An Indoor Winter Herb Garden

Keep eating healthful fresh herbs throughout the colder months with this advice for indoor success with culinary herbs.


| November/December 2015



Indoor Herb Garden

Enjoy healthful, delicious herbs year round with these tips for growing culinary herbs indoors.

Photo by iStock

Packed with flavor, brimming with antioxidants and incredibly easy to cultivate, culinary herbs are the perfect complement to any meal. And while fresh herbs can get pricey at the grocery store, growing our own herbs makes it easy to integrate them into daily meals. When cold temperatures make it impossible to keep fresh green herbs growing outside (or if you’re short on garden space all year), growing culinary complements inside is an option worth exploring.

Although we would all love it if culinary herbs grew as easily as the ivy tumbling over the bookcase or the peace lily thriving in that dim corner of the living room, that’s simply not the case. Culinary herbs require a higher degree of maintenance, and each has its own unique requirements for abundant growth. Not all herbs adapt well to indoor conditions, but a few are low-maintenance enough that almost anyone can keep them going all year. Use the following tricks to unlock the door to a vibrant indoor herb garden.

The Basics

Although each herb has its own needs, several commonalities exist. Grouping your indoor herb garden is often the most efficient way to provide the proper light and moisture needs for all of your plants. 

Light: Most important to the growth of healthy herbs indoors is sufficient light—especially in winter. A south- or southwestern-facing window can often provide the minimal six to eight hours of direct light required; if you don’t have a window that gets this much light, you will need additional fluorescent lighting. Ample fluorescent light can come from two 40-watt cool white fluorescent bulbs. If supplementing natural light with fluorescent light, your plants will need two supplemental hours of man-made light for each missing hour of natural light—for example, if your plant needs six hours of natural light but your window can only provide four, then you’ll need to replace the missing two hours of natural light with four hours of fluorescent light. Plants should be no closer than 6 inches and no further than 15 inches from the fluorescent bulb. If growing in completely natural light, rotate pots every three to four days to ensure that all leaves receive equal exposure.

Soil: Herbs prefer well-draining soil. To ensure that their roots don’t become water-logged, make your own potting soil by mixing equal parts of these four ingredients together: sand, perlite, peat moss and organic commercial potting soil. All of these products can be found at your local garden-supply center. Porous clay pots breathe better than plastic pots and promote drainage and circulation.

Water: Herbs’ water demands vary. Some, such as basil and oregano, prefer near-dry soil most of the time, while others need consistent moisture. Read on for individual plant needs. In general, herbs do not do well in soft water. The high sodium content will harm them. If your soil begins to form a white crusty surface, which indicates sodium build-up, replace it with fresh soil.





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