An Uncomplicated Life Blog: Planting An Indoor Herb Garden

Monday, January 27, 2020

Planting An Indoor Herb Garden

Enjoy fresh herbs year round with your own herb garden! Here's how to plant one that works for you

Even though I live where it's *mostly* warm year round, some herbs are more delicate than others and require indoor growth. I have rosemary and sage outside, and despite any level my neglect, they don't die - even when we have a week straight of 25 degree days here, they pull through! Basil, parsley and any other "leafy" herb, on the other hand, dies both when we get our first frost and when we have nonstop 100+ degree days in July and August. The good news is that you don't need to grow these plants outdoors to be able to enjoy them. They easily grow in small pots that you can keep in your kitchen. If you've got a windowsill with decent light, no matter your location, you can grow your own fresh herbs to enjoy during the winter months. Here's how to plant an indoor herb garden.

First, you'll want to take stock of what you use the most. What flavors do you normally cook? What dried herbs are your go to? Dried herbs work well in some dishes, but when you start cooking regularly with fresh, you never want to go back! If you're questioning what you should plant, look up your top 5 or 10 favorite recipes and what those call for. That's a great place to start. If you just randomly plant some herbs, odds are good you won't use them, you'll forget to water them or they'll just start to over-grow the containers and become a general mess. Plant the herbs you'll actually use!

For me, I regularly use fresh basil and parsley (the basil goes amazingly in this bolognese sauce recipe and the fresh parsley is key for the sauce of this Greek chicken burger recipe - both are favorites in my house!). I also realized that I was buying a lot of green onions/scallions from the store, so I wanted to get some of those. They're great for pasta salads, green salads, quinoa dishes or anything where a raw onion would be too strong but you want a hint of fresh onion flavor. I also got some thyme. Usually, this stays well in my herb garden outside, but for whatever reason its completely died in my outdoor herb garden, so I'm bringing it indoors to keep a closer eye on it. Fresh thyme is SO much better than dried and it's pretty easy to grow. Once you try it fresh, you won't want to even look at dried again.

After selecting your herbs, you've got to buy them. Most nurseries, whether they be chains or independently owned, sell herbs year round. We have a local nursery that I prefer to shop at and they were fully stocked with just about everything, already sprouted and ready to plant. (That'd be Calloway's Nursery, if you're in Dallas and are wondering.) You'll need some small pots to plant them in. There's two lines of thought for indoor plants: 1) you want the pot to have holes in the bottom to let out excess water. If you get this type, make sure there's a plate of some sort under it so that you don't water your counter, windowsill, etc! The other line of thought is to get a tall, more slender pot and to ration the watering with a spray bottle. This way the plant is kept hydrated in a pot that's designed to keep any excess water away from it's roots. You keep a spray bottle near it, and spray it every so often - either at prescribed times during the day or more random, like every time you walk by. The benefit to this method is that the humidity is more like what it'd be like if it were growing outdoors or in a greenhouse. Winter air is especially dry, even more so if you live in a climate that requires heat to be on regularly. If you live where it's really cold, I'd suggest doing this!

I chose that method because my kids can help me more easily with a spray bottle. Also, for where I'm storing the herbs, a plate underneath to catch runoff water wasn't feasible. I say do what works for you, your space, your lifestyle and your climate.

While you're at the nursery, pick up some soil. You won't use the whole bag, but that's ok - you can store it in your garage, basement, balcony or elsewhere until you're ready to do more spring/outdoor planting. I'm not a fan of chemical fertilizer, and I don't want the manure smell in my home so I skipped that. If you keep a compost you could bring some in to add it to your plants. If you're not opposed to chemical fertilizers, you could get some Miracle Grow. I knew these plants would be a 2-3 month investment, so a fertilizer wouldn't be necessary anyway. Right as the organic soil I planted them in needed a boost, we'd transition to all outdoor plants again. Pro tip: potting plants is messy, so if you live where it's too cold to do it outside, lay a tarp/newspapers/a piece of plastic down or you'll be grinding dirt into your floors!

After they're planted, they're pretty easy to maintain. Just water once a day, or spray with a spray bottle a few times a day. Keep them where you have great natural light. Most kitchens have a window above their sink. Sadly, my kitchen is not one of those! I have three floor to ceiling windows in my actual kitchen, which is lovely - but the fact that they go to about 6" above the floor means that my 15 mo old twins can access them. I also have plantation shutters on them, so that makes setting plants in the windowsills difficult.

What I decided to do was a tad high maintenance (but I love to cook, so I was cool with it) I move the plants in at night, and put them in the sunlight in our outdoor courtyard during the day. It's actually not much trouble - my kids are in and out all day, our days are nice and warm, and even if I almost forget at night, my dog has to go out before bed and I usually notice them. Even if I don't, it's a rare day that it gets to freezing here so if I totally space on it, it's not catastrophic. But I'm in the deep South. If you're mid South, you'll want to make sure you bring your plants in at night! Or, hopefully you have a kitchen with a windowsill that has light and can hold your plants.

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Planting and growing your own herb garden is not only easy, it's fun! If you enjoy cooking with fresh herbs year 'round, it's definitely a great way to have access to them. Have you ever bought fresh herbs at the grocery store? Not only are they expensive, they're always wilted! And many times, the store won't have exactly what I'm looking for. Skip the middle man grocery store and grow your own! Adding some greenery to your home in the dead of winter is a fun way to spruce it up, too. 


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