While it can be satisfying to have a gorgeous, blooming garden outdoors, there is also a quiet sense of satisfaction from cultivating a simple herb garden inside the house. Besides the obvious benefit of being able to nurture it in the winter months when nothing will grow outside, it’s gratifying to be able to access your herbs while you’re cooking.
Even if you live in a relatively small condo or apartment, you, too, can grow delicious and nutritious herbs inside. Here’s how to grow a successful indoor herb garden:
Step 1: Find the right spot
Herbs need as much natural light as possible in order to grow and thrive inside. Find the sunniest spot you can (usually right near a window). The goal is to give them 4 hours of sun daily at a minimum. Whenever possible, use south- or southwest-facing windows, although you can also get away with east- or west-facing windows. Avoid north-facing windows -- they’re not usually bright enough.
To check on the sunsoaked-ness of a particular spot, do this test: on a partly/fully sunny day, turn off your lights and check the level of natural sunlight every few hours. How much sun does the spot get throughout the day?
Step 2: Set up proper drainage
Allowing potted plants to drain on tables or windowsills will ruin them. Similarly, letting herbs to sit in water will ruin the roots.
Be sure that all your pots have drainage holes, and place a liner, saucer, or official drain pan under each pot to protect your surfaces as well as your plant’s roots. Avoid pots and saucers made of clay, since they can dry out quickly; go for plastic, rubber, or metal instead. Take extra care to avoid clay if you live in a very dry climate or you’ve got a furnace heater.
Finally, invest in premium potting mix for indoor herbs, since they’re going to be at a slight disadvantage by not being in natural soil. You want to give them every advantage possible so they can flourish.
Step 3: Make sure the temperature is correct
Most indoor herbs are fine with typical indoor temperatures, since their ideal climate is the same as that of humans -- about 65 to 70 degrees F. Basically, if you’re comfortable inside, they are, too.
Nighttime will normally see temperatures near windows drop to 55 or 60 degrees, but this is also fine for herbs. Just make sure none of the plants touch the glass -- they can get a bit of frostbite. The one exception to this cool rule is basil, which really doesn’t like cold weather. It will droop after even a short time in cool air, and prefers temperatures in the 70s both day and night.
Most indoor air that is air conditioned or heated will get extra dry, so give your herbs a shower at least once a week to wet their leaves (in addition to actually watering their roots).
Finally, if you’re harvesting the leaves of your herbs on a regular basis, don’t forget to fertilize them. They’re working hard to provide new leaves for you, so make sure to give back with what they need to grow.
Enjoy your new herb garden!