Indoor Gardening with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme on the Kitchen Countertop…

January 19th, 2010 § 13 comments

Windowsill Herb Basket

Hmm… how about a couple of basil leaves and some fresh oregano in the tomato sauce? Yes? And why not add some chopped rosemary to the bread dough? Of course you would like a little sprig of mint in your tea, wouldn’t you? I really enjoy cooking, and I love food – so I can’t imagine a kitchen without fresh herbs. Life would be pretty bland without a bit of natural spice ! In summertime, herbs multitask in my kitchen-garden, serving as lures for beneficial insects, repellents for bad-bugs, beautiful and fragrant design elements, and of course delicious additions to drinks and an endless variety of meals. But why stop growing these tasty plants when the snow flies? Most herbs are no more difficult to care for than any other houseplant, and they will reward your tastebuds for your efforts every day. If you have never tried growing fresh herbs indoors, I encourage you to give it a try.

Many culinary herbs can be grown indoors from cuttings taken from your garden durning the growing year. Oregano, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary and basil are a just a few of the many herbs that can be easily propagated.  Of course entire plants can be moved back and forth, inside and out, as the seasons change. If you grow herbs in pots on a deck, porch or terrace during the summer months, it makes good economic sense to either bring your plants indoors for the winter, or propagate new plants from cuttings for your kitchen windowsill. In addition, you may want to try growing some herbs from seed. Parsley, cilantro, summer savory, basil and dill all do well when started from seed indoors. Herbs started indoors can be planted outside when temperatures rise.

Unobstructed south facing windows are ideal for growing sun-loving herbs indoors, but eastern or western facing windows with clear light will do. What’s most important is that your plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine, or a full day of very bright, (if indirect), light. My kitchen windows face west, and the herbs growing on my countertop do quite well throughout the winter. North facing rooms tend to be too dark and chilly for most plants. So, if you live in an apartment with northern exposure, you will have more success growing your herbs beneath a full-specturm light, like the one pictured below…

Intelligent Plant Light – Indoor Grow Light – $39.95 from Windowbox via Amazon.com

Although some herbs, (such as mint, basil and parsley), prefer moist conditions, none of these plants like to sit in soggy soil. Use a good quality potting mix and a well-drained container for your plants. Mediterranean herbs, like rosemary and lavender, are particularly sensitive to overwatering, so be sure to allow their soil to dry-out a bit between drinks. Try to place Mediterranean herbs in your sunniest indoor spot, keeping in mind that warm, dry climates are where these plants originated. Spindly, weak new growth and pale leaves are usually the first indicators of inadequate light. If your herbs are content in their surroundings, they will reward you with steady growth. Be sure to prune your plants regularly, even if you don’t intend to enjoy the harvest, (try freezing or drying your cuttings or pass them along to a friend).

Herbs are generally trouble-free plants when sited in gardens that satisfy their needs. Indoors however, pests usually have no natural predators, and they can occasionally become a problem. White flies, mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and other uninvited guests may turn up on your plants. If you notice their tell-tale signs,(webs, sticky residue, cottony clusters), attack the problem immediately before things get out of hand. A soap and water solution sprayed on plants, (or used as a dip), or horticultural oil can solve many pest problems. But if these methods fail, look for a safe OMRI approved product in a local garden center. If you are sure that your plant is free of pests, and isn’t overwatered, yet you notice yellowing leaves toward the bottom of larger plants, it may be time to transplant your pot-bound herb to a larger container.

I will be writing more about edible gardens in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are looking for online seed sources, check out the links listed under “Seeds” in the links bar to the right. Renee’s Garden Seeds is usually my first choice and favorite source for organically grown culinary herb seeds. For more helpful information on growing culinary herbs I recommend the two books listed below, (both in my own library). And for great herb tips online, including delicious recipes, visit the  Herb Companion Magazine website, or subscribe via the link below…

Herb Companion

The Herb Gardener: A Guide for All Seasons – Susan McClure

Your Backyard Herb Garden – Miranda Smith

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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