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March 20, 2017

As Margaret Atwood once said, "In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than to find some good dirt and plant your own indoor herb garden?

If you're already feeling wary because you don't have a green thumb, I challenge you to abandon that mindset and give it a try. There are plenty of resources out there to make you a successful (and fancy) indoor herb connoisseur - starting with this blog. Here are the basics to get started with an indoor herb garden.

Types of Herbs

The first thing you should think about is what types of herbs you frequently use in recipes, cocktails, or as garnishes. But don't stop there. Think outside of the box and consider herbs such as chamomile for tea, or lavender for a soothing bath.

Many gardening experts recommend the following herbs for indoor gardens:

  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Despite its popularity in recipes, you won't find basil on this list. Unfortunately, it's difficult to successfully grow indoors, and its finicky nature makes it better suited for outdoor gardens.

Potting

After you bring your herbs home, place each plant in its own separate pot. The pots should be at least 6 inches in diameter, with a hole in the bottom and a dish underneath.

Separate pots make it easy to customize the care of your herbs, and help your indoor garden succeed. For example, mint and parsley enjoy moist soil, while rosemary, thyme, and sage do not.

Sunlight

In general, most herbs need at least six-eight hours of sunlight a day. It's helpful to rotate your planters frequently to keep growth even on all sides.

If your home receives little direct sunlight, then mint, chervil and chives are classified as low-light plants that will fare well in these conditions. You can also invest in LED grow lights. Position them about 10 to 12 inches away from your plants and turn them off after about 6 hours (plants need rest, too).

Watering

The general rule-of-thumb for watering is to water as often as you need to keep the soil moist, but not damp. Yellow leaves are a tell-tale sign of over-watering.

Harvesting

After your herbs grow about 6 to 8 inches tall, you can start harvesting the leaves. Frequently cutting off the leaves and stems encourages new growth and will keep your plants healthy.

If you see blossoms forming, clip them off. You want the herbs to use all of their energy for growing leaves, rather than blossoms and seeds.

With time and adequate care, your indoor herb garden will flourish, and it will be something to be very proud of.

Additional Tips

  • Feline friends love mint (catnip is in the mint family!) so keep in mind that a happy kitty may try to eat this plant.
  • Mint is invasive and will take over whatever container it's planted in.
  • Parsley grows slower than its counterparts (3-4 weeks), so be patient.
  • Rosemary is difficult to start from a seed, so it may be helpful to start off with a mature plant.
  • Rosemary also likes its soil on the dryer side.
  • Drought-tolerant dill and thyme are super easy to care for and prefer drier soils.
  • Chives can be eaten from top to bottom: the bulbs taste like mild onions, the leaves go well in salads, and even the flower heads are edible.
  • Dill is great for flavoring fish, lamb, potatoes and peas.
  • Thyme is often used to season meats, stews and soups.
  • Use plant food (not flower food) once a month to enrich your herbs. Feed them, so they can feed you.