Recently, I moved across the country. Instead of living in a home with a large backyard (complete with herb-filled raised garden bed), I live in a spacious third-floor apartment. While I have a small balcony, there really isn’t ample room out there for an herb garden. Plus, I like the idea of growing fresh herbs year-round. Growing herbs indoors seems like the way to go — especially since the last of the herbs I dried from my old home will run out soon.
Here’s my plan for planting an indoor herb garden:
Choose the right herbs
Some herbs grow better indoors than others. Some of the easiest herbs to grow indoors, and what I will start with, include:
You might notice that these are hardy herbs, and likely the very same herbs that tend to overrun your outdoor herb garden year after year. We always had oregano and thyme running wild in our garden bed.
Basil can work indoors, but it’s a little trickier. I’ve grown basil indoors in the past, so I know it’s possible. It’s just a little pickier than some of the other herbs when it comes to temperature.
While you can grow your indoor herb garden from seeds, I like to use starts (because I’m impatient). Figure out what is likely to work best for your situation and go from there.
Find a sunny window
One of the things I love about my apartment is that there is a lot of natural light. However, our location in the apartment building means that all of our windows face north and west. This makes things a little more difficult for me, since windows facing south often get more sun. However, the western windows should do the trick, as long as the herbs can get some direct sunlight in the afternoons. I can tell it will be difficult during the winter, but we’ll see if we can make it work.
While natural light is best for herbs, you might need to supplement with a grow light. There are a number of quality grow lights available that provide your herbs with the kind of light they need to thrive. You can buy lights ranging from $30 to more than $500. I plan to purchase a mid-range light that is highly portable for about $100. That way, if there isn’t enough sunlight, I can supplement with the grow light.
Remember to keep your herbs away from the glass of the window. Leaves that touch the glass can quickly wilt during the winter, since the temperature near the window will likely be colder during than other areas of the house. It’s especially important to keep basil away from the window. When we had basil, we moved the plant back away from the window at night during the winter so that it remained in its preferred temperature.
It’s also a good idea to move your herbs so that aren’t stuck beneath a heater. They will dry out quickly if hot air from a vent blows on them regularly. Make it a point to keep them well-watered, and away from the withering effect of dry air blowing on them.
With a raised garden bed outside, it’s easy to ensure that the herbs have proper drainage. However, once you bring herbs into the house, drainage can become an issue, since the plants are kept in a pot, and natural drainage is unavailable. You need to make sure that you have drainage so the roots don’t rot. You also need to make sure that you have a way to keep the draining water from damaging whatever surface your plants sit on.
My favorite strategy is to buy pots that take drainage into account. These are pots that have two parts. The upper part has holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain. There is also a lower part that catches the drained water. As long as you don’t over-water your herbs, the moisture evaporates. These pots are set up so there is some aeration, as well as reducing the chance of rot.
Another possibility, if your pot doesn’t have holes in the bottom, is to line the bottom of the pot with two or three layers small stones of varying sizes so that it provides a little drainage within the pot.
With a little effort and planning, you can grow your herbs indoors, enjoying fresh flavor for your food, no matter the time of year.