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Create an indoor herb garden that lasts all year round

The sweet, peppery scent of fresh basil. The pungent, earthy aroma of fresh oregano. In an ideal world, we could cook with fresh herbs like these all year long. But if you live in a climate that can’t support a year-round garden, an indoor herb garden can be a convenient and accessible way to keep fresh herbs on hand.

How to start your indoor herb garden

Creating an herb garden requires some planning and consideration. Here are 10 steps to help you get started:

  1. Select the right location. Herbs need a lot of sunlight; ideally, 6-8 hours of natural light per day. A sunny windowsill is perfect. If you don’t have enough natural light, you can supplement with fluorescent or grow lights.

  2. Choose the right herbs. Some herbs grow better indoors than others. Good options include basil, chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary. More complex herbs like dill and fennel don’t always adapt well to indoor conditions.

  3. Get the correct pots and soil. Select containers that are deep enough for your herbs to grow roots. They should also have good drainage to prevent waterlogging. Use a quality potting mix—one that’s light and fluffy and contains perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.

  4. Plant your herbs. You can start herbs from seeds or purchase small plants. If starting from seed, follow the instructions on the packet. If using plants, dig a hole in the center of the pot, place the herb in, and cover the roots with soil.

  5. Water appropriately. Herbs don’t like to be too wet, so only water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Over-watering can lead to root rot and other diseases.

  6. Provide enough humidity. Most herbs prefer a humid environment. Indoor heating during winter months can make the air too dry. To increase humidity, mist the plants occasionally or place a tray of water near the garden.

  7. Regularly harvest your herbs. Regular harvesting encourages growth and results in a bushier plant. Just make sure not to remove more than one-third of the plant at a time.

  8. Keep up with maintenance. Regularly check your plants for signs of pests or disease. Use a natural pesticide if necessary. If a plant appears diseased, remove it before it spreads to other plants.

  9. Rotate your plants. If your herbs are next to a window, rotate them every few days so all sides of the plant get equal exposure to the sun.

  10. Fertilize regularly. Herbs in pots need regular feeding because they can’t draw nutrients from the earth. Use a balanced organic fertilizer every few weeks to keep your herbs healthy.

Choose the right herbs

Here are some herbs to consider for your indoor garden, along with their needs:

  • Basil requires warm temperatures and lots of sunlight. There are many basil varieties available, including Genovese, Thai and lemon basil, each with its own unique flavor profile.

  • Chives add a mild onion-like flavor to dishes. They require moderate light and regular watering. Snip the leaves as needed for fresh flavor.

  • Mint is best kept in a separate container as it tends to spread. Peppermint and spearmint are common varieties that are versatile for culinary uses and refreshing teas.

  • Parsley—flat-leaf or curly—prefers bright, indirect light and well-draining soil. Harvest the leaves as needed for garnishing and flavoring dishes.

  • Thyme prefers a sunny location and well-draining soil. There are several thyme varieties, including common, lemon and English thyme, each with its own distinct flavor.

  • Rosemary is an aromatic herb that adds a delightful flavor to dishes. It requires a sunny spot and moderate watering. Ensure good air circulation around the plant. Rosemary can grow quite large, so choose a suitable container.

  • Oregano is a flavorful herb that prefers bright light and well-draining soil. Greek and Italian oregano are common varieties used in cooking.

  • Sage is a versatile herb that requires bright light and well-draining soil. The leaves can be used fresh or dried for cooking.

  • Cilantro/coriander (cilantro refers to the leaves, while coriander refers to the seeds of the same plant) prefers cooler temperatures and moderate light. Harvest the leaves when young and use them in various cuisines.

  • Dill, which adds a distinctive flavor to dishes, can be finicky, as we mentioned earlier. But it can be grown indoors. It requires moderate light and well-draining soil. Harvest the leaves and seeds for culinary use.

You can find more good advice about indoor herb gardening here.

In summary, when growing herbs indoors, be sure they get adequate light, proper watering and well-draining soil. Consider using supplemental grow lights if natural light is limited, watch humidity levels, provide good air circulation to prevent fungal issues and fertilize your plants on a regular basis.

Do all that, and before you know it, your indoor herb garden will supply you with herbs for delicious dishes and drinks all year long!