How To Start An Indoor Herb Garden – Tips for Success

by | Nov 16, 2017

Growing your own herbs inside your home is a great way to add splashes of color to your home, save money, enhance your culinary dishes and hone your gardening skills. You can start an indoor herb garden growing all year for quick easy access anytime or transition it seasonally to your outdoor garden spaces.

It is one of the most versatile and easy types of gardens to begin at any skill level.

I will walk you through how to get started successfully with some great tips that will keep you from getting discouraged. Growing herbs can be very rewarding and soon you will be reaping the rewards of mother nature right from the comfort of your own home.

I am an organic gardener by personal choice. I will touch on organic methods within this article but will not focus on those alone. I would like to help anyone on their journey towards indoor herb gardening so this guide will provide the information for anyone.

Basic Needs of Your Herbal Inside Garden

Herbs and plants, in general, have very basic needs to always keep in mind, call it a recipe. This recipe can vary depending on which herb or plant is being grown but the same ingredients are needed to produce the result.

  • Soil
  • Sun (light)
  • Air
  • Water
  • Space

The missing ingredients that change this from a blank recipe into a specific herbal recipe are based on which type is being grown and additional specific needs of that plant.

Herbs will require space to breathe and room for their roots to stretch and grow that cannot be provided by regular soil or from even store bought soils labeled as garden soil. Soils labeled potting mixes are the best-growing soils for your herbs.

Soil: The Base Layer of Your Herbal Cake Recipe

Most herbs will require good drainage and a nutrient-rich soil for optimum growth. Regular dirt from outside is not going to be the perfect growing medium for your new herb garden it can be loaded with parasites and harbor a bunch of ready to sprout weeds and grass seeds. It is also far too dense and often contains heavy Clay that will prevent the type of drainage required for your growing plants.

Potting mix, my recommended choice.

  • It is looser than the packaged garden soils. Often with a greater balance of ingredients including rich amounts of perlite.
  • Perlite improves aeration in your soil, keeps it from clumping and becoming compact and allows the room for the roots to grow. It can also aid humidity in your growing containers as the water evaporates from the porous surface of these small pieces of volcanic glass.
  • In addition, the Potting mix and soils have Peat Moss or Coco Coir Peat and the additions of fertilizers and/or compost.

Give your plants a great start with a quality potting soil that will keep your plants thriving. You can’t go wrong with this product, loaded with nutrients essential for healthy plants. Click on the link to see for yourself.  Fox Farm Ocean Forest Review

You Can Make your own Mix.

  • No need to buy potting mix if you are comfortable building up your own growing medium. This is the mix I like to make and find it works great for my indoor herbs and plants.
  • Mix equal parts of a good grade compost, to Perlite or Vermiculite, to Peat Moss or Coco Coir. For added and continued feeding to your plants you can add in a slow release fertilizer to your mix per instructions found on the container or organically by adding in about 1 cup of worm casting to every bucket of potting mix made.

Sunlight: Natural or Artificial

Herbs need light to process energy and create the food they need to grow. It is an essential ingredient to their life. Sunlight or artificial sunlight amounts also help to regulate the herbs growth and even its flavor.

Learn about Photosynthesis 

To start an indoor herb garden you will need to have 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day available. When considering natural sunlight the best positions in your home are in Southwest or Southern facing windows. If you have two or more intersecting windows, you can try to place your herb planters near these locations.

If you are unsure about the amount of sunlight being provided naturally for your plants, you can measure it with a sun meter. There are various sunlight meters available that can be placed inside a pot or on a surface that measure the light potential in a given location.

The Grow light alternative:

All is not lost if you do not have the amount of natural light needed for healthy growth of your herbs indoors. The market is flooded with many artificial lighting options that mimic the natural sunlight needed by your plants. They range from fairly inexpensive alternatives to very high-end dollar sun giants used by major greenhouse producers.

⇒  You can learn more about grow lights and the different options available on another article on this site. The Best Grow Lights for Indoor Plants and Herbs – Creating Sunlight Just follow the link to learn more!

Want the best lighting options I have found? You can also get a break down of LED lighting with this review of 10 Best LED Grow Lights by clicking the link.

Air, Water, and Space: The Final Three Basics

Soil and Light take more thought and time to get the right mix in preparing your indoor herb garden whereas the last three ingredients are much more basic. They all play an important part together and have to be maintained in the right order.

Air

Herbs and other plants need air in two ways. I am sure you already know that through photosynthesis plants combine water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugar and oxygen. They also need to have that same air to be able to move around their root system. We talked about this in the importance of having a nice loose soil but it is also important for the next part.

Water

Water is also used by the plant to produce its food and energy that allows it to grow. There can be too much water! You can overwater your plants to deprive them of the air their roots need to grow. Whenever possible water your herbs from underneath by planting them in containers with drainage holes and setting them in a couple inches of water for a 5 to 10 minutes. When watering from above water slowly and evenly and watch for even saturation. Make your watering infrequent allowing the top inch or two to dry out on your containers in between.

Improper watering is the leading cause of plant failure. Read an article here on How to water your plants.

Space

A decorative planter of mixed herbs can be beautiful and while they are small it may be OK. As your plants get larger, it is best that they have their own space. The top growth, as well as their roots, are going to need space to spread out and grow. Crowded plants and roots can deprive your herbs of the essential water and air they need as well. if your herb plant is getting very large chances are the root growth is getting larger. Watch for the spacing in the ground of your plants every few months and transplant when any signs of them becoming root bound into a larger container.

Transplant or Seed, that is the question

In learning how to start an indoor herb garden you have a couple of options to begin. Typically a transplant is the easiest and quickest method to reap the rewards of fresh herbs. It is not always an option as often plant starts are not available for purchase throughout the year and some herbs are finicky about being transplanted. Attempting both methods will give the experience and advantages of both.

  1. Transplants: When buying starter plants for transplanting be sure to inspect them thoroughly. The plant should be vibrant, firm and green. Also, inspect the soil that you can see, there should be no visible fungus or algae. Remember that anything you bring into your home can affect the rest of your indoor garden plants and herbs, so be picky.
  2. Seeds: Purchase seeds from companies that you trust or that have a good reputation. Check the dates on the package. Although most seeds are good longer than a year from the date of packaging, it is when they are kept under the right conditions. It is difficult to tell how a store cared for last year’s seeds that they may be selling at discounted rates, fresh seeds are always best.

This is just a short list of the many available herbs out there to grow. You can try one, all or none of these. What herbs you chose to start in your indoor garden space will be for your personal preference and following the proper guidelines on the packages of seeds and the information I laid out for you, you should have great success!

Best Herbs to Start With

This is where a great debate may begin among other gardeners as the list of easy and hard to grow herbs tend to vary depending on opinion. I personally feel that when you meet all the basic needs listed above, patience and any added research based on the specific herb chosen, they can all be easily grown. For practical purposes, I will cover some common herbs that are used more frequently and grown more quickly to get you a head start.

Dill:

Fern leaf variety or dwarf fern leaf varieties are great choices for indoors as they grown much shorter than their larger counterparts. They are slow to bolt (go to seed) and offer a great yield. Germinate in 7 to 21 days from seed.

Cilantro:

Santro or Cruiser varieties are great choices as they are quick to germinate and slow to bolt. Germinate 7 to 10 days.

Basil:

There is a lot of varieties that all add different splashes of color and variations in flavor. I have found them all to be very successfully grown indoors. Note that they do not like cool drafts so if you place in a window, make sure the temperature stays above 60 to 65 at all times. Keep Basil pinched and it will continue to grow bushier and thicker stemmed. Most germinate within 5 to 10 days and require nice warm soil so keep in a warm place during germination like the top of your refrigerator or on a low heat grow mat.

You can get more specific information on growing basil by following this link to another article on this site. How to Grow Basil Indoors -A Family Favorite

Arugula:

Some may consider this a salad green but it is actually a herb that makes a great addition to your indoor herb garden. There is so many varieties, all great to try, but spice things up with a nice wasabi arugula for a kick of flavor. Germination 5 – 7 days, keep a continual planting schedule to keep fresh herbal greens to add to your favorite salads.

Mint:

Many Varieties out their but be sure to keep mint growing in its own container. Mint has a tendency to overtake a pot and the flavor of other herbs. A little slower to germinate but once growing it is quick to show its beauty and with proper care can fill a pot. Germination 10 -15 days

Mint is a great herb to add to your garden. You can learn more in another article on this site by heading to this link Growing Mint in Containers- Best method

Starting Your First Herb From Seed

Starting your first herb plant from seed will take a little patience. Seeds take days, sometimes weeks to germinate (begin to grow). When you select a herb seed the package should indicate the amount of time required for germination. Example Basil takes typically 5 – 7 days to germinate.

In addition, your herb seed may have some specific needs in order to germinate. Some require light, some certain soil temperatures, and some specific soil. In addition, some seeds even require being cut or split prior to planting or soaked for a certain amount of hours.

The planting depth of the seed is also indicated by the seed packet. This varies from herb to herb as well so make sure you check every packet of seeds to be sure you are giving your seed the best chance for sprouting.

The seed packet will also indicate some special notes about transplanting as well. Some herb plants do not like to be transplanted so it is important to start them in the pot or container you intend to grow them in or in peat pots that can be directly planted in their permanent containers later on.

Most herb seeds can be very tiny and take extra care in planting. Often these very tiny seeds can be found to purchase in varieties called seed tapes (tiny seeds are fixed to strip of tape for easy planting), or pelleted in a bullet of nutrients and soil for easier planting. Both of these methods are also acceptable ways to plant and I have found they work as well as direct seed.

⇒ Helpful articles on site that could further assist you in finding seeds to start your herbal garden. Click any of the links below to learn more!

Basics of seed starting:

  1. Read the seed packet completely and follow any steps required before planting (example soaking, cutting etc.)
  2. Prepare your container(s) for planting by adding your potting mix or if recommended by seed packet seed starter mix
    • This can be the permanent container or pot
    • Peat pots that you can later transplant
    • 6 or more cell seed starting trays
  3. Pre-moisten your soil prior to planting. This will keep you from washing away the seed or disrupting the seed placement after planting.
  4. Plant your seeds as instructed by the packet and at the right depth. Spacing is not as important now. Not all seeds will germinate so when planting make sure you plant more than you need and thin later.
  5. Cover the container with plastic wrap. This is important. It helps to retain moisture in the soil as the new seedling is trying to grow.
  6. Follow any additional requirements based on the seed packet. Examples include placing under lights or in sunlight, or on heat or heated area for seeds requiring heat to germinate.
  7. Watch your seeds and don’t allow the soil to dry out. Do not over saturate but keep the soil moist.
  8. Patience is a virtue to start an indoor herb garden from seed. Soon enough life in the form of emerging herb plants will appear.
  9. The first set of leaves on most your seedlings are called seed leaves, these are not the true leaves of your herb plant. The next set will be the true leaves. After your seedling has grown 1 to 2 sets of true leaves (depending on seedling size and amount of germination) it is time to thin down seedlings. To do this try to keep the healthiest looking seedlings and following the spacing guidelines from the seed packets. Snip out the extra seedlings to remove. Pulling can damage the roots of the surrounding seedlings.
  10. When you have reached your 3rd set of true leaves you are ready for transplant if needed, or you are beginning to see roots emerging from the bottom of seedling trays. The next step of this how to grow herbs indoors tutorial will walk you through this.

This can be the quickest and easiest way to start an indoor herb garden. it will give you a jump start you can see right away!

Starting Your Herbs from Starter Plants or Transplanting your Seedlings

If you purchased herb plant starts or your seeds have grown to transplant stage it is time to move them to containers. There is a huge market full of various pots and containers that you can use. If you are crafty you can even create some for yourself.

Some recommended suggestions for choosing the right container:

  • Pot should have proper drainage. Holes placed in the bottom of the container are a must, to keep from overwatering and allowing the excess water to drain through the soil. For added drainage, a layer of pebbles or coarse sand can also be added to the bottom of the pot before planting.
  • A container should fit the plants’ future growth. Most herbs can be kept compact when pruned regularly but some are naturally larger plants and the root growth will quickly outgrow your pot. You can refer to your seed packet for plant size to get an idea of growth size of your herb.
  • If you are growing an edible herb make sure to use a food-safe container. Whether you’re purchasing new or making your own from recycled material check that the materials are not toxic. This can seep into the soil and potentially make your plant toxic.
  1. Fill pot with potting mix to about an inch below the rim
  2. Make a hole in the potting mix that is large enough to completely bury your root ball of your seedling and place it inside
  3. Move the fresh potting mix gently around the root ball to secure it but do not compact it too firmly.
  4. Water and watch for over settling of the soil. Add more soil if needed.

Now You’re Growing- Keeping it Going

Pinching and Pruning. Once your herb plant has been transplanted for a couple weeks and good growth has been established you can begin to start pinching or pruning your plant. I refer to both methods as pinching is often the reference given when taken a small amount of fresh herb from a growing herb plant for immediate use. Be careful not to overdo it. Stripping your plant too bare all at once will take away its ability to continue to flourish and grow. Patience and you will have more than you need before long.

Keep it rotating. This is especially important for plants growing in windows or with natural sunlight. For even growth make sure to keep turning your plants every few days so that all sides are getting the sunlight they crave.

Humidity. Most herbs come from the Mediterranean and a much more humid environment than inside of our homes. Mist your herbs lightly once or twice a week to give them some added humidity they crave. Another easy tip is to set their pots on saucers filled with pebbles. When excess water drains off it will stay below the pebbles and away from the pot but will allow for humidity to increase through evaporation around your plants.

A little breeze or tender touches. You can help keep the stems of your herb plants strong by allowing a light fan to blow on them occasionally or through regular gentle touching. This helps to mimic outdoor weather conditions and strengthens the plant and keeps it growing thicker.

Use Herbs as Companions 

See the article on site here!

Your Inside Herb Garden

Growing your indoor herb garden will fill your home with great smells of growing greenery and new culinary delights. Friends will admire your green decor and look to you for advice on how to start an indoor herb garden now.

I hope that this guide and tips put you on the path to success in creating your green space with your herbal garden.

I welcome any comments or questions that you have and look forward to helping you with your inside herd gardens. Drop A comment below and let’s start a conversation! ⇓

Happy Growing!

Christina insideherbgardens.com

16 Comments

  1. Lace Flowers-Ellis

    Oh my, what a fantastically comprehensive guide to growing herbs! Brilliant post. I love herbs, plants, herbal medicine I grow my own too. Perhaps a little off topic but I always have trouble germinating lavender? Any guidance? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Not off subject at all and glad to help. I love lavender but it can be a tricky one to get started especially indoors. Lavender requires a dormancy period before the seeds will germinate. The best way to do that is after preparing your seed trays cover them with a plastic lid or plastic wrap and then place them inside a bag and place in a spot in your refrigerator they will not be disturbed. They need to stay in the cold for 3 to 6 weeks, I usually go about 4 and have success. Don’t worry about adding water while they are in dormancy they will stay moist enough. After you take them out just remove the outer bag and proceed with the rest of the steps. They don’t need light to germinate but you will want to get them right into sunlight or under grow light once they begin to pop through the soil.
      Hope this helps and let me know how it goes!
      Happy Gardening!
      Christina

      Reply
  2. Jo Morris

    Hiya, This is a really interesting and well written article – you obviously know your stuff!! I’m really really bad at any type of Gardening but you’ve inspired me to have another go – I think I’m going to start with one of the herbs you recommended – Probably Basil as it’s something I use a lot in my cooking! Thanks so much. x

    Reply
    • Christina

      Glad I could inspire you to give it another try. Basil is one of my favorites and very forgiving. Great one to re-wet your feet with 😉 Goof luck and let me know if you run into any trouble I would be happy to help. I have another post all about growing basil, it may help. https://insideherbgardens.com/how-to-grow-basil-indoors-a-family-favorite
      Happy Growing!
      Christina

      Reply
  3. Alex

    Wow! This was an in depth article. As a college student, I cannot really grow anything on a large scale, but I can grow inside. You laid out the process required for growing and all the necessary steps in a thorough manner. It is a magical thing to watch a plant grow from start to finish. I like seeing it go from seed to sprout to herb, absolutely incredible. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    Reply
    • Christina

      Warning gardening is very addicting even on a small scale lol . Enjoy and so glad you found some inspiration to start! Happy Growing!

      Reply
  4. Kat Schmidt

    I don’t have a green thumb, but I love fresh herbs! Thanks for all the great tips. I did not know about the water from the bottom technique or the gentle breeze to make the plants grow stronger! Very good info.

    Reply
    • Christina

      The great thing about herbs is that most are so forgiving a green thumb is not required. Good luck and let me know if you need any help!

      Reply
  5. Vince

    Brilliant guide for growing indoor herbs. We’ve been thinking about making some mini pots on the kitchen window seal and just not sure if there is enough sunlight. There is plenty of in-direct sunlight for at least 4 hours of the day. I’ll use your tips and give it a try.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Glad you are going to give it a try. Some herbs are a bit more tolerant to lower light conditions and you may want to give those a try first in your windowsill garden. Herbs like Parsley, Chives, Cilantro, Thyme and Chervil to name a few should do just fine in 4 hours of sunlight, they are more shade tolerant herb varieties. Good luck and let me know if you need any help along the way. Happy Growing!

      Reply
  6. hong

    Hi, this is a very comprehensive article for how to start an indoor herb garden. I’ve always wanted to grow herbs, but didn’t know where to begin. I am so happy I came to your website. I learned many things I didn’t know. You clearly know what you are talking about. I will definitely use your tips. All the plants I had all died because I didn’t know how to care for it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
    • Christina

      We learn from our failures as much as we learn from success. I am glad that you have not given up and that this can help you to give growing another try! If you need any help along the way do not hesitate to ask. Happy Growing!

      Reply
  7. Lee

    What a fantastic guide for growing herbs. I started to grow some herbs for the first time myself this year but outside, in the garden. I choose mint, rosemary and thyme as these were advised for beginners like myself. I love to cook and it was great to be able to go and pick some fresh herbs from the garden, rather than use some bought from a store and waste the rest. I must say that I wish I had stumbled apon your article when I was doing my research into growing herbs. This was a lot me informative than any I found at the time, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Lee I am glad that this can help. I am an avid gardener inside and out. You can use this guide to get a head start on your herbs for next year and move them out to the garden as well. Depending on grow zone your Rosemary will come back and that mint may very well make a re-appearance! Happy Growing!

      Reply
  8. Yusuf Elsayed

    Hey Christina. Very useful information. Planting and taking care of plants isn’t exactly my cup of tea but my dad loves this stuff. I’m sure he’d love your website when he sees it.

    Reply
    • Christina

      I look forward to meeting him and having him participate on the website. Let him know he can ask questions, leave comments and subscribe to keep up to date.

      Maybe someday your Dad and I can get you interested as well 🙂

      Take care,
      Christina

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 6 Best Herbs to grow in a chefs garden - […] ⇒ Need help getting started on your herb garden I have a great tutorial for you here. […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Exclusive First Look Access!


Never Miss an Article or Post. Be the first to learn about exciting contests or deals! Simple Opt-in, No Spam!

Christina Hale

Christina Hale

Author - Gardener - Herbalist - Owner Inside Herb Gardens

It is my pleasure and great joy to share my love of gardening and joy of herbs with you. May they help to enrich your life, improve your health and bring you joy. I am always here to help you along your journey. Let’s Grow Together!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This