In the Kitchen Window: Container Gardening Tips

Grow your culinary herbs indoors this winter for fresh seasonings all year long.

| October/November 1997

Fall is a time of mixed emotions for me. After the satisfying yet hard work of tending a summer garden, I am ready for a break. But at the same time, the thought of meals without fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, and thyme from my garden looms like a dreary winter’s day. This fall, I decided to fill my kitchen windowsill with a little trough garden of culinary herbs. Now I have a ready supply of my favorite fresh herbs for flavoring dishes, tossing into salads, and garnishing.

A compact window garden is an easy and convenient way to bring a little bit of the garden indoors year-round. For apartment dwellers and others with limited gardening space, a sunny kitchen window is especially valuable. If the sill is wide enough for a heavy container and if it gets four to six hours of bright light a day, it could be a fine home for the right plants.

The herbs won’t grow as rapidly or as large as they might in the garden, but the restrained growth is better in a confined space anyway. You also may want to save some room for a few tender herbs that you would otherwise lose to winter frost.

The basics

Attractive containers to suit any decor are available in garden centers, home decorating stores, and mail-order catalogs. Terra-cotta, wood, ceramic, metal, or plastic containers will all do the job nicely.

Soak unglazed terra-cotta, untreated wood, or other porous containers in water first so they won’t pull moisture from the potting soil when you plant. In dry climates, where the soil dries out quickly, you might be better off with nonporous containers such as plastic or metal.

The size and shape of the container will probably be dictated by the dimensions of the windowsill, but in general, the larger the container, the better. A larger container will allow you to grow more plants and give roots more room to grow. It will also be easier to care for because the soil won’t dry out as quickly.

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