Herb gardening is a great hobby to have even if you’re not into the whole “tilling up the land” kind of gardening. Gardening is therapeutic, and if you’re growing herbs, you can do some amazing things with them. From seasoning your food to making a sensational smelling potpourri, this cheap hobby will actually save you money at the grocery store! If you’re not sure what herbs to start with, check out my article on The 5 Easiest Herbs to Grow. Just realize, there are tons more herbs to be grown!
Growing Herbs Indoors
What I didn’t cover in that article is growing herbs indoors! That’s right, you can have a thriving herb garden right in your own kitchen… or sun room… or living room… heck, put it anywhere you like. If you don’t have the room outside, or just want to spruce up the inside of your home a little, herb gardening is a wonderful idea!
Even if you grow herbs in containers outside during the warm weather, you can bring them inside during the cold and continue to harvest them all winter long. You also won’t have to worry about deer, rabbits or squirrels eating your herbs, either. Growing herbs indoors works well for many reasons:
- Most herbs are hardy, sturdy plants that can handle frequent changes of light that a life indoors offers.
- Indoor herb gardens can make your home smell amazing.
- Integrated with your interior design, herbs can add to the overall décor of your house.
Planting Your Indoor Herb Garden
Make sure to read up on whatever herbs you plan to grow so you can get an appropriate-sized container. Herbs grow fast, so you don’t want to put them in a pot that’s too small. Make sure your container has holes in the bottom so the soil will drain well, but put them on a plate or a container saucer so the water doesn’t get everywhere.
If you are starting your herbs from seeds, they will require more effort and attention during germination. Always read the seed packet and know the optimal growing condition for each herb you plan to germinate and grow. Make your best effort to replicate the growing condition these seeds would have in a natural setting (outside) so they flourish inside. You could start your herbs in a mini greenhouse with a warming mat to help warm the soil and encourage the seeds to germinate. If you’re really picky and like to do things by the book, you might even use a soil thermometer to check the soil temperature. After the seeds have germinated and the seedlings begin to outgrow their starter pots, you can treat them like any other transplant. The good thing about growing herbs indoors is you don’t have to bother with a hardening-off process as you would if you were transplanting them outside. They’re already used to their permanent growing environment.
If you are repotting a transplant, fill the new pot about 2/3 of the way with an organic potting soil that is suitable for herbs and vegetables. Remove the plant from the small container and loosely shake out the roots being very careful not to damage them. Spread the roots out as you gently place the plant into the new container. Add more soil to the pot, covering the roots, but don’t cover the base of the plant itself too much. If you are placing multiple plants in the same container, be sure to space them all equally apart so the roots don’t get too intertwined. Intertwined roots will bind them together, making it hard for the plant to drink in its water and nutrients from the soil, thus making a very weak. If your plant is weak, it may not survive long, and definitely won’t produce very well.
Lighting for Your Indoor Herbs
Naturally, sunlight is the best source of light you can give your plant. If you have a set of windows that receive between 6-8 hours of strong sunlight every day, that is the prime spot to place your indoor herb garden.
Plants naturally grow toward sunlight. This is called “tropism”. Wikipedia says:
A tropism is a biological phenomenon, indicating growth or turning movement of a biological organism, usually a plant, in response to an environmental stimulus.
In this case, the “environmental stimulus” is light. It is a good idea to turn your plants 1/4 or 1/2 turn daily to give the plants even lighting. This will make for a stronger plant.
If you don’t have a window that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight each day, you can put a fluorescent light above the plants to supplement the sunlight. You could just put the plants wherever you want them in the first place, and then just use a fluorescent light fixture on a timer to make sure they receive enough light. YouGrowGirl.com has a pretty good article on how to build a DIY lighting system for indoor plants.
Watering Your Herb Garden
Just like you water your garden outside, you should water indoor herbs thoroughly and infrequently. The “deeper” you water, the deeper the roots will go, making for a strong plant. Allow the water to soak in, then pour in more water. Repeat this 2-3 times. If water starts coming out at the bottom, stop.
You might not have to water your herbs every single day, so resist the urge. One way you can tell if your indoor herb garden needs to be watered is by pushing your finger into the soil up to your knuckle. If you feel any moisture, the plant is ok for now. If your finger comes out bone dry, you need to water the plant.
I don’t have my indoor plants in big huge containers, so I can pick them up and carry them anywhere I want. I typically like to put my plants in the sink or tub to water them. I’ll soak them with water to the point that they can’t hold any more, then let the excess run out for about an hour before moving them back to their permanent location.
You could also use an automatic drip irrigation system to keep your plants watered. These systems have hoses that lead from a watering source to a drip nozzle for each container. For your watering source, you can use a gravity fed reservoir, or you could hook a hose to your kitchen sink (if your plants are close enough).
Growing Herbs Indoors Using Hydroponics
If you want to be uber-high-tech and go with a whole different style of growing, the hydroponic method is something you might try for your indoor herb garden. From Wikipedia’s entry about hydroponics:
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel.
Don’t get too overwhelmed by the thought of hydroponic herb gardening. It is actually very simple to get a good system set up. Epic Gardening shows you how:
Materials needed for the hydroponic herb garden project in the video:
If your container is clear, place a piece of masking tape vertically down one side of the container before spray painting the container, then remove the tape to see the water level. If light gets into the container, algae may grow in the water.
Next, drill a hole in the side of the container to run your air line. Place the aquarium stone in the container and the air pump next to the container. Attach the air line to the stone and pump through the hole. Fill the container with water and add the nutrients. Turn on the air pump. The whole reason for the pump is to keep the water from sitting stagnant, and to provide oxygen to the roots so the plants don’t drown.
Drill holes in the lid for the number of plants you’ll have. In the video he had 8, but you could do just a couple if the plants get big (like basil) or up to probably 12 if you’re careful about drilling the holes. Put your net pots into the holes, and put the plants and clay pellets into the net pots.
Conclusion on Indoor Herb Gardens
I think the best thing I can tell you about growing herbs inside is to get organic, non-hybrid varieties to ensure there is nothing hindering the seed from becoming a strong, healthy plant that has a great taste and smell. Make sure your plants are getting plenty of light every day, and plenty of water when they need it. If you keep your plants cut back properly with a sharp pair of herb snips, and don’t over-harvest, you could have an indoor herb garden grow indefinitely.