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

January 19th, 2010 § 13 comments § permalink

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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A New Year’s Resolution for Gardeners: Making Informed Choices About Gardening Practices and Products to Support a Healthy, Natural Environment…

January 5th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

We  ♥ Mother Earth

The new year often brings about a desire for change and personal reckoning. We make promises, resolutions and plans to better ourselves and the world around us. Over the past couple of years, many people have committed to building environmentally conscious, self-sufficient lives. As a result, gardening, particularly vegetable gardening, has re-emerged as a popular interest and hobby.

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This return to the earth is a good thing. But it is important to remember that even in our backyard vegetable plots and tiny rooftop potagers, the way we garden, and the products and practices we choose for our gardens, all have lasting consequences for our environment. Every action we take in the natural world must be considered carefully. Words like “organic”, “green”. “sustainable” and “eco” are being tossed about freely these days. Buzz words can sometimes be confusing and misleading.

Perhaps the single most important thing we can do as gardeners is to educate ourselves. There are many websites, magazines and books written to help inform gardeners about environmentally sound horticultural practices. If you are new to gardening, or even if you have been tending a plot for decades, publications such as Organic Gardening Magazine, and books, particularly Linda Chalker-Scott’s The Informed Gardener, and Jeff Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line, are essential for up-to-date, accurate scientific information. I will be writing much more about this topic come springtime, but winter is also a great time of year to read and research these important topics, before you begin planting your garden.

If I can send one message out to new gardeners it is this: just because a product or practice is organic, it doesn’t mean that it should be applied or adopted indiscriminately. Take organic pesticides for example. Even OMRI, (Organic Materials Review Institute), approved substances such pyrethrin, rotenone and neem, can be harmful or deadly to beneficial insects, including honeybees and ladybugs. All pesticides, even organic products, should be used sparingly, and only as a last resort in gardens. The best way to avoid diseases and harmful insect infestations is to provide garden plants with the growing conditions they require, and to avoid mono-culture, (growing large numbers of only a few kinds of plants), and environmental stress.

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For new gardeners, I highly recommend learning the basics of vegetable gardening from respected teachers and authors. Edward C. Smith’s The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (10th Anniversary Edition), is an excellent place to start. In addition, Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver, by author Fern Marshall Bradley, can serve as helpful reference to all gardeners. Also remember to take advantage of free, reliable online resources, such as beneficial insect identification sites. Three great online pages: The easy and fun Insectidentification.org, the comprehensive Texas A&M University Vegetable IPM site, and of course Cornell University’s Vegetable MD Online all offer excellent photographs and descriptions to help gardeners recognize natural allies and pick up on small problems before they become large and unmanageable.

I am not a big New Year’s resolutions kind of gal, but January is a good time to turn a new leaf, (even if the trees are still naked). So if you are planning your first vegetable garden this spring, or even if you have been growing your own food for many years, I hope the first leaf you turn this year dangles from the tree of knowledge. Education is a life-long process. With the help of solid, scientific information, we can work with nature to cultivate a safer, healthier garden environment for all…

The Nasturtium Seat in the Potager at Ferncliff

Early Greens in the Potager at Ferncliff


The Informed Gardener by horticulturalist, Linda Chalker-Scott

Rodale’s Magazine, Organic Gardening (2-year)

Jeff Gillaman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line

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

This article originally appeared as a guest post at The Honeybee Conservancy Blog, please pay this important non-profit cause a visit !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use article excerpts or photographs featured here without contacting me first. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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