If you haven’t boarded the container-garden train, it’s never too late to start. Winter is the perfect time to try your hand at an indoor herb garden. Herbs fulfill so many needs; they are delicious, nutritious, medicinal, and many of them act as natural air fresheners. By choosing certain versatile varieties, there’s no reason not to enjoy fresh herbs all year round. Here are a few ideas to start.
Basil is one of those plants that anyone can grow; it is a great starter if you’re new to indoor herb gardening. Basil is a marvelous addition to salads, sauces, soups, and any dish that has an Italian flair. It also has medicinal benefits; eating minced basil leaves can calm an upset stomach. The plant can be easily germinated from seed or sprouted from a cutting. Make sure to provide basil with at least 8″ of root space, preferably 10″ or 12″.
- Soil: Basil is not picky about soil. Any well-draining potting mix with a neutral pH will do.
- Water: Water basil whenever the surface soil looks and feels dry.
- Sun: Keep plant warm (at least 65º) and place it in a window where it can receive about six hours of sun per day.
- Fertilizer: A little compost incorporated into the potting mix at planting will be all that basil needs.
- Timing: Indoor basil may be planted at any time of year. You can begin harvesting some leaves once the plant is 6″ – 8″ tall, but don’t cut back more than a third of the plant at a time. If you snip off the flower buds before they bloom, you can enjoy fresh basil for several months before the flavor begins to ebb.
Chives are incredibly versatile plants. Besides being easy to grow and hard to kill, they bloom into beautiful purple flowers that are pretty to look at and good to eat. Chives are also a delicious addition to almost any salty dish. Finally, they repel insect pests, which might be desirable in spring and summer months to come. The plant only needs about 6″ of room to grow in a pot, but will generally expand to fill any container you put them in. The plant is a perennial, which means it could continue to grow for years to come.
- Soil: Chives will grow in any well-draining potting mix.
- Water: Water well whenever the topsoil feels dry to the touch.
- Sun: This plant wants lots of sun; give it a window seat with six to eight hours of sun each day, if possible.
- Fertilizer: Chives need a low-dose of fertilizer once or twice a month.
- Timing: You can plant chives indoors any time, from a seed or a cutting. Wait until the plant is about 6″ tall before beginning to harvest its leaves.
Rosemary is another herb that can be added to just about any salty dish. Not only does it work as a delicious seasoning, rosemary gives off a warm, comforting smell, acting as a natural scent diffuser. The herb has been famous for its medicinal properties since ancient times as an immune system booster and anti-inflammatory. It can also be added to coconut, avocado, or jojoba oil for a soothing, pain-relieving massage oil. Give rosemary a nice large pot of about 12″ diameter to give its root system room to grow.
- Soil: Rosemary likes a sandy soil that drains well. Make sure the pot provides good drainage as well.
- Water: Water when the soil is dry to the touch, but don’t let it dry out completely.
- Sun: This herb needs a lot of sun – about eight hours per day when possible. Place it in your sunniest window, preferably south-facing.
- Fertilizer: Indoor rosemary generally doesn’t need fertilizer, but if the plant seems pale or stunted, try feeding it a low dose of all-purpose fertilizer.
- Timing: Plant indoor rosemary any time using seeds or cuttings, but wait until the plant is at least 8″ tall before harvesting, a few sprigs at a time. Rosemary will be a long-lived herb if you never cut back more than a third of the plant at a time.
Most people think of parsley as a garnish, but the simple green is actually packed with nutrients, like Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and folic acid. The herb can be used in any number of salads, sauces, soups, and traditional recipes like turkey dressing or cole slaw. The plant will grow in a container as small as 8″ but will grow larger with 10″ or 12″ of root space.
- Soil: A well-draining, slightly sandy potting soil is best.
- Water: Water thoroughly whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.
- Sun: Place parsley in full sun for up to eight hours per day.
- Fertilizer: Feed parsley half-strength fertilizer every three to four weeks.
- Timing: Parsley may grow slowly in containers, taking up to 90 days to become harvest-ready. Once stems have grown three segments they can be snipped off at ground level.
This well-known Italian herb is famous for its role in pastas, pizzas, and sauces. Oregano also has some potent medicinal benefits in addition to its powerful flavor. The plant has antimicrobial properties, and an oil steeped in oregano may be used externally to soothe inflammation, bug bites or stings, and acne.
- Soil: Loamy, fast-draining soil works best for oregano.
- Water: Water deeply and thoroughly but let soil dry completely between deep waterings.
- Sun: Provide this herb with as much bright, direct sunlight as possible.
- Fertilizer: If you mix a little compost into the soil at the time of planting, oregano will not need fertilizer.
- Timing: You may harvest some leaves once the stems reach 4″ in height. After the plant has grown to 8″ in height, you may trim it by up to 2/3 of the entire plant at one time. Regular trimming encourages further growth.
Don’t wait for planting season! Start your indoor herb garden even while snow is on the ground outside. You can also read more about gardening on the Living Clean blog: