Winter Blues Cure: Grow an Indoor Herb Garden

It’s easy to get stuck in the garden doldrums this time of year. January’s cold, dark, wet weather can make you wonder if warm summer days and home-grown veggies will ever return. There is one way to bring back the fresh and fragrant feel of summer, though: growing herbs indoors! Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow in containers, don’t need a lot of care, and are a great addition to your everyday meals. Here’s what to do to keep your green thumb happy while waiting for spring.

Put a lid underneath your container to catch any overflow water.

What you’ll need:

Medium Size Containers: Cleaned yogurt cartons, clay pots, or any other container. Punch 3-4 pea sized holes in each for drainage.  You can put lids, saucers, plates, or shallow bowls underneath the pot to catch water.

Potting Soil: Any commercial kind will do, or make your own. Here’s a recipe from OSU Cooperative Extension.

Organic Fertilizer: Liquid fish emulsion, worm castings, or well broken down compost.

Drainage Helpers: A handful of gravel, broken clay pot shards, marbles, or crushed Styrofoam.

Herbs!: Look for seeds at garden stores, from catalogs or online. Having trouble deciding what to plant? Thyme, marjoram, basil, chives, mint, rosemary, oregano, and lavender are all excellent and easy herbs to grow. Check out this online guide for more information about these and other herbs.

You can also take fresh cuttings from already established herbs. If you decide to take cuttings choose an herb that has a soft stem rather than woody, as these are easier to start.  Basil is a good choice. Cut a stem 4-6 inches in length with new baby leaves forming at the top. Put the stem in a glass of water in a well lit area, but out of direct sunlight. You should notice tiny, hair like roots forming in 8-12 days.

Preparing a yogurt container

Planting:

1) Place your drainage helper in the bottom of each pot so it takes up about 1/6th of the depth of the pot.

2) Add your prepared potting mix. Mix in any compost or worm castings you’ve got—a handful or two in each pot will carry your herb garden through the winter.

3) Fill your pot up about 2/3 of the way if you are transplanting, then carefully center and spread your plant’s roots, filling in with soil to just under the first leaves. Gently tamp down and add more soil to your pot until the top feels firm and stable. If you’re using seeds fill the pot with soil to about an inch from the top, spread the seeds over the top according to the directions on the seed packet, then sprinkle soil over seeds and lightly tap it down.  In either case, water once you’ve finished planting.

4) Once your herbs are planted, place in a well-lit location in your home away from drafts or drying heat, such as heater vents or drafty windows. The sill of a south-facing window works best. Keep your little garden consistently moist. You can add a teaspoon of liquid fish fertilizer to two quarts of water for consistent nutrition as you water. You may also want to pick up a spray bottle to give your herbs a quick freshening, as humidity in homes is much lower then out doors. Once your plants get established, feel free to pluck and trim a sprig here and there. Herbs love being groomed and will usually respond with rapid new growth.

Enjoy!

-Written by volunteer Sara Dysinger

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1 Comment »

  1. <> Herbs thrive in high light intensity so growing indoors is not advisable, unless merely an overwintering strategy. Plus, shards or styrofoam in the pot doesn’t provide drainage, it actually shortens the soil column

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