It can be challenging to sustain an outdoor herb garden year-round. Weather, critters, and other factors can easily complicate the gardening process. Enter the indoor garden. No matter what personal or weather-related chaos occurs, I can always count on my herbs to thrive inside in a well-planned and controlled environment.
This guide will show you how to indoor herb garden. Let’s discuss the methods, plants, and supplies that will set you up for success.
Planning Your Herb Garden
What is the purpose of your garden?
Ask yourself these two questions before you begin to plan your indoor herb garden:
Firstly, what do you plan on using your herbs for, and what type of herbal garden is best for your goals? Here are some types of herb gardens that may inspire you along your journey:
- Culinary Herb Gardens
- Cottage Gardens
- Tea Gardens
- Bee and Butterfly Gardens
- Dye Gardens
- Medicinal Gardens
- Fairy Gardens
- Herb Container Gardens
Secondly, how would you like your herb garden to improve the quality of your life? Some benefits of an indoor herb garden include:
- Improved air quality
- Home decor
- Connectedness to nature
- Education and self-improvement
- Better mental health
- Better physical health
- Fresh homegrown food
- Financial Savings
Where will you put your herb garden?
You’ll want to consider the light, temperature, and location of your new garden.
- Light: Placing your herbs in a bright window or small patio, preferably facing south or west, is ideal. This will provide your herbs with about 6 hours of daily light.
- Temperature: Most herbs will do well as long as the temperature is below 90 F. The herbs will grow best inside if the temperature is 65 F. (18 C.) to 75 F (24 C.).
- Location: Make sure to place your herbs in an area that will be easy for you to access as well as clean up. You may want to place them higher or in a certain room where pets are not allowed. Additionally, make sure to research which plants may be toxic to pets and children.
Choosing Your Herbs
You will need to decide if you want to start your herb garden with seeds or young plants. Starting your plants from seeds can give you a better selection at a more affordable price. But it can be challenging for the beginner herb gardener to tend to the vulnerable seed. Using starter plants ensures that your herbs will be healthy and provides a predictable growing experience.
Where to Buy Your Supplies
If you’re interested in a DIY setup, large supply stores such as Lowes and Home Depot may be best.
If you want your herb garden to reflect beauty alongside functionality, Etsy or eBay may be best for supplies.
Amazon will provide a balanced experience that has lots of options as well as many reviews. This can help you educate yourself on the best materials and even ask questions of other purchasers.
Deciding on a Budget
There is a wide range of budget options available to you. You may reuse many materials and start at only $10, or invest in systems costing as much as $500.
When determining a budget for your indoor herb garden, you will have to consider both the initial investment and the maintenance costs.
Additionally, it is helpful to think of the potential savings, or return on investment (R.O.I) you may receive from this project.
Your herb garden may save money on food and healthcare expenses. You may also experience a better quality of life through a sense of gratitude and connectedness.
Considering the expenses versus the benefits of an indoor herb garden will help you determine the best value based on your personal needs.
Indoor herb gardens need loose soil that promotes water drainage and retention. Perlite or vermiculite can help increase drainage and can be added to your soil at a ratio of 1 part perlite to 25 parts soil.
If you purchase an indoor potting mix (not a potting soil) it will come with perlite, or something similar, mixed in. This is an ideal foundation for your herbs.
Don’t use outdoor soil mixes or dirt from the ground in your indoor herb garden. They will be too dense which will hinder drainage. They also may contain or attract unwanted pests and microbes into your garden.
Herbs are very hearty, but a good quality fertilizer can help them thrive. We usually grow herbs for their leaves instead of their flowers so we won’t be using a fertilizer that promotes blooming. The best herb fertilizers are “low phosphorus” so you can look for this feature when picking one out. You’ll have three paths you can take as far as the source of your fertilizer is concerned:
- Chemical Fertilizers are made out of minerals and manmade materials. They provide fast delivery of nutrients to the plants and have highly accurate nutrient contents. Unfortunately, they do not sustain or promote the health of the soil and are often sourced from nonrenewable sources such as fossil fuels.
- Organic Fertilizers are usually made from plant waste, animal waste, and minerals. They improve the structure and quality of your soil over time for long-lasting plant health. A disadvantage is the slow release time of nutrients as they break down on nature’s schedule
- Homemade Fertilizers can be cost-effective and made out of simple ingredients such as aquarium water, bananas, coffee grounds, eggshells, green tea, and even hair. It can be hard to get specific nutrient balances and with some of these ingredients can be a bit smelly in your indoor garden, if used in excess.
Pots & Containers
A sunny windowsill garden will maximize both light and space for your indoor herb garden. This method utilizes pots filled with the above-mentioned soil options.
When planting herbs into pots, make sure that they are large enough to accommodate plants at their full size. Because herb roots need a lot of space, consider buying dwarf variety herbs to maximize your yield in an indoor setup.
Herbs need less water than you may think. We want to avoid overwatering our herbs by utilizing good drainage. Make sure your planters have adequate drainage holes as well as a saucer to catch any spillage. Terra cotta pots will help prevent the soil from being too wet by absorbing a portion of the water. In addition to helping prevent overwatering, choosing the correct pot will limit the growth of unwanted microorganisms and fungi.
Hydroponic herb gardens are also a popular option for indoor growing. They maximize the number of herbs you can create in a smaller space with their accuracy and efficiency. Hydroponic systems often come fully inclusive with nutrients and lighting. This can simplify and automate the growing process for the first time indoor gardener. This allows for your garden to thrive in darker indoor spaces.
Natural light is ideal for herbs because It provides the full spectrum of light. This promotes plant growth and also stimulates the production of essential oils. This adds flavor and nutrition in our herbs.
However, this isn’t always an option for the indoor herb gardener. Here are some options for artificial lighting ranging from least to most expensive:
- Incandescent Grow Bulbs: At $20, these lights are very affordable, but do not provide the full spectrum of sunlight. Because of this, your herbs won’t grow to their full size, flavor, and nutrient potential.
- Fluorescent Grow Lights: For $30, these lights can provide a good hanging setup that can provide more even light for your herbs. However, it still won’t provide the benefits of a “full-spectrum” of light unless you buy a more expensive setup.
- Full Spectrum LEDs: With an investment beginning at $150, this light provides a full spectrum of light that will bring the best out of your herbs. They are also highly energy-efficient and their average lifespan can last for over 50,000 hours.
The most common pests among herb gardens are aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and four-lined plant bugs.
The simplest way to remove pests from your plants is by:
- Gently rinsing them with clean cool water
- Filling a spray bottle with 3 cups of cool water, adding 1 TB of antibacterial dish soap, and 1 TB of rubbing alcohol.
- Spraying the plants with the mixture and allowing to air dry
- Repeating this process once every 30 days
- Rinsing herbs with cool water before eating
5 Easy Herbs to grow
5 Intermediate Herbs
5 Advanced Herbs
How to Harvest Herbs
As a general rule, you should harvest your herb leaves before they flower. This ensures that the plant doesn’t send its energy to the flower. The flavor of many herbs can become bitter if harvested after flowering.
Remove no more than a third of the plant’s volume to stimulate its growth. Make sure to research each individual herb for best pruning practices.
As you can see, the sky is the limit when it comes to learning how to indoor herb garden. Remember to choose supplies and plants that reflect your interests and values, and personal tastes.
It’s important that you’re excited about your indoor garden so that you enjoy taking care of it over time. When you’re happy, and your herb garden is happy, the benefits are limitless!