shower to water plants, or the sunrise to provide light. The number of herbs you pick will directly affect the amount of work required.
How much money do I have to spend on supplies?
Indoor gardening can be very inexpensive, as many containers are perfect to be recycled into planters. However, you probably will need to purchase soil and starter seedlings or seeds. Many herbs can also be started from cuttings.
There is also a wealth of herb garden starter kits available for purchase. These often include everything you’ll need from seeds to pots. Live plants and seeds are generally easier to purchase in the spring, so if you plan on not starting your garden until fall or winter, plan ahead.
Account for how you will acquire all of your supplies to be sure your plans don’t exceed your budget.
How much space do I have, and where am I putting these plants?
Naturally, how many plants you can grow will vary by how much space in your home you can spare. Herb gardens are great in this respect, because each plant only requires a small pot and a little light.
Speaking of light, Keep in mind that plants do need light. Six to eight hours of day light is required, though many herbs fair better in 10-12 hours. Most of the time placing plants in a window sill is sufficient, but you may still need additional lighting in some areas or during certain seasons. You can consider simply changing the bulbs in the existing lights for the location of your herb garden, for example the kitchen, to plant or grow bulbs. If you live in an especially cold climate, beware placing delicate or temperature sensitive plants in window sills.
Here is a list of items you will likely need to start an indoor herb garden.
*Planters or pots with good drainage.
*Soil appropriate for the plants you have selected.
*Lighting of some sort
*A rotating fan
*Seeds, cuttings or Seedlings of your desired plants
*Water and a method of watering such as a watering can.
*Optional: Fertilizers or anti-pest efforts
Building an Herb Garden:
Once the planning is finished and the necessary items gathered, all that is left is to plant and grow your garden. Remember to place plants in locations with ample lighting and be mindful of temperature.
A small fan can help keep the plants cool and imitate wind. This will help keep the stalks strong and sturdy. Proper ventilation and airflow will also lead to better growing herbs.
Planting your garden is as simple as filling your pots/containers with soil, and placing seeds or seedlings inside. Remember that with seeds and seedlings alike not every plant is the same, research planting methods and germination before planting for your specific choices.
Be sure to remember to water your new garden sufficiently, but not too much. A good method is to check the soil about every eight hours. Once you have a feel for how fast each herb plant drinks, you can plan a watering schedule around this information.
Lights should not be kept on in the location of your garden all the time. Try to keep lights off during night-time hours so not to exceed around twelve hours of light.
Use containers that allow water to drain, or the roots of your plants will rot. Placing a bit of gravel or bark in the bottom of potters before planting can aid in drainage. Clay pots are ideal for plants that prefer to be dry as they absorb moisture but be wary of placing seedlings or herbs that like moisture in these types of containers. If recycling to create containers be sure you are using properly cleaned items that have no been previously used for anything toxic such as household cleaners.
Indoor plants are not immune to pests. Spider mites are often a problem. Keep an eye out for such issues. If you do experience a pest problem or chose to fertilize your herbs, be sure you are using an all natural method that is safe for plants that will be consumed.
Some Common Herb Garden Choices:
As stated the most common herbs kept in indoor herb gardens are used in cooking. Here is a short list of some herb options you may want to consider, and their uses.
Basil: Basil is a common ingredient in pastas, stews, soups, pestos, meat and poultry preparations, and fresh salads. It can be used both fresh from the plant and dried. Basil also has medicinal uses. It prefers full sun, well drained soil and a warm location. Basil is susceptible to frost.
Chives: A flowering grass of the onion family. Chives offer a mild onion flavor for soups, garnishes and dips. The small mauve flowers are also edible and top salads well. It can be used fresh, frozen or dried. Chives prefer well drained rich soil but are relative un-picky other wise and easy to maintain.
Dill: Dill is often used in salads, garnishes, soups and dips. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow but requires a deep pot and possibly a support stake as plants grow several feet tall. Dill prefers cooler locations but lots of light. Caterpillars in particular enjoy dill.
Mint: Mint is great in desserts, soups, sauces, cocktails and tea. It also has medicinal uses. Mint prefers lower light, lots of moisture and rich soil. Most species are vigorous growers and can be invasive watch for the tendrils the plant will send out attempting to invade other near by pots. Mint should not be planted in a pot with other plants.
Rosemary: Often used in marinades and meat preparation as well as soups. Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that produces small blue flowers. It is very aromatic herb also used in fragrances and is suggested to have memory boosting qualities. Plants prefer well drained soil, plenty of sun but dislike becoming overly hot.
Sage: Used primarily in savory dishes or on salads. Sage also has medicinal purposes. It is very decorative herb that produces lovely flowers and a pleasant aroma. Sage prefers sunny warm locations.
Oregano: Very commonly used in pastas, soups and meat preparation. Oregano is also used for medicinal purposes. Produces small white flower spikes and grows rather vigorously. Prefers well drained soil, partial shade and good ventilation. Oregano is very prone to root rot.
Parsley: Parsley is used in all variety of dishes and comes in over 30 varieties. Most types will tolerate almost any soil conditions and lighting though prefer to stay moist but not wet. Plants need to be regularly pruned.
Cilantro: Commonly used in salsas but has a variety of other uses. Cilantro prefers a cool environment, partial shade and will do well in just about any soil conditions. Both leaves and seeds can be used.
This is not an all inclusive list. There are literally hundreds of types of herbs that can be planted in an indoor garden.
You may also enjoy:
Recyclables that Can Be Used in the Garden
How to Make Upside Down Planters for Herbs