Several years ago, a friend told me that basil was the easiest herb to grow. “It sprouts like a weed”, she says, “and it’s really forgiving when it comes to how often you water it”. I gave it a try, and I was able to kill the thing within a week. It wasn’t totally dead, actually, but it was pale yellow and pretty sad looking. Turns out, it’s possible for a plant to get too much light and water. Who knew!? Since then, I’ve learned that while starting an herb garden isn’t super difficult, it does take a little bit of know-how. Plants need good light, sure, but there are other things to take into consideration. Luckily, there are a few easy tricks that make growing (and maintaining!) an indoor herb garden a total breeze. If you’ve been thinking about starting one but don’t exactly have green thumbs, here’s some advice from people who really know their stuff on how to make the whole process foolproof. There are equipment recommendations, plus tips on where and how to keep those herbs going strong.
1. Start with herb plants, not seeds
First things first, do yourself a favor and buy already planted herbs. The bloggers behind A Couple Cooks are avid herb growers, and always opt for plants over seeds. “We buy our herbs from starts, or plants that have already been started,” they told SheKnows. “You can grow herbs from seed, but that involves a bit more time and energy. For beginners, we find it easier to begin with starts. You can find starts at your local nursery or farmer’s market.” You can also order the plants on Amazon ($29.99), but they usually go for around $5 each at the farmer’s market, which is a far better deal.
2. If you’re using pots, make sure they have holes in the bottom
If you’re buying pots at a nursery, they’ll likely already have a hole (or a few) at the base. “Herbs do not like to sit in water for prolonged periods, so it is essential to provide adequate drainage,” writes Balcony Garden Web. If you have pot you love without holes, you can use a power drill to solve the problem.
3. And, choose ceramic pots if possible
Another way to promote great drainage and assure you don’t accidentally drown your plants? “Go for clay pots, as clay pots dry out quickly,” writes Balcony Garden Web. “They promote drainage through their pores.” If you really want to use metal pots, that’s OK, but be extra vigilant about watering just enough to moisten the soil without making puddles. Buy standard issue herb planters at your local nursery, or spring for these pretty mini planters from West Elm ($10).
4. Add lava rocks to your soil
This should go without saying, but you’ll need to buy legit potting soil instead of just scooping some dirt up from your yard. While you’re buying that, pick up lava rocks ($4.17 at Home Depot) and pour a handful into the bottom of each pot before you add the soil. Again, this will help with drainage and make sure your roots aren’t too wet.
5. Or, use coffee filters instead
Coffee filters are made for the slow-drip process, so it follows that they work to help with the drainage of your plants. Here’s how to use them in your potted herbs.
6. Choose well-lit windowsills
It’s totally possible to grow plants indoors, but keep in mind that they need sunlight. Most grow optimally with five to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Southern-facing windows will get the most light on any given day, so those are your best choice. West or east-facing windows will work, too, but steer clear of ones that face north. Not sure which way is which (no judgement, neither do I)? Use the compass app on your phone.
7. And, don’t forget about air circulation
Light isn’t the only factor when it comes to optimal herb growth. Air circulation is important, too, which makes sense when you remember that plants are technically meant to be grown outside. You don’t really need to stress about this one, but try to avoid storing your pots in cramped corners. And if you’re usually out of the house all day, consider cracking open a window or two.
8. If your home isn’t the ideal environment, you can buy the ideal environment
Light and air circulation sound like easy asks, but sometimes they’re just not possible in the space you’re working with. If you live in a tiny apartment with bad light, don’t give up on an indoor herb garden altogether. Instead, invest in an Aerogarden ($89.95 at Aerogarden). The system comes with LED lights, and will remind you when to add water and plant food (which is included). And, there’s no soil involved, so you run less risk of a mess.
9. If you have a sunny wall, try a hanging planter
Don’t have deep enough windowsills? That’s OK! If light hits one of your walls, turn your herb garden into a hanging decoration. Here’s how to make a DIY hanging planter.
10. Can’t deal with individual pots? Use a single large planter
Yes, you can plant multiple herbs in the same planter. Large ceramic pots are best, but a metal planter will also work (just remember to drill those holes!). It’s not a total free-for-all, though; different herbs have slightly different requirements when it comes to light and water, so your best bet is to choose several that call for similar amounts of each. Here are some combo ideas to get you started.
11. Get creative and grow new plants from old ones
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Never throw away the end of a celery! Just put it in a bowl of water and it will regrow! This is the result after two weeks. It is too cold now to plant it in the soil outside, so I will try to keep it in a flower pot in my kitchen. I will keep you posted. Who else is regrowing vegetables? #regrowveggiescraps #reusereducerecycle #kitchenhacks #growyourown #celery #regrowcelery #wasteless #zerowaste #recyclefood #noplanetb #bethechange #regrowvegetables #trythisathome #sustainable #gardeningfordummies
If you’re a fan of chives and scallions, you can sprout similar greens by planting garlic cloves, leeks, or onions in a jar of water on the windowsill. Here’s how to do it.
12. Try growing certain herbs in water with no soil at all
Growing herbs in water doesn’t yield as much as planting them in soil, but it’s a heck of a lot less work. If you only use herbs every once in a while, the water-planting method might be right for you. Here’s a list of herbs that will grow in water, along with instructions on how to do it.
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