My husband just bought two 75 watt plant bulbs for our plants. Since we just moved into our new place our plants have been looking weak. Hopefully this saves our plants. If not my husband will be angry.
I haven’t always had the best of luck when it comes to plants. There was the pea shoot in a plastic cup I was assigned to take care of in seventh grade—that somehow ended up falling out of a second story window. And the orchid that my boyfriend gave me that, despite my maniacal efforts, never really died, but failed to bloom again after the original flowers fell off. An indoor herb garden, though? Even I wasn’t able to mess than one up.
If you’re in the mood to exercise your green thumb but lack the space or warm-all-year climate to plant an outdoor garden, fear not: Indoor herb gardens are fun, useful, pretty, and—for the most part—totally beginner-friendly. Here’s what you need to know to get growing.
Selecting Your Herbs
There are tons of delicious herbs out there that can be grown in the comfort of your own home, but some are particularly well suited for novice growers. Try starting with mint, lemongrass, parsley, or chives—they don’t require too much maintenance and they’re familiar enough ingredients that you’re sure to find plenty of uses for them. In the beginning, stay away from the more difficult herbs—such as rosemary, basil, and thyme. They’re a little more finicky and not ideal for starters.
Gathering Your Supplies
To get your garden started, you’ll need pots, soil, and seeds or pre-grown plants, which you can get at Home Depot or any other nursery.
When selecting your pots, the only requirement is that they have holes in the bottom for drainage. Other than that, have fun! Buy pots that you’ll be proud to display in your windowsill and happy to see when you’re tending your garden.
For soil, you want to buy high-quality soil that is rich and loamy (meaning it drains easier and is richer with nutrients). Some people suggest filling the bottom of your pots with small rocks, but they’re breeding grounds for mold and fungus. Instead, buy some perlite (a special kind of rock) at the garden store—just a little bit of it in the soil will help aid drainage.
Though it is cheaper to buy seeds, I recommend starting with a small plant so that you can enjoy it right away. It really depends what you’re more invested in—the process of growing the herb, or the process of eating it. A pre-grown plant will give you instant (and tasty) gratification, while you’ll have a bit of a waiting period with seeds.
Getting Your Plants Going
If you’re growing from the seed, then you’re beyond my area of expertise. Check out this great tutorial to get you started.
If you’ve opted for the pre-grown variety, just transfer the plants from their dinky plastic containers to a larger pot with fresh soil once you get home.
Keeping Your Plants Happy
Herbs, like all plants, are temperamental and needy—unless they’ve got the right conditions, they won’t successfully grow. Here are a few guidelines:
Your herbs will need about 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. For that reason, a southwest-facing window is a great place to keep them. If your home doesn’t get good sun, you can augment with artificial lights purchased at a nursery or home supply store (regular household lights won’t do). Pay attention as you go: If you notice the leaves turning brown, that means your herbs are getting too much light. Long stems and scant leaves mean not enough light.
Herbs are pretty tolerant when it comes to temperature, but you want them to be under as little stress as possible. Keep the air around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal growing conditions.
Herbs don’t need a ton of water. In fact, they really only need to be watered when they dry out completely. And forget the watering can—you want to water your herbs where the roots are, not the leaves. To do this, soak the bottoms of your pots, as opposed to watering from the top (this is why your pots need to have holes). Stick the pots in your sink or a pan full of water long enough for the water to soak through to the roots and then remove to drain. Don’t let your pots sit in standing water for too long—you’ll overwater your herbs. And always allow your herbs to dry completely after soaking before watering them again—you probably won’t need to do this again for at least a couple of weeks.
You won’t have to feed your herbs much, but when you do you’ll want to use a slow-acting fertilizer that has a low level of phosphorous (to keep your herbs leafy as opposed to flowery). Kill two birds with one stone by mixing a tiny amount of the fertilizer in with the water before you soak your plants—that way they’ll eat and drink at the same time!
Indoor herb gardens are inexpensive, and a great way to always have fresh herbs in the colder months (and, yes, the warmer months, too!). If you want to get a little more intense, there are also many yummy vegetables you can grow inside (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions). They require a tad more care, but once you’ve got the herb thing down, do some research and give them a try!