There are so many reasons to grow herbs indoors; they add a garden-fresh flavor to food, fragrance, and greenery indoors, and because packages of fresh herbs are expensive to buy at the supermarket, growing your own herbs can save you money. It’s easy to create a herb garden for a kitchen window, if you start with a little smart planning. Most herbs grow well indoors, but you need to provide a few basic needs like enough light to ensure a healthy windowsill garden.
There are many herbal kits online and in stores for growing a herb garden for a kitchen window. These kits combine seeds, soil and pots to grow popular crops or tea herbs at home. As much as I love growing plants from seeds, it’s much easier and faster to pick up a handful of herb transplants from your local garden center or farmer’s market for an instant, ready-to-use herb garden.
How many plants do you need? With certain herbs, such as rosemary or laurel, a little goes a long way and a plant is probably sufficient for the culinary needs of an average family. Herbs such as basil, parsley or coriander are often used in larger quantities and I find that I like to have at least two of them. To choose which herbs to grow in your herb garden for a kitchen window, think about the ones you use most often in cooking and start with two or three of your favorites.
Grow a healthy herb garden for a kitchen window:
Healthy plants produce a larger crop, so try to provide your indoor herb garden with the basic needs. The plants need light, water and occasional feeding. Another reason to keep your plants healthy? Pest control! Herbs grown with insufficient light or too much water are more susceptible to plague such as aphids or spider moths. Giving your herbs ideal growing conditions means healthier plants and less work for them.
The biggest problem that gardeners face when growing herbs indoors is lack of light. Herbs need a lot of light to produce healthy growth. If you grow a herb garden for a kitchen window, you will find a south-facing window that provides at least 6 to 8 hours of sunshine. If you do not have a good place, you can use grow lights.
Many indoor gardeners use fluorescent lamps, which are usually two to four feet long, and are equipped with inexpensive fluorescent tubes. These devices can be used to start vegetable and flower seeds in the spring, and grow kitchen herbs indoors in the winter. In smaller spaces, such as countertops, shelves or practical corners where you may not have room for a large grow light, you can grow kitchen herbs with a more compact system such as the SunBlaster Grow light Garden or the even smaller version Micro Grow Light. Of course, you can also put a spotlight with a simple and inexpensive incandescent lamp.
Overwatering is the fastest way to finish herbal plants. Most herbs, such as basil and rosemary, need well-drained soil to grow well, and if you planted them in pots without good drainage, it can be a struggle. It is difficult to drill drainage holes in clay or concrete cement pots, but you can drill some in plastic or wooden pots. If you use a pot without drainage holes, add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of the pot and practice smart watering. If the soil is still wet, do not add more water.
Also look for a pot that fits the plant well; it should be about an inch larger than the size of the root ball. If you buy herb seeds in four-inch pots, replant them in five to six-inch pots. If you have a wide window sill or window shelf, you can grow herbs in larger pots, filling different species in a single container. Or plant them in a window box for an attractive indoor garden. When repotting herbs, choose a high-quality pot mixture. These mixtures are both light and free draining, which herbs appreciate.
A monthly dose of fertilizer will encourage your herbs to send fresh growth and lead to healthier plants. You can use liquid or granular fertilizers, but it is best to adhere to organic products when growing edible plants. Most herbs, especially Woody herbs such as thyme, oregano and rosemary, have low fertility needs and can be fertilized with half a dose of the recommended use. Regardless of which fertilizer you choose, before using it, carefully read the instructions of the package.
The best kitchen herbs for an indoor herb garden:
Most culinary herbs and tea can be easily grown in a herb garden for a kitchen window or under grow lights. If you’re a tea lover like me, try fragrant herbs like mint, lemon verbena, and lemon balm. However, for culinary use, these herbs I need to grow:
Basil-Basil is one of the most popular culinary herbs and is grown for its complex, aromatic taste, which invigorates a variety of dishes. Basil is easy to grow, but in order to grow well indoors, you need to give it a lot of light. A south-facing window is good, but a grow light or an extra grow light that turns on for a few hours every night after sunset is even better. Basil is among the most valuable options in a herb garden for a kitchen window.
Parsley-My grandmother always kept a pot of curly parsley on her windowsill, because she loved the fresh taste and smell of parsley. I also like to add parsley to my kitchen, but I prefer the flat-leaf Italian parsley that I like to cut into my salads and pasta for a touch of bright flavor. Parsley is very easy to grow indoors on a windowsill, and unlike basil, it appreciates abundant moisture, so water often when the soil feels dry.
Coriander-coriander is a spicy herb that gives an intense flavor to Mexican, Asian and Indian dishes. It also grows well in containers on a sunny windowsill or under grow lights. It is relatively fast to grow from seeds, but you can also find transplants for a faster harvest. It is not a long-lasting herb that remains in a window for a few months before it blooms. I usually buy up a fresh pot of coriander seeds in February to replace my autumn harvest.
Rosemary-Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb with a strong, fresh fragrance that invigorates a winter-tired gardener. It takes a lot of sun, which can be difficult to provide during the short, dark winter days. When rosemary is grown with insufficient light, it produces a soft, scratch growth. I find it beneficial to grow winter rosemary under grow lights to make sure it gets enough light. Chop and sprinkle the leaves on toasted vegetables and meat, in stuffing and on bruschetta.
Oregano-Every Friday, homemade pizza night is in our house and just before our individual pizzas are put in the oven, they are spread with fresh, chopped oregano. Oregano is very easy to grow, but slow to grow from seeds, so find healthy seeds at your farmer’s market. It is also drought tolerant and the soil should dry to the touch between irrigations.
Tips for harvesting herbs:
- Clip the herbs into your herb garden for a kitchen window often to promote fresh growth.
- Never remove more than a third of the plant at a time.
- Herbs such as basil and coriander eventually produce flower buds, but these should be pinched. You want to direct all plant growth to producing aromatic foliage, not flowers. To remove it, it is enough to cut flowers with scissors or pinch them with your fingers.
- For more information on growing a herb garden for a kitchen window, check out kitchen indoor gardening, an excellent book that describes how to grow herbs indoors, as well as sprouts, microgreens, and more.