I love the satisfaction of bringing something to life. Just by planting the tiniest seeds into a black blanket of soil and watching day by day until finally that bright speck of green emerges and you have new life. And not only something that you grew but something that will nourish you in return.
I grew up around fresh herbs and a mother that loved to garden. We lived in Mississippi where the weather was mostly humid, mostly warm and more sunny than not. So it was perfect for patio plants and backyard gardens. We had flowers galore, giant pots of herbs and some vegetables every now and then.
Now, I’m in Arkansas, working from home and I have the time to invest in my own little herb garden. I live in an apartment on the 2nd floor with a balcony so I don’t have much room for an outdoor garden like I grew up with.
Unfortunately, my apartment almost never gets direct sunlight. But that doesn’t mean that my plants won’t survive.
Grab a snack and something to drink and follow along. From one beginner to another, today we’re talking about how to grow your own herbs indoors!
First things first, choose your window.
Before committing to growing your own herbs indoors you’ll need to choose a window that gets good lighting. For me, it’s our guest bedroom window that receives mostly indirect sunlight, but also receives direct sunlight for a few hours a day. This can be tricky when trying to grow windowsill herbs. Though there are a few herbs that like shade, most herbs are going to need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight.
The picture above was taken in September where it got more sun than it does now and my little plants were thriving!
If you have a south facing window, this will be your best bet for direct sunlight! The more direct sunlight your herbs get, the better their flavor will be and the more they will grow. If you live somewhere like I do, your plants can also thrive on 6-8 hours of indirect sunlight.
However, I have had successful growth despite the limited amount of direct sunlight this winter!
I’ve got my window, which herbs should I grow?
So you’ve got your south facing window and you’re ready to pick out your herbs. Remember, most herbs like full sun but some can thrive off the shade too. But you also want to pick herbs you can use and benefit from so we’re going to talk about a few of my favorites today!
Herbs that love to bathe in the sun are basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. However, in the winter months when your window doesn’t receive much sun, or if you are in a location that doesn’t often receive direct sunlight like mine, herbs like cilantro, dill, parsley, chives and mint are great shade-tolerant herbs for indoor growth.
There are TONS of herbs out in the world, but we’re starting with some basics; most of these I have planted or have seeds for in my home.
Alright, I’ve bought my seeds, how do I take care of them?
Basil does not like the winter and is extremely sensitive to frost. Cool drafty spots can cause it to die off quickly, when it’s already a short term plant. For best results, plant in the summer in a window that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. To keep your basil going, it’s best to plant seeds in a new pot every few weeks or buy an already grown basil from the store to pot once you get home. For growth, it likes a lot of room for air to circulate, so go for a larger pot. Basil likes it’s soil to be kept moist but not soggy.
Oregano is an easy plant to grow year round indoors. It can withstand 55-75°F. It’s easy to grow from the seed, but I purchased mine from Whole Foods in September and it’s still thriving now in February! Oregano likes 6-8 hours of sunlight, but can survive on 4-6 hours. Oregano does not like to dry out so when you see the top of the soil getting dry, be sure to water it. You can use a spray bottle to to keep it moist, but I like to take my plants to the kitchen sink, turn on warm water with low pressure and use my sprayer to water them and let them drain out in the sink.
Rosemary is a great plant to grow indoors because not only is it packed with flavor but it’s also packed with fragrance. Snip a few leaves and the woody evergreen scent will fill the room! Rosemary loves the sun, but prefers cooler temperatures. Where it can withstand summer temps up to 80°F it prefers 45-75°F. Rosemary likes a well drained soil. Let the first few inches of soil dry out before watering again. Rosemary bushes are easy to harvest and maintain. They can grow outwards like a traditional bush if not trimmed, but you can also tame it into a tiny looking tree!
Thyme needs about 6 hours of sunlight and prefers dry climates. It thrives in temps from 50-85°F and well drained soil. Only water when the surface of the soil is dry, but don’t let it wilt. If kept too wet, the roots can easily rot. Thyme is considered a semi-evergreen, meaning it will retain some of its foliage in the winter but not all. For best results, I would research a winter soil!
Cilantro is another great herb to grow that matures quickly. It’s a cool season herb making it perfect for growing indoors during the winter months! Cilantro enjoys the sunlight, but appreciates the shade as well. It doesn’t like to be transplanted so once it’s grown just let it do it’s thing! One really cool fact about cilantro, is after it bolts the flowers will produce seeds. Before they fall out of the flower you can collect these and let them dry out on newspaper, packing paper or in a dehydrator. These seeds now become coriander, which is a cooking spice that goes great in curry and is also used for pickling vegetables and brewing beer!
*Bolting is basically when herbs get stressed. Kind of like many people’s first reaction to stress is to bolt! Bolting typically happens when the herb is exposed to too much heat. It produces a flower, wanting to reproduce before it dies. A little dramatic sounding, but poetic at the same time. The flower produces a seed so that you can collect them and start again with a new plant. The circle of life!
Dill is another herb that can flourish in sun or shade. Where most plants are fine to be potted in smaller planters until they grow large enough to be transplanted, I would suggest starting dill in at least a 12″ pot because it grows long tap roots. Dill needs 6-8 hours of sunlight and can withstand temps from 60-90°F. Dill likes a moist soil when watering, but let the top of the soil dry 1-2″ before watering again. Dill weeds are ready to harvest 6-8 weeks after planting. Like cilantro, they also produce seeds and the seeds are ready to harvest once they turn a tan-ish color. Dill seeds can be used to replant new dill or used in salad dressings, meat rubs and more!
Parsley is a universally liked herb that is commonly grown in indoor gardens. However, it is a patient plant that takes several weeks to sprout. It needs at least 6 hours of full sun exposure. So if you’re looking to plant this in the winter, I would suggest waiting until the days are a little longer with more sun exposure. Parsley will tolerate 50-85°F. Parsley likes moist soil and only needs to be watered again once the first few inches are dry. When you’re ready to clip parsley for cooking, start from the outer leaves and work your way in. Parsley will grow a bloom and it is best to harvest it before the herb bolts.
Chives are one of the easiest plants to grow. They love bright light, but can also tolerate the low light that winter brings. They can also withstand the temperature changes near a window, unlike basil. Chives grow in temps ranging from 55-75 °F, so in winter it’s a good idea to bring them away from the window until the sun warms it up. Chives need at least 5 hours of full sun a day. Chives can last for years if taken care of properly! They do, however, multiply like crazy so be sure to divide them up once they get to growing.
Mint takes little care when grown indoors in a contained pot. It basically just needs water and then once it’s grown, you can clip it with scissors for you to enjoy in foods or drinks! Compared to all the other herbs, mint actually prefers indirect sunlight making it the ideal herb for indoor winter gardens. If you want to keep your mint indoors year round, place it in front of east facing windows in the spring and summer, and west facing windows in the fall and winter. Mint likes the temp around 65-70°F during the day and 55-60°F at night.
My advice and other tips on indoor herbs!
An easy way to avoid your window herbs from getting too cold in the winter is to remove them from the window at night. Right now I have mine sat on a TV tray up against the window and at night I move the TV tray back and close the curtains to try to keep as much warmth in the room as possible. Unfortunately for them, I’m a crazy person who sleeps with the AC on in the winter so if you keep your heat on at night your herbs are going to be more grateful than mine! (See picture above that was taken a few days ago.)
But leaving your heat on too much in the winter can also dehydrate your herbs. This is an easy fix. You can place a few saucers or ramekins with water near your plants to add moisture into their space or you can place a humidifier in that room! Here’s the one I have that I literally take with me from room to room.
For plants that need that extra heat like basil you can also purchase a heat lamp. I have not experimented with these yet, but I have a friend who has fostered around 40 plants and they love their heat lamps!
Get out there and grow your own garden.
Have you ever grown your own herbs? If not, don’t be afraid! I’m still new at growing my own herbs and I’m learning new things every day. Fresh herbs have tons of benefits and each herb has a lengthy list as to why they’re good for you. Fresh herbs can help manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They also provide anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties and so much more!
One thing I love most about my own herbs is the satisfaction of walking over to my herb garden while I’m cooking and trimming super fresh homegrown herbs to add to my meals.
If you have your own herb garden or are looking into growing your own herbs and have any questions, let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!
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Remember to be brave in trying new things and always cook with love!
Until next time,
Haley | Creator of Haley’s Kitchen