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Cultivating Herbs in the Great Indoors

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Fresh herbs make food taste great, but they can be inconvenient to use, coated with pesticides, expensive, and less than fresh when bought at the grocery store. However, there’s no need to compromise the taste of your food. You can easily grow herbs on your windowsill year-round that will be fresher than anything commercially available and they’ll save you time and money too. All you need is a bit of space near a window and some potting mix and you’re on your way to a thriving indoor herb garden.


Getting Started


Before you start planting decide what types of herbs you want grow. Basil, chives, parsley, mint, cilantro, sage, lavender, and thyme all grow well indoors, take up very little space, and require little care. Herbs grow best when they’re harvested regularly so stick with herbs you’ll use.


Once you’ve settled on a selection of your favorite herbs, head over to your local nursery and pick up the plants you need. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and patient, you can buy and plant seeds instead. The process is the same, but it will be a few months before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.


A gardening or hardware store is your best bet for the rest of your supplies. Pick up containers for your plants, potting mix, and fertilizer. Single plant containers will need to be at least six inches deep and six inches wide, and they need to have drainage holes. The myriad of choices in potting mix can be overwhelming, but your best option is a soil-less potting mix—it eliminates soil-borne plant diseases and is less messy to work with indoors. You will need some sort of fertilizer as well (plants need to eat too!), but there are quite a few organic, not so smelly, options on the market, such as Terracycle’s Plant Growth Food.


Planting Your Herb Garden



Setting Up


  1. Choose a south or southeast facing window that will give the plants five or more hours of sunlight a day.
  2. Pick a planter (remember, six inches deep and six inches wide, with drainage holes).
  3. For easy, mess-free water drainage, pick out a large window box, fill the bottom with a thick layer of pebbles, and place individually potted plants on top.
  4. If you’re using a window box or large planter alone, you can grow multiple plants in the same container by placing them six inches apart.


 

Planting


  1. Fill the container half way with potting mix.
  2. Carefully remove the nursery plant from the container it came in, and clean off as much of the soil as possible.
  3. Place the plant in the center of your container, keeping the stem upright.
  4. Fill in around the plant with potting mix, gently packing the mix with your fingertips.
  5. Leave about an inch at the top of the pot for watering.


 

Care and Harvesting


  1. Water your herbs every few days, or whenever the soil is dry to the touch.
  2. Use an organic fertilizer once a month for proper plant nutrition.
  3. Begin harvesting herbs as soon as the plants begin growing new leaves.
  4. Regularly harvest up to a third of the plant’s leaves at a time for optimum plant health.


 

Learn More



Windowbox.com has great information about designing and caring for small gardens.


The Invisible Gardener specializes in organic pest control and gardening techniques.


A concise how-to guide for indoor herb gardening is available at About.com.


Related article: Spare the Good Bugs

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