Nutrition Articles

How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Fresh, Fast Flavor from Your Own Windowsill

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By Leanne Beattie, SparkPeople Contributor         
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Don’t kill your herbs with kindness by watering too often: Excess water is harmful to the roots and causes rotting. Fertilize your herbs once a month with a product labeled safe to use on edibles. Once you start to see new growth, you can begin to use your herbs for cooking.

If you’d like to save some money and start your herbs from seed rather than buying seedlings, you will need to babysit your plants a bit more. Many planters are too large to start seeds in, so plant them in a peat pot first. Fill the peat pot with planting mix and then place it in a small bowl of water until the peat pot completely absorbs the water from the bowl. Bury your seeds to a shallow depth (about 3 or 4 times the seed’s diameter), planting a few types of the same seed in one pot. Cover the peat pot with a small plastic bag to simulate a mini greenhouse!

Once the seeds have sprouted, you can transplant the entire peat pot into the larger planter. Place your pots in a sunny spot or underneath a grow light if your home doesn’t receive enough natural sunlight. Space out your herbs so that they don’t crowd each other and avoid putting your plants near a heating vent to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.

Here are a few herbs that are particularly well suited for indoor growth:
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil is simple to grow from seed but it needs bright light and warm temperatures.
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): This member of the onion family is best used fresh. Chives like bright light and cool temperatures.
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens): Choose a dwarf variety instead of the standard types that typically grow about 4 feet tall. You'll need to make successive plantings to ensure a continuous crop since dill doesn’t grow back after harvesting.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): This is easy to grow from seed and its fresh fragrance can be enjoyed in salads and drinks.
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum): This has a sharp, pungent flavor and can be grown from seed.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary doesn’t always germinate well from seed; grow it from cuttings or as a complete plant from the nursery. The soil needs to be well drained, but don’t let it dry out completely.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Many varieties of thyme are available. Cover the seed only lightly with soil or not at all if you are starting your thyme from scratch. Keep the plants moist until they are flourishing.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • I grow basil in my garden in the summer, but have not had much luck with it in the house - probably too cool for it during the winter. But I have parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme in pots, which go out for the summer and come in the rest of the year. I am blessed with a nice big sunny box window in my kitchen, and they seem to like it there. So nice to have fresh herbs year round! - 3/29/2016 6:19:33 PM
  • I grow herbs outdoors. They really add a punch to my food. I look forward totrying an indoor garden. - 3/28/2016 9:53:15 PM
  • I did try this. My cat goes after them. I'm thinking of trying to hang the pots out of his reach. Except the basil. He doesn't like that. - 2/23/2016 11:48:14 AM
  • I did try this. My cat goes after them. I'm thinking of trying to hang the pots out of his reach. Except the basil. He doesn't like that. - 2/23/2016 11:46:53 AM
  • It would be fun to have an herb garden, indoors or outside. Our windows don't get the right amount of light, because the house is really old. It's designed funny. - 4/4/2015 2:49:53 AM
  • Thanks for sharing! - 7/15/2013 7:09:39 AM
  • Lots of good tips here. Experience is the best teacher : ) Thanks - 7/12/2013 4:42:33 PM
  • BECCKII12
    I wish I read your sight before I tried growing my own herb garden. I have learnt a lot and realised my mistakes as to why the herbs were dying on me. In the future I will buy plants from a local nursery or farm, in order to have drainage holes and have a large enough pot for root development. I was watering the herbs fairly regularly a day, which I thought would benefit them, however your blog has made me realised this is harmful and causes the roots to rot. I also had a strange ant and bug problem in relation to the herb garden in my home, is there a reason or prevention for this? - 5/1/2013 10:10:42 PM
  • HOLLYSNOWWOMAN
    Dill plants do not like the shock of being transplanted. I never could understand why they died. Read somewhere that dill should be started from seed and when I started doing this I had beautiful plants. - 3/12/2013 5:05:37 PM
  • ALDEBARANIAN
    One way to help plants grown indoors in pots is to put a plastic bag over them. It keeps some moisture in, like a little greenhouse. To keep bugs away, you could use a little piece of nonwoven agricultural fabric like agribon. - 8/26/2012 9:39:14 AM
  • CHOICA
    Every time I have tried to raise indoor herbs I have an ant and bug problem?? How can this be prevented? - 8/25/2012 10:20:36 PM
  • I have learned a few things. I have tried several times to grow herb from seeds. No luck. This year bought them from a farmer's market. I have had most of them several months.(shock) However, I think I overwater some, and some of the pots didn't have the holes..
    My chives never did much. I have to cheat, and use a tool which tells approximately if the plant is dry, wet, or too wet. Now I know a few more things so I won't kill more plants. - 8/24/2012 9:22:01 PM
  • I would LOVE to grow herbs indoors! Unfortunately, I live in a very hot, dry part of the country. Has anyone had a success growing an indoor garden in the desert? If so, what did you plant? - 8/24/2012 12:34:11 PM
  • If you're wanting to start some seeds, don't you believe the line that some pots are too large for starting seeds, to use a peat pot instead. If you have a peat pot in which to start your seeds, go ahead.

    But if you don't, consider seeds in nature. All those herbs have one thought in mind, to grow, flower and produce seeds which get blown around and "planted" in the biggest pot imaginable: the earth. If you are kind enough to start them in a big pot, they won't mind. They will thank you for it. In fact, put a seed from 4 different herbs in the pot and have a mixture later. - 8/24/2012 11:07:20 AM
  • WRIPTW91
    I've been fairly successful at this, but always have trouble with the cilantro.
    Guess I'll just keep having to but a whole bunch every time a recipe calls for a smatt handful.
    - 8/24/2012 10:59:15 AM

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