Indoor herb gardening made easy
Like Jack and his beanstalk, children find seeds magical.
My first daughter’s preschool had an amazing herb garden, and the teachers introduced her to foods such as fresh basil pesto that I would never have tried at home.
My middle child loves pulling tomatoes from the vine in our back yard and eating them whole, but she won’t touch those from the grocery store. When my youngest pulls twigs from our rosemary bush, she devours our soup.
Eva Mady of Simpsonville shares the joy of planting with her daughters through pumpkin seedlings.
“They liked the process of digging and covering and watering daily, then watching them grow,” Mady said.
Mady’s biggest challenge was transplanting the young plants outside.
At my house, we have scattered seed packets in the yard with mixed results. An indoor environment offers more control, so here are tips to grow an herb garden indoors and enjoy some greenery while daydreaming about spring.
“A south- to southwestern-facing window is best for growing herbs indoors, where you will get at least six to eight hours of bright light,” said Barbara Smith, a horticulture extension agent for Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center. “You don’t want to put the pots too close to the window, as it might be too cold near the glass in the winter months. The temperature needs to be between 55 and 75 degrees with good air circulation. Also, do not have a heat vent blowing up on the plants.”
Smith suggested using pots 4 to 6 inches in size without water retention crystals, which can cause plants to get too damp. A lightweight potting mix with perlite or vermiculite is ideal, and gravel or broken clay pots at the container’s bottom will allows drainage. She also advised rotating pots so plants don’t become too bent to the window light.
“Over watering is one of the biggest mistakes,” Smith said. “Watering practices will vary according to the size and type of plant, along with the container size. Herbs like the soil to dry slightly between watering. The best practice to determine if a plant needs watering is to stick a finger an inch into the soil. If the soil feels dry, then water. After watering, do not let the container sit in a saucer filled with water. This will rot the plant, so be sure to empty the saucers of collected water.”
Smith recommends basil, which is available in various varieties, as well as parsley, chives, rosemary, sage and thyme.
“There are two excellent choices for parsley depending on what you prefer to cook with. Italian flat-leaf parsley has flat leaves where the curly-leaf parsley has frilly leaves,” Smith said.
Smith said that the grass-like leaves of chives can be cut back to several inches, and the plant will grow new ones. She said rosemary should be regularly trimmed to avoid leggy plants.
Smith recommends keeping indoor plants indoors until after the chance of frost has passed.