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

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

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


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

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13 Replies to “Indoor Gardening with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme on the Kitchen Countertop…”

  1. Erin

    Thank you for this article! I have killed countless Basil plants trying to grow them indoors! In fact I got a about 15 last summer that were hit with frost and all chucked into a clear garbage bag to be sold for $2.50 — and I was able to “save” them outdoors in the summer and they were beautiful and delicious… but the minute I brought them indoors, they started to die off. My recent kills were a tri-colour sage, and a thyme plant … they just started drying up and I watered and watered, and transplanted to no avail. The one I am struggling with now is a rosemary plant. I suspect it won’t survive, but now I know why — probably not enough sunlight. I have one south-facing window in the dining room and the herbs were near it, but got no direct sunlight. I will try again, but this time have them in the office window which will be direct sunlight.
    Also … I have been planting green onions indoors — I love the green parts but they go yucky in the fridge. So I use as much as I want while they’re in the fridge, but when they get to having mostly whites left, I stick them in a pot and they grow quite well. I just snip off some outer green stems as needed and occasionally pull an entire onion out if I want the whites. I just thought I’d let you know in case you ever wanted to try it :)
    Thanks again for this article!

  2. Cyndy

    Here in Connecticut, I’ve never thought of extending the herb season inside – thanks for all the great resources for those who want to try!

  3. Virginia

    A few years ago when a woodchuck ate my 6 celery plants down to the root, I dug them up and planted them in pots for the greenhouse. Later I brought several indoors and cut stalks and greens from them throughout the winter. Now I always pot up at least one 10″ pot of celery for the windowsill. And if you have the room, overwintering a hot pepper plant will bring a profusion of blooms and peppers the next spring.

  4. AG Coco

    Excellent and very informative article, however it was the beautiful photography which really captured my attention. I really love “Windowsill Herb Basket”. Very inspiring!

  5. Michaela

    Thanks for all the comments everyone ! I guess this is a popular topic. I will be writing more about indoor gardening with herbs this month and next, and hope you will return again soon. I love hearing from you.
    :) Michaela

Comments are closed.