Growing herbs indoors is an easy way of ensuring you always have fresh herbs on hand when you want them. This way of growing is also ideal for those who have very little space or live in a flat where there is no garden at all. You can place the containers on windowsills and have nature indoors, which is cheerful, especially in the winter when nature rests under the frost.
There are some herbs that are sensitive to cold and should be brought inside when it begins to get cold if you want them to continue to grow; rosemary and lavender in particular. Some people have large lavender beds and rosemary bushes and cannot replant and bring them in, but if you are container herb gardening and have smaller pots, you can easily carry them inside. Winter will not kill these herbs, but they will die back and wait until the spring if they are outdoors.
Some herbs thrive indoors, chamomile, basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, lavender, chives, and parsley among others.
If you are starting at the beginning, look at the expiry date on the seed packets and always buy more than you think you will need, as only a fraction of seeds germinate. Many people make their own growing pots, and you can use old tins, margarine or ice-cream tubs, but always ensure you perforate the bottom, as the water needs to drain or the roots will rot. For beginners, it may be best to buy trays and plant pots, and these days many cheap discount stores will sell them at much less cost than garden centers. It is worth checking if there are any near you, as it can be a great saving when starting out.
Placing the plants.
Window sills are the traditional site for herbs as they need a few hours of sunlight each day. If your windows receive little sunlight, or there simply is none (a succession of cloudy, grey days, for instance) then place the seed trays where they can get as much natural light as possible through the day. Some people who have cellars or no available window space, use florescent lamps if they are serious about their herb gardening. If it is the winter and the weather turns mild with sunny spells, you can take your plants outside and give them the benefit for a few hours.
Not too hot, not too cold.
Herbs thrive at normal room temperature. Problems occur if they are exposed to hot, drying air, such as may happen if you place your trays above a radiator. (Many windowsills do have radiators running below them.) If space is limited and you have no choice, place a bowl of water near them, or use humidifiers that are basically little plastic containers that hook over the radiator itself and are filled with water that slowly evaporates.
When growing herbs indoors, the plants require that you expose them to fresh moving air. If they are on a windowsill, open the window a crack for an hour or two each day. It’s not necessary to fling the window open, just to let some fresh air seep in. It’s good for the herbs and also for you in the winter months, but herbs placed in a continual chilly draft will not thrive. In the milder weather, it’s likely you will have the windows open anyhow. Basically, a room where there is an influx of fresh air daily will be a healthy place for your herbs.
Watering is of course very important when growing herbs indoors, and it is easy to gauge when your herbs need it. Test the soil around the plant with your fingers and if it is dry just under the surface, use room temperature water from the tap, and also sprinkle a little on the leaves. Rotate the pots or the tray to give equal exposure to light and moving air, as you will notice that the plants grow more vigorously toward the light and less so on the shadowy side.
The beauty of growing herbs indoors is not only that you can snip off some when you want them for culinary purposes. It is always good to have green and growing plants indoors, and herbs with their wonderful pungent and healthy scent are cheerful as well as delicious.
If you want to get the most out of your herbs, be sure to take a look at my herbalism guide page, as I’ve recently built a small apothecary and got into making medicines from herbs.