Starting an indoor herb garden.

Frank3857April 4, 2014

Hi everyone, I'm 17 years old, and this is my first post and I wanted to start an indoor herb garden. I don't exactly have what you would call a green thumb. Haha. I bought that topsy turvy tomato planter thingy and I kinda broke the seedling trying to measure it *shrugs* anyway. I was wondering what sort of materials I need, I want to plant Oregano, Chives, Chervil, Cilantro, and Basil. I also want to have each of them in separate pots. How would the drainage system work? If there is drainage holes at the bottom and I put a saucer below it would that work? I don't want the water dripping onto the windowsill. What size should I get? Is an 8in. diameter pot okay? Should I go with plastic or clay or that terra-stuff. Thank you for your help and please don't flame me. I'm a newbie.

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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

Hey and welcome! And green thumbs can be earned by learning about your plants and how to take care of them. Most of us have killed our fair share.

First off, you'll need to look at each plant individually and find out what they like. You have some very different ones there. Chervil is a shade loving cooler plant, cilantro also likes it cooler, while basil loves heat and sun. Most herbs need a lot of light, so it should be a window that gets 6-8 hours of direct sun--not just reflective light. Otherwise, you may need additional light. (I do a lot of pots inside, but with artificial lights as my windows are east/west). Is your plan to just do indoor pots because you have no outdoor planting space, to keep year round, or what? I would recommend starting with one at a time--get it figured out, then study and add another plant.

As far as pots go, it's mostly personal preference. Plastic is cheap and lightweight, clay and terracotta are heavier, but often nicer looking. Terracotta pots are fine, but know that they will absorb some water from the soil, so you'll need to watch your watering more. Personally, I use a composite type because I like how they look better than plastic and they're lightweight and don't break. A basic potting mix is a place to start--you can't just use garden dirt for pots. But, watch that it does not contain moisture beads or fertilizer. Most herbs do not require fertilizer, until they've been in pots for a long time and really depleted their soil, and then I recommend a low-number liquid. Some herbs do better with some other mix in the soil--see what I write below for oregano.

Chives are super easy, both from starts or seeds and is a good place to start. An 8" pot should be okay for a small clump of chives, but don't be surprised if they tend to be rather floppy, not upright like those planted outside. Garlic Chives are also nice.

Oregano is one of the arid herbs--it does require well drained soil, as it is prone to root rot. A pot with good drainage holes over a saucer is good, but you also need to make sure your potting soil drains well. Mixing some small perlite, succulent or bonsai soil in with regular potting soil helps a lot. Don't water until the top is dry, but don't let the soil completely dry out. Oregano can get to a good sized bush, but my indoor one is in an 8" pot--you just need to keep it trimmed.

Cilantro is a cool season herb--when temps get warm, it goes to seed, but that's coriander seed which is also great homegrown. Unlike chives and oregano, which are perennials, cilantro is a short-lived annual (meant to only live one season). Keeping it harvested will prolong the leafing before flowering. Cilantro does not like to be transplanted, so starting from seed is best. An 8" pot is barely big enough, but could give you a start. 12" would be better, and cilantro needs some depth for it's roots. Chervil grows very similar to cilantro, though prefers less light.

Basil really needs heat and light, and doesn't always do well indoors, though it does fine in a larger pot. I would recommend a 12" pot. Most basil seedlings that you buy are multiple stems in a little pot, which is way too many and you'll need to thin them out. I don't recommend any more than 2-3 stems per pot.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:47PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Welcome Frank3857. Do you have any outdoor space, even a window box or balcony? If you do I would grow my herbs outside, especially if you are a beginner. Herbs just basically don't like indoor conditions. Indoor herbs are pretty much doomed unless you have light and plenty of it. Sorry to be so negative but I don't know how many questions we get here about sad and dying herbs indoors. Balloonflower has given you lots of good info but bottom line is if you can grow outdoors do so.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Thanks you guys, and we have a sun-room in our house and it has 7 windows, 2 on 2 walls, 3 on another, and it gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day so I was thinking of putting them in one of those sills. I'm scared to put them outside especially with these cold snaps it can get down to 35 at night here.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 3:07PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

Oregano, chives, chervil, cilantro, and basil love to grow outside. An inside herb garden is a challenge even for an experienced gardener. Chives and oregano will thrive for years as perennials. Chervil will reseed happily for many years in a slightly shady moist location.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 3:57PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

Outside with nights at 35 is better for most herbs compared to an indoor environment.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 4:00PM
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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

Sounds like you do have a good place for indoor pots if that's your preference. Indoor pots can be more difficult, but doable if you pay attention to the plant's needs. Personally I do both, with some that are indoor year round, and some that go out for summer (right now moving 14 pots daily). Nights down to 35 won't bother chives or oregano outside--if it drops below freezing you might lose the foliage, but not the plant (though that's for mature and hardened plants). We just dropped near 20 this week with 8" snow, and my sage, chives, tarragon, and sorrel that are just sprouting for this year did fine blanketed. Basil should not go below 50 day or night temp, but you may be able to get a good start indoors until the weather warms enough, and it would benefit from in and out. If you do in & out depending on outside temp, you do have to watch for bugs coming in and get your plants hardened for the direct sun.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 8:25PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Greetings, Frank! While you will get lots of advice and opinions here, it is always a very cordial and helpful forum - no flames here. We were all new gardeners once and as balloonflower mentions, we have all killed our fair share of plants. In all honestly, some of our greatest garden learnings came from our most dismal failures.

The suggestions for having your plants outdoors are good ones. If you try growing indoors and don't have the success you hoped for, don't give up. But try a planter on your steps, a window box, or if you can, plant them in a garden bed instead.

I wish you much luck and good gardening!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Thanks you guys, and as far as drainage goes, can I just put a saucer or a tray underneath the pot?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:38PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The best way to water small indoor plants is to take them to the sink when the soil dries out so that you can drench them fully, allowing the excess to drain before returning to the sill. Yes, you will need a saucer under them.

Ge sure to include research on types of potting mixes to use. Plants can die in a hurry with crappy potting medium. You'll need a good understanding about proper watering techniques, too.

I'm on the side of those who feel that herbs are better off outside, especially for a 'newbie '. Good luck to you and keep us informed of your progress.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 12:05AM
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Thank you guys, I bought some pots yesterday with a ton of different seeds, they were 1.50 and I kinda went crazy, ^_^ anyway, I got some miracle gro seed starting potting soil and also some organic potting soil and I put some of the organic at the bottom half and seed starting on the top half. I put the some cilantro seeds in and pushed them in with my finger and watered until water drained out of the bottom. and I set them outside, but it was overcast so I don't think it really did anything, they're inside now cause it's literally pouring outside.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 10:03AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have not read the comments.
All I can say that "INDOOR HERB GARDEN" is a tough one to have. With a baywindow and/or sunroom it can be done to some degree of success.

Then, not all the herbs are the same. But most prefer fresh air and warm (NOT HOT) weather.

So in short, I think having an indoor herb garden can be challenging.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 1:00AM
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