Growing herbs indoors presents unique challenges, but it is not necessarily difficult. The keys to successful herb growing indoors are light, soil and water – just like outdoor gardening! Here are some tips on how to make the best use of these elements in growing herbs indoors.
The first thing you will need to grow herbs indoors are containers. Some sources say terra cotta pots are best as they allow air to get into the soil; others say to avoid them because they allow the soil to dry out.
One way to solve this dilemma is to consider how much you are going to water your herbs. If you are home often and will be watering often, terra cotta containers are a good choice. If you are not able to water very often, you might choose plastic, ceramic, or glass containers. Also, herbs that prefer dry soil might do best in terra cotta.
Herbs are generally not too picky about the container material, but they do tend to prefer crowded roots. So don’t be tempted to use overly-large containers.
You can also use creative or unconventional containers. Raid your recycle bin and look for cans, plastic containers, and so forth.
All containers should have adequate drainage holes. You should also have a tray or saucer to catch the water as it drains and runs off.
Types of Herbs
Some types of herbs grow better indoors than others. Here are some of the ones that tend to do well inside:
* Lemon balm
* Mints (most varieties)
Generally speaking, commercial potting soil will do well for most herbs. Don’t make the mistake of digging up outdoor soil and putting it in pots – it’s not designed to be in containers, and the drainage will not be efficient. The exception is lemongrass, which can be grown in water alone.
Light and Location
Ideally, place your herbs as close to an eastern window as you can – the closer to the glass, the more light the herbs will get. South-eastern and western sunlight may also work, but northern light is considered too poor for most herbs. Mints and parsley can sometimes do well on lower light.
Your herbs will need anywhere from three to six hours of sunlight a day. If you can’t manage this, consider installing grow lights. Some sources suggest putting these on timers so that your herbs will get their needed light a few hours before sunrise.
Watering needs vary among herbs. Mediterranean herbs like thyme and oregano do not need as much water as lemon balm and chives, for example. Also, watering needs change as the season changes – for example, if you have electric indoor heat, it tends to dry out the indoor air significantly, upping the need for water. A good rule of thumb is to push your finger about an inch into the soil to see if it feels dry. Most herbs prefer soil that is moist most of the time.
Humidity is another area of moisture maintenance. It’s a good idea to keep a spray bottle of water handy to spritz your herbs several times every day in dry weather.