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Nutrition Articles  ›  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Fresh, Fast Flavor from Your Own Windowsill

-- 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

  • 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
  • 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
  • Seriously, who keeps their home between 60 degrees and 70 degrees? I'm freezing all the time at 74 degrees to 76 degrees (hubby's preferred temps). Most of the other information is good, but I find it best to grow the herbs outside, harvesting regularly to keep them growing nice & full. Then, before the first frost cut the plant all the way down, hang upside down to dry. Once dry I crumble, grind and/or powder the dried herbs, and they're ready for use in the winter. In the spring I just plant more and begin again. - 8/24/2012 9:52:52 AM
  • KEEPSA
    I grew mine in a 10 gallon fish tank from a garage sale. I didn't get the hood for it so I made one to insert a grow light into. I put about 2 inches of rocks, gravel in the bottom then the dirt. I water it with some of the water from my big fresh water fish tank, then give them clean water. Basil cilantro and parsley did great, Rosemary and oregano didn't. I also tried lettuce and carrots. Lettuce grew thin and weak and went to seed. Carrots grew but never produced a carrot.
    If I did it again I would use a 20 gallon tank. Make sure you put it on a sturdy support where you want it to stay. It is very heavy. Mine is by a window. It doesn't require a lot of water because of the hood. There are some beautiful terrariums for sale on the internet. Enjoy! - 8/24/2012 8:22:22 AM
  • COREOPOSIS
    I feel like I'm a good gardener, but I have NEVER successfully grown herbs indoors. You really have to have a very (extremely) sunny window and even then you have to rotate the plant because it will start to lean over since plants stretch towards the sun. - 8/24/2012 7:45:17 AM
  • Thanks for the info just what I was looking for. - 3/13/2011 3:30:34 PM
  • I grow my vegetable seeds inside. Great way to start growing herb seeds and use them to meals when grown. thank you again for another wonderful article.
    paula from wi - 1/29/2011 8:06:15 AM