Indoor Herbs – Grow, Eat, Drink

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The holidays arrive next week and are over faster than a squirrel burying a winter snack. Carve out time with family and friends if there’s room in between party gatherings and gift shopping. This year assemble the easiest garden presents ever and grow some extra for yourself – indoor herbs. 

Growing indoor edibles is not complicated or expensive. No need for a pricey indoor light system with chain pulleys and special full spectrum tubes – although these work well if you own them.

With a sunny east, west or south facing window and at least six hours of direct, bright light, you’re all set to get growing. You’ll need containers that drain, lightweight sterile potting soil, and plants from a garden center. Direct seeding herbs is another option, the focus of this blog is on starting with herb plants. 

Window sill herbs in matching containers, photo from cornallcapers.blogspot
  •  Ideal herbs to grow indoors include culinary varieties that add flavor to many dishes and drinks. They smell great, add texture, interest and complement other indoor plants. Try any of these—chives, parsley, basil, chervil, oregano, rosemary, sage, stevia, lemon balm, lemon grass, mint, tarragon, thyme, Vietnamese coriander.
  • Consider the best placement for what they need—warmth, sun and some humidity. Use a windowsill, shelf or table near a window. Hanging them near light sources also works.
Herbs Growing in Window Box, photo from gardenista.com
  • For the quickest results start with small two or four-inch sized container plants from a garden center.  Also purchase individual containers or small window boxes or use ones from your own cache or garage sale finds. Sterilize used containers and freshen up with sealer and paint if needed. If sprayed, line with plastic for a protective barrier before adding soil. Empty washed tin cans work well too. Poke holes in the bottom and decorate the outside with material like burlap or a simple bow, don’t forget a plant label. 
  • Replant your purchased herbs into slightly larger containers, leave an inch of space at the top so water doesn’t overflow. If roots are circling, be sure to tease or slice them to encourage roots to reach out into the new soil. They can be planted individually or plant multiple herbs in one container.
  • After planting use tap water that has sat out for several hours or overnight to dissipate chlorine. This is recommended for all indoor house plants. Water to the point where it runs out from the hole in the bottom. If the container doesn’t drain, place an inch layer of small rocks or decorative stones in the bottom before adding soil.
  • Place the herbs near each other or on top of a watered rock tray to create more humidity (lack of moist air can stress many indoor plants).
  • Water when top half inch of soil is dry. Fertilize herbs every couple of weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer.
  • Place herbs near a sunny window and rotate often for even light. If plants aren’t getting enough sun or warmth they may struggle. Inexpensive spot grow lights with a single light bulb can help. They are sold to clip on a rod or free standing. Use a timer and keep the light on for fourteen hours a day. Move plants away from cold glass at night.
  • Herbs grow stronger by pinching the stem tips often (no more than one third of the stem’s length). They’ll grow back more slowly in winter but will quicken in spring. 
  • Easily propagate herbs by taking a healthy stem cutting and removing leaves just below a set of leaves or use several cuttings and place in water until roots are plentiful. Keep cuttings in water (change water every few days) or replant in potting soil. Both water and soil grown herbs taste just that same – great. Just clip foliage as needed. Click here for helpful how to photos and more information on cutting herbs to grow in water. 
Rooted Mint in Water, photo from learningherbs.com

Herbs in the Kitchen

  • When using delicate herbs like cilantro, basil, dill, chives, marjoram or parsley, stir leaves into the dish a minute or two before serving for the best flavor.  For soup, place the herbs on the bottom of the bowl and ladle soup over the herbs. Hot soup infuses herbs and captures its fresh flavor. 
  • For mint and lemon balm tea, pour boiled water over the leaves, steep for five minutes, strain and pour into your favorite cup

Herb Resources and Ideas—

Fresh Herbs, a Picture of Healthy Eating 

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Indoor Herb Garden

Window Sill Herbs, photo from davedomoney.com

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