If you’re living off the grid or on a homestead, you likely prepare most meals from scratch, with the freshest possible ingredients. But what do you do during the winter months when you encounter a recipe calling for a few different herbs? It’s not very economical to keep buying bundles of fresh herbs, only to use one or two sprigs before the rest goes bad. Fortunately, certain herbs are well suited to be grown in indoor gardens.
These indoor gardens allow you to have fresh herbs available throughout the year, saving you money and giving your meals a delicious, fresh taste. Get started with these seven best herbs for indoor gardens. They’re easy to grow, and ideal for beginners to try.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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Growing Herbs From Seeds for Your Indoor Gardens
Everybody has different strategies for starting herb seeds indoors. I prefer to use the method taught by the University of Illinois horticulture department.
Start with a peat-based seed-starting mix and a seed-starting flat with good drainage holes. Mix water into the peat-based mix until the consistency resembles a damp sponge. Fill each space on the seed-starting container with the peat mix. Place a pinch of seeds in each space, and cover lightly with some more mix.
Once the seeds have been planted, they must germinate. To achieve this, keep them moist and under direct light. Find the windows of your home that get the most sunlight every day.
Seeds need about 6 hours of sunlight daily to germinate. If you use fluorescent lights to mimic the sunlight, they will need about 10 hours of exposure to the light. Be careful to not overwater your seedlings, as this can lead to different diseases. You should also monitor your seedlings daily to check for insects, rot, and diseases.
After a few weeks, the plants will be ready to transplant into larger pots as they continue to grow. Remember to clip the plants once they’ve matured, as this will promote new and bushier growth.
If new planters aren't in your budget, try making these DIY planters for your herb garden indoor or outside.
When to Move Herbs Outdoors
After about 10 weeks, your seedlings will be ready to transplant outdoors. Once spring arrives and the daily temperature is warm enough to sustain your plants, move the pots outdoors during the day. Remember to include space for herbs when you plan your garden for 2021.
By exposing the plants to the outdoor conditions during the day, you’re essentially getting them used to their new life before transplanting it into your backyard garden. This allows the plant to become acclimatized to the new conditions. After one or two weeks of this daily exposure, the plants will be ready to transplant. Just remember to bring them inside overnight or you could lose your entire crop.
Alternatively, you can build a cold-frame garden to help protect your herbs from the elements while they become acclimatized to the colder weather. These protective garden boxes will help extend your growing into the colder months and allow you to easily transplant seedlings into your garden this spring.
Choosing Herbs for Your Indoor Gardens
Choosing herbs for your indoor garden is actually pretty simple. What do you like? What do you use? Start a list of your favorite herbs in your garden planner. Consider which ones you use the most often in your cooking or homemade remedies. Then you'll need to figure out how much to plant per person in your family. Once you’ve completed the list, do some research online to find out if those herbs are suitable for indoor gardens. Or, continue on to the list at the bottom of this post for a quick reference!
Some of the most common herbs thrive indoors. These include basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
If some of your favorite herbs aren’t commonly grown indoors, see if there’s a similar strain that will do better. If not, try creating an innovative solution to give the plant the proper conditions to grow indoors. A little craftiness can go a long way.
Top 7 Easiest Herbs to Grow Indoors
A staple herb in many cuisines around the world, basil can be used in a variety of ways. These aren’t long term plants, so make sure you plant some new seeds after several weeks. Basil needs lots of light, so put it under a grow light or near a southern or western facing window.
2. Laurel Bay
Known better as bay leaf, this herb is essential in many soups and stews. You can use them fresh, or dry out extra leaves for future use. Make sure it’s placed near an east or west-facing window with good air circulation around it.
A member of the mint family, oregano can be used in a variety of dishes. You can use it fresh or dried, but keep in mind it does have a stronger taste in the dried form. Place near a window with moderate to strong levels of sunlight.
Whether you choose curly or flat-leafed, make sure you have at least one type of parsley growing all the time. Its versatility gives you the ability to use it in almost every dish. Parsley likes full sunlight.
Although you can start rosemary from seed, it’s easier to start with a clipping from an existing plant. Used as seasonings for meats, soups, and stews, rosemary likes full sunlight and does very well indoors over the winters.
If you or a friend already has a sage plant, simply cut off a tip and plant it in some fresh soil. Keep it watered, and it will take root within a few weeks. It does need full sunlight, so take that into account when organizing your indoor gardens.
Thyme can be transplanted indoors, or simply replanted from cuttings during the winter months. It can grow in tiny pots if needed and likes full sunlight.
Drying Your Herbs
By properly drying your harvested herbs, they will last for years if stored properly. Also, drying herbs will concentrate the flavor, meaning you can use less in each meal. There are a few different ways to dry herbs, but the easiest technique is old-fashioned hang drying.
Harvest the herbs and wash under cold water, drying with a paper towel. Tie the herbs in small bunches and loosely enough to allow for good air circulation. Hang the bunches by the stem in a warm, dry area not in direct sunlight. Garages and sheds provide the easiest solution. The drying process can take up to a month, but it’s well worth the wait.
If you happen to have a food dehydrator, those will drastically speed up the drying process. Do some research online to get exact times and temperatures depending on the herb you intend to dry.
What to Watch for When Growing Herbs Indoors
When growing herbs in indoor gardens, exposure to light is the most important thing to monitor. You need to know how many hours of light your herbs require. And make sure they receive the ideal amount every day. If the layout of your house doesn’t have good spots for plants near sunny windows, you may want to invest in some indoor grow lights.
Another important measurement to keep an eye on is moisture, especially when germinating seeds. If your pots don’t have good drainage, or you consistently over water your plants, they can develop mold or simply drown. Make sure you use pots that have drainage holes and a good soil mixture that doesn’t retain too much water.
If you transplant herbs from an outside garden to an indoor one, make sure you thoroughly inspect the plants first. You want to check for pests such as aphids and spider mites. Telltale signs of pests include sticky droppings on the plant and fine webs on the leaves. If you notice any signs of pests, wash the plant before bringing it inside. If possible, choose a different pest-free plant.
Should I Buy a Herb Garden Kit?
Choosing whether to buy an herb garden kit or not depends on your situation. For some people, it can be an economical and efficient choice. If you have previous gardening experience and a decent amount of gardening supplies, you likely won’t need to buy a kit. Many of the herb garden kits come with supplies like pots, plant markers, shears, and other common gardening tools most gardeners already have.
However, if you’ve never gardened before and want to start your own indoor gardens right away, a herb garden kit would be a practical choice. They come with everything you need to get started. Seeds, pots, potting soil discs, growing bags, and more. If you like indoor gardening and keep at it though, you will need to buy more supplies down the road.
If you’re new to gardening, an indoor herb garden is an easy place to start. And it's a great way to introduce kids to gardening too. Once you’ve decided what herbs you want to grow, make a plan on where certain herbs will be placed to optimize their need for sunlight. Monitor them daily, and trim them back when needed. If you like having the constant supply of fresh herbs, make sure you regularly replant those with a short life like basil. Remember to dry any extra herbs you harvest, and use them in every meal you can.
Let us know below what your favorite herbs for indoor gardens, and any tricks you’ve learned!
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This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop #283!