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How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Fresh, Fast Flavor from Your Own Windowsill

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Do the changing seasons leave you a little wistful for summer’s wealth of fresh produce? Then keep the growing season going all year by starting an indoor herb garden! Even if you have little experience with plants or very little space to work with, an herb garden is the perfect way to bring a bit of Mother Nature into your home, no green thumb required! And growing your own herbs is much more convenient—and affordable—than buying them at the local grocery store.

Oregano, chives, mint, rosemary and thyme are commonly grown indoors, so pick a few of your favorites to begin. If you like to cook, you’ll love having fresh herbs right at your fingertips—just snip and sprinkle fresh chives on your steaming baked potato or add some pungent oregano to your special homemade spaghetti sauce.

To start your herb garden, you must have a sunny window available that receives at least five hours of sunlight per day. Most herbs hail from Mediterranean locales and need the light to thrive. Keep your home between 60º and 70º to create the ideal growing conditions.

While you can start your herbs from seed (more on that below), it’s easier to buy starter plants from a local nursery or farmers market. There are several types of containers you can use for the plants, but terracotta planters are very popular. Make sure your pots have drainage holes in the bottom so your herbs don’t rot. Keep a saucer or another similarly shaped item underneath to catch the excess water as it runs through. Whatever container you select should be deep enough to promote proper root development, ideally from 6-12 inches deep. You can plant multiple herbs in one container or select individual 6-inch pots for each plant.

Take care when selecting the type of soil for your herbs, as plants are very vulnerable to soil-born diseases. It’s a good idea to go with a store-bought potting mix. Your local gardening center can help you select the right one for your needs. Be sure the mix is lightweight and will drain well. Pour a two or three-inch layer of potting soil into the bottom of your container and place your plant gently in the container. Finish filling it with potting mix, pressing it firmly around the plants. Leave about an inch of space at the top to make room for watering.

Don’t kill your herbs with kindness by watering too often: Excess water is harmful to the roots and causes rotting. Fertilize your herbs once a month with a product labeled safe to use on edibles. Once you start to see new growth, you can begin to use your herbs for cooking.

If you’d like to save some money and start your herbs from seed rather than buying seedlings, you will need to babysit your plants a bit more. Many planters are too large to start seeds in, so plant them in a peat pot first. Fill the peat pot with planting mix and then place it in a small bowl of water until the peat pot completely absorbs the water from the bowl. Bury your seeds to a shallow depth (about 3 or 4 times the seed’s diameter), planting a few types of the same seed in one pot. Cover the peat pot with a small plastic bag to simulate a mini greenhouse!

Once the seeds have sprouted, you can transplant the entire peat pot into the larger planter. Place your pots in a sunny spot or underneath a grow light if your home doesn’t receive enough natural sunlight. Space out your herbs so that they don’t crowd each other and avoid putting your plants near a heating vent to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.

Here are a few herbs that are particularly well suited for indoor growth:
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil is simple to grow from seed but it needs bright light and warm temperatures.
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): This member of the onion family is best used fresh. Chives like bright light and cool temperatures.
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens): Choose a dwarf variety instead of the standard types that typically grow about 4 feet tall. You'll need to make successive plantings to ensure a continuous crop since dill doesn’t grow back after harvesting.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): This is easy to grow from seed and its fresh fragrance can be enjoyed in salads and drinks.
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum): This has a sharp, pungent flavor and can be grown from seed.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary doesn’t always germinate well from seed; grow it from cuttings or as a complete plant from the nursery. The soil needs to be well drained, but don’t let it dry out completely.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Many varieties of thyme are available. Cover the seed only lightly with soil or not at all if you are starting your thyme from scratch. Keep the plants moist until they are flourishing.

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Member Comments

  • I have brought in my Rosemary plant this winter, but the frost got my parsley and others. I didn't keep an eye on the weather. Oh well! I will watch for new plants which will be out soon.
  • this looks like so much fun
  • I am hoping to have an awesome outdoor garden when we move. I will have to find some shade options since still in Fl. I also grow some cool tropical herbs that are not familiar toma lot of people.
  • I keep trying to grow them indoors but not have much success to that. Will still keep trying.
  • I have always had an outdoor vegetable garden, for many years, but done indoor herbs. I think I am going give it a try this year and add to the homegrown bounty!!!
  • I began a long time ago and grew parsley - a lot of fun and outdoors. Then we moved and I lost my location and haven't begun again. Still a goal, though.
  • I grow basil in my garden in the summer, but have not had much luck with it in the house - probably too cool for it during the winter. But I have parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme in pots, which go out for the summer and come in the rest of the year. I am blessed with a nice big sunny box window in my kitchen, and they seem to like it there. So nice to have fresh herbs year round!
  • I grow herbs outdoors. They really add a punch to my food. I look forward totrying an indoor garden.
  • I did try this. My cat goes after them. I'm thinking of trying to hang the pots out of his reach. Except the basil. He doesn't like that.
  • I did try this. My cat goes after them. I'm thinking of trying to hang the pots out of his reach. Except the basil. He doesn't like that.
  • It would be fun to have an herb garden, indoors or outside. Our windows don't get the right amount of light, because the house is really old. It's designed funny.
  • Thanks for sharing!
  • Lots of good tips here. Experience is the best teacher : ) Thanks
  • BECCKII12
    I wish I read your sight before I tried growing my own herb garden. I have learnt a lot and realised my mistakes as to why the herbs were dying on me. In the future I will buy plants from a local nursery or farm, in order to have drainage holes and have a large enough pot for root development. I was watering the herbs fairly regularly a day, which I thought would benefit them, however your blog has made me realised this is harmful and causes the roots to rot. I also had a strange ant and bug problem in relation to the herb garden in my home, is there a reason or prevention for this?

About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.