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.
Featured in this article:
- Basic Needs of Your Herbal Inside Garden
- Soil: The Base Layer of Your Herbal Cake Recipe
- Sunlight: Natural or Artificial
- Air, Water, and Space: The Final Three Basics
- Transplant or Seed, that is the question
- Best Herbs to Start With
- Starting Your First Herb From Seed
- Starting Your Herbs from Starter Plants or Transplanting your Seedlings
- Now You’re Growing- Keeping it Going
- Inside Herb Garden
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.
- Sun (light)
The missing ingredients that change this from a blank recipe into a specific herbal recipe are based on which type is being grown and the additional specific needs of that plant.
Soil: The Base Layer of Your Herbal Cake Recipe
Most herbs will require good drainage and 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 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.
- Besides, 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 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 the 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 herb’s 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 the 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 in 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 breakdown 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.
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 nice loose soil but it is also important for the next part.
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 of inches of water for 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.
A decorative planter of mixed herbs can be beautiful and while they are small it may be OK. As your plants get larger, they should 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 an 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.
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.
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 card for last year’s seeds that they may be selling at discounted rates, fresh seeds are always best.
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.
Fern leaf variety or dwarf fern leaf varieties are great choices for indoors as they grew 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.
Santro or Cruiser varieties are great choices as they are quick to germinate and slow to bolt. Germinate 7 to 10 days.
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 it 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
Some may consider this a salad green but it is actually a herb that makes a great addition to your indoor herb garden. There are so many varieties, all great to try, but spice things up with 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.
Many Varieties out there but be sure to keep mint growing in its own container. Mint tends 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.
Besides, your herb seed may have some specific needs to germinate. Some require light, some certain soil temperatures, and some specific soil. Also, some seeds even require being cut or split before 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.
Basics of seed starting:
- Read the seed packet completely and follow any steps required before planting (for example soaking, cutting, etc.)
- 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
- Pre-moisten your soil before planting. This will keep you from washing away the seed or disrupting the seed placement after planting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Watch your seeds and don’t allow the soil to dry out. Do not over-saturate but keep the soil moist.
- Patience is a virtue to start an indoor herb garden from seed. Soon enough life in the form of emerging herb plants will appear.
- The first set of leaves on most of 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.
- 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.
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:
- The 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 the 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 a recycled material check that the materials are not toxic. This can seep into the soil and potentially make your plant toxic.
- Fill the pot with potting mix to about an inch below the rim
- Make a hole in the potting mix that is large enough to completely bury the root ball of your seedling and place it inside
- Move the fresh potting mix gently around the root ball to secure it but do not compact it too firmly.
- 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 of 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 to 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.
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.
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!