AUBURN, Ala. – Growing herbs does not have to be a complicated process. An easy way to get fresh herbs for cooking is to grow herbs indoors. This lets you be an amateur gardener, while eliminating the hassle of the grocery store. Here are a few tips that will help you grow herbs indoors.
Although there are numerous types, there are six herbs are particularly easy to grow. These herbs include thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, basil and mint.
Knowing the correct way to fertilize and plant herbs is key to a thriving garden. Some herbs prefer nutrient rich soil, while others prefer soil that retains moisture. Make sure the soil has a pH between six and seven. Running a soil test will determine the pH levels.
“Flowers of herbs attract a lot of beneficial pollinators,” said Dani Carroll, a regional Alabama Extension agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests. “Mulch the herbs well, so the soil will retain moisture and not dry out. Like other plants, a little fertilizer during the year can keep the plant going, but too much may cause a weak or off flavor of the foliage.”
Basil and mint are herbs that need soil that is moist and nutrient-rich. Oregano and cilantro need little added nutrients. Rosemary will not tolerate acidity, so be sure to get a soil test and adjust the pH before planting. As for thyme, it needs fertile, well-drained soil in order to prosper.
Although many gardeners recommend these herbs be grown outdoors, it is possible to have your own indoor garden. Each plant has specific requirements that will help the herb successfully grow inside.
“Inside-grown herbs may not be as productive or flavorful as ones grown outside, but as long as you provide the proper growing conditions (adequate sunlight and good, well-drained growing media), you should be successful,” said Ellen Huckabay, a County Extension Coordinator with Alabama Extension.
Timing is Everything
Because many of these plants grow better when planted outdoors, knowing the appropriate time for planting is key. Remember that specific herbs only grow at certain times of the year.
“Just like other types of plants, there are annuals, perennials, biennials, warm weather and cool weather herbs,” Carroll said. “First time herb gardeners may want to start with a warm winter annual, such as basil and perennial warm weather herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
The following is a list of herbs to grow indoors and how to care for them.
Thyme – Although it grows best when planted outside, thyme can survive indoors without direct sunlight. Thyme needs at least six hours of daylight. By planting thyme in a clay pot, the herb will receive the required nutrients needed to prosper.
Rosemary – Prefers moist, well-drained soil but can tolerate drier conditions. It is sensitive and requires plenty of sunlight and needs little water. Begin by watering rosemary regularly the first few weeks and then allow nature to take its course.
If you do choose to bring rosemary inside, make sure to ease the plant into a more covered area outside. This allows the plant to become acclimated with the lack of sunlight. Remember to place rosemary in a sunny area of the house that will allow for six to eight hours of light a day. If you decide to keep the herb outside make sure it is in an area that allows for maximum sunlight and access to rainfall.
Oregano – One of the few herbs that thrives in warmer conditions. To ensure maximum growth, place it in a container that drains well. With plenty of light, oregano should flourish indoors. To avoid overwatering, make sure the soil is dry before watering. The soil must be fertilized at all times. Like other herbs, make sure oregano receives six to eight hours of sunlight.
Cilantro – Will not flourish if moved from outdoors to indoors. If you intend to grow it indoors you must begin by planting the seeds in the soil. Cilantro is an herb that can replant itself by allowing the seeds to dry out and fall in the fresh soil.
This herb must be placed in a pot that allows for plenty of water and circulation within the roots. Cilantro must be watered all the way through and should only be dampened when soil is dry.
“You might be more successful growing herbs like cilantro indoors during our hot, humid summers since cilantro doesn’t like the heat and humidity,” Huckabay said.
Basil – Place in nutrient rich soil that allows for plenty of drainage. Keep the soil damp so that the plant is well nourished. Be sure to place basil in a windowsill or an area that provides constant light.
Continually cut newly grown leaves, allowing the basil leaves to grow back stronger. By pinching back the branches and flowers, the basil will be able to replenish itself.
Mint – Will thrive in areas with little sunlight. Should water regularly to ensure full growth. Like basil, you need to pinch back mint to control overgrowth.
“One big tip, plant mint in a container because it will take over a bed,” Huckabay said.