COMMON STRUGGLES AND TIPS FOR GROWING HERBS INDOORS
6 Important tips to remember to have successful indoor herbs
If you love gardening but you don’t have a big yard, these tips will help you make the absolute best of your indoor spaces.
Herbs are probably the best things to grow inside, with just a little space you can grow enough herbs for your own supply. Spices, teas, and even edible herbs are perfect for apartments, flats or even porches and balconies.
Not only are they great for decoration, the practicality is out of this world. You need some rosemary? Just reach for a few stems from the pot, and there you go!
Keep in mind that all the tips provided can be applied in your home all year round, however a few tips are geared to winter because it is one of the harshest seasons on the plants.
As a recommendation, If you’ve already tried to grow your stuff inside without success, you should think about getting actual plants instead of trying to grow them all the way from a seed. It will be much easier and encouraging, you can find those in local garden shops or even grocery stores! Many herbs are sold still rooted, like basil, rosemary, thyme, mint and other delicious and useful herbs.
Now let’s get into some of the struggles faced when trying to grow herbs indoors:
This is one of the most important tips! Get the lighting right, and you’re halfway done. But if you don’t get your plants enough lighting, you will have a hard time. Most herbs require full sun, which means they should have around 6-8 hours of sun daily.
During the winter that can be tough, so try to keep your plants near to a south or south western facing window. If that is not possible, provide supplemental lighting. You want to get specific grow lights to have the best results without wasting electricity. If you don’t have a big budget, don’t worry: the most simple lights will do the trick. You don’t need super elaborated systems.
A single tabletop lighting system like a clamp light can fix up to four or five herbs perfectly. This is the best investment you can make for your indoor growing, whether it be edibles, herbs or succulents. Doesn’t matter what kind of plant you’re growing, if they don’t get enough lighting they won’t produce and they won’t bloom.
If you use natural lighting from the windows, make sure to rotate your plants about once a week so they get the same amount of lighting in all the sides. You don’t need to do that if you use growing lights because they come straight down at the plant. Try to rotate it every time you check for water to keep them from leaning towards the light.
Most herbs like basil, rosemary and chives will do really well with 6 hours of strong, direct light. Parsley can thrive with a lower amount of lighting, with only 4h or 5h. Do some testing and adjust to make the best of your space.
This is tough because every herb is different. You can’t say that all you need is to water them every couple of days and it will be fine. Some species demands more water, others require less water.
It may change accordingly to your climate, as well. In hot places, you’ll need to water more often than in chilly places. The size of the pot is also a variable, and the humidity of the room. Even the kind of substrate plays a significant role in this matter.
It all comes down to testing and feeling how your plants grow better. In the beginning it’s very easy because they start to droop when they need water, but that means they are stressed as well. To keep your plants from that kind of stress, just do the finger test:
Stick your finger down the soil, and if it feels moist, skip watering. If the soil is dry, sprinkle it with water. You will need to learn by yourself, and even if a guide says something, just test because your reality may be different.
It’s like rosemary: most guides say they like it dry, but depending on the climate they will need more moisture to be happy. After a few weeks of the finger testing, you’ll get the hang of your plants and it will become like a clockwork.
Pay attention to dormant plants: when they are in a dormant stage, they don’t grow and are a lot less active, meaning they need less water to survive.
Too much water can also be a problem, it may drown your plants. If they start to get a bit yellow, you should cut back on the water.
3. Drainage and soil
These two go hand in hand. Firstly, edibles must go in a container with a drainage hole. If your pot has no drainage holes, you should plant a succulent instead. But you will need a lot of expertise to read your plants and understand how they are feeling.
To help both with drainage and water circulation, fill the tray or saucer your plant is sitting on with pebbles. This will help with the excess water coming out from the bottom of the drain hole. If the pot goes straight into the surface, the draining holes won’t work that well.
Air is great for the roots, keeping fungal problems at bay, so this is a win-win situation. People usually put some gravel in the pot, but full soil is way better if you can have the pebbles layer below the pot.
A fan nearby also helps with air circulation, just don’t aim it directly on your plant or it will dry too fast. Keep the air circulating in the room and everything should be OK.
Don’t forget to use good quality potting soil! Grabbing some dirt from outside won’t work, it is too heavy and compact and will smother the roots of your plants. There are a few kinds of products that are specifically meant for potting.
The type of the container itself plays an important role as well. Terracotta pots are great because they’re breathable, different than plastic. The micropores allow oxygen to pass through the pot, enabling the roots to breathe.
Plastic pots, on the other hand, won’t have that airflow so it will take longer to dry, meaning you won’t need to water so often. If you go for terracotta, make sure your pot is glazed on the inside and on the tray or the water will seep through. It can even ruin the surface your pot is standing on.
This is not hard, but you must pay attention anyway. Around 70F is great for most herbs, and while they can take colder temperatures, especially at night, a room with 70F is going to make them extremely happy.
If your plants are on a window sill, they will get way colder than the actual room. If their foliage touches the glass of the windows, you’re probably going to have some damage. That’s valid for both chilly winters and scorching summer sun.
While feeding your plants is easy, remembering to do so is the tricky part. Set alarms on your phone! Even with reminders, you may still forget. The key is to be as consistent as possible, because when the plant feels that it won’t get enough nurturing, it stops growing and starts saving energy.
Fertilizing them once a month is enough, and you can use an all-purpose plant food of good quality. The kind of fertilizer might trigger foliage or blooming, so be sure to choose wisely. Foliage are best for produce.
No one wants to attract insects into their own houses, right? So keep a close eye on your plants. Aphids are the most common insects. Thankfully, they are the easiest ones to get rid of. Just put your plant in the sink and give it a cold shower or a spray of water. You will need to do it a couple of times to get the whole cycle and get the bugs off.
If you want to use some insecticide, try to get an organic one because you’re using it inside your house. If you have any other kind of bugs than aphids, take a picture or try to snatch a few bugs into a bag and take it with you to your local gardener or garden supplies store. They can help you evaluate and find the best option to deal with it.
But if you’re using a good soil and getting your plants from any store, the chances of having a bug infestation are rare.
Remember: you’re growing these herbs to use! Trimming your plants and getting some for your own use is actually good for the plants. It stimulates new growth and keeps plant a bit more compact, bushy and full. Just don’t cut more than a third of the plant, or you will deprive it from its capacity to generate energy from sunlight.
Now that we went over the tips, let’s check the best herbs to grow inside. You want herbs that stays relatively small, as it will be harder to care for herbs that grows over three feet tall by three feet wide in your kitchen, and they don’t do well in small containers.
The best plants for indoor growing are:
The cilantro plant likes a cooler temperature, so it’s ideal for that chilly room.
These other herbs, on the other hand, are quite tricky: Marjoram, oregano and sage, they all need plenty of light and air circulation, because they are susceptible to mildew.
Stevia, lavender and tarragon are very hard to grow indoors. Feel free to try, but if you can’t get them growing, don’t feel bad. They just don’t like indoors.
If you follow these tips, you are going to have fresh herbs to use in all of your cooking ventures!