Eight How-To Steps for Growing Healthy Indoor Herbs
There are some very good reasons why people opt for growing herbs indoors. If you have limited, or non-existent, garden space you can still enjoy the benefits of herbs, whether you use them for cooking, healing or simply creating a fragrant environment. Once you gain some experience, herbs are easy to manage and you won’t need to brave the winter ice and rain to tend them. Follow the tips below and your green fingers may surprise you.
1. Choose the right herbs
Like people, some herbs thrive indoors while others prefer the outdoor life. Indoor lovers include winter savory, chives and horehound; sensitive rosemary and basil may want to spend the winter indoors too. Herbs such as fennel, horseradish and lovage are best kept outdoors.
You will also want to opt for herbs that don’t grow too bushy or you may find your kitchen becoming overwhelmed with foliage.
2. Provide plenty of light
If you have a south or south-easterly facing window, this is usually the best spot for indoor herbs (if you live in the northern hemisphere). Wherever you decide to keep them, you should ensure that they get at least six hours of sunlight a day (ideally eight or more).
If this is impossible in your home, supplement your lighting with specialized grow lights or fluorescent bulbs placed about four inches above the plants. These should be kept on for about ten hours a day.
If your plants are shedding leaves, producing pale leaves or growing ‘leggy’, this is a sign that they need more light.
If you don’t like to clutter your windowsill, placing your potted herbs on a utility rolling kitchen carts on wheels, and then roll them to the window or patio door for sunlight, during the winter months.
3. Avoid garden soil
Garden soil is highly likely to contain diseases, pest eggs and weed seeds, as well as providing poor draining. Plant your herbs in about two to three inches of soil-less potting mix and then add more potting mix up to an inch from the top of the container.
4. Water sparingly but keep humid
There are no hard or fast rules about watering since some herbs (e.g. mint) require more water than others. A general guideline is to water sparingly while keeping the air humid (especially in the winter). Herbs do not like water-logged soil but dry air is a problem too. Try placing containers in a tray of pebbles so that excess water can evaporate and moisten the air around the plants.
5. Choose a food-safe fertilizer
Small containers dry out quickly, so monthly nutrient supplementation is very important to keep your herbs healthy. Ensure you choose a food that is recommended for edible plants as you don’t want to be poisoning your family members and dinner guests!
6. Pick regularly
The great thing about growing indoor herbs is that they need to be picked regularly to ensure the plants grow big and bushy – so don’t hold back. Having said that, never trim more than a third of the foliage at a time and wait until growth is established before taking your first leaves.
7. Beware winter bugs
Although herbs benefit from being protected from the winter cold, the downside is that pests’ eggs do too. Keep a look out for pests on the underside of leaves and treat according to your usual method, making sure any chemicals are suitable for edible plants.
8. Organize your herbs
As you gain in experience you will inevitably learn more about your plants, for example which herbs prefer most light. Make use of this knowledge by arranging your herbs so that they receive optimal conditions. You will soon be amazed at your newfound gardening expertise.
These how-to tips when followed will ensure an abundant supply of fresh herbs during those cold winter months. Can’t you see yourself snipping off some fresh rosemary, or sage for your turkey! Go ahead and start planning your indoor herb garden
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