Indoor Herb Garden for Beginners?

amy_c7April 1, 2007

I've wanted to start an indoor (no yard) herb garden for a long time and I don't know anything about gardening. The herbs I'm interested in growing are: basil, thai basil, flat leaf parsley, thyme, and sage (and maybe some others so I'm open to suggestions).

From the research I did online, I read that:

- I should plant in a terra cotta pots so the root system can breathe

- southern exposure

- water sparingly

- gravel on the bottom and a soil-less potting mix for the plants.

- pinch off the shoot when the plant has grown enough to encourage more growth and pinch off flowers

- aside from the basil which is best started from seed, everything else should be bought as a starter plant from a nursery.

I'm not sure if the imformation I have so far is right so please correct me if anything sounds wrong.

The questions I have are:

Are there any other herbs I should plant/any herbs that are really commonly used in cooking?

Is it possible to grow green onions/scallions?

Do herbs need fertilization? I read somewhere that I should use food safe fertilization but I have no idea what this means... does Miracle Grow count?

Where is the best place to buy all this equipment? Would a hardware/garden store like Home Depot or Lowes carry it or should I go to a nursery?

Can I use an incandescent table lamp as a grow light?

and finally: is an AeroGarden a better choice for someone like me who doesn't have a green thumb?

Any help is much appreciated! Thanks!

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Hello! Starting a new addiction? :D Well, first things first. The basils, the parsley, the thyme and the sage all have different needs.
First temps. Parsley likes it cool. I have never grown it, but that I know. It will go to seed very fast in heat, so usually it's grown in early spring.
the basils like a lot of water, I wouldn't put them in a clay pot, you would have to water them a LOT. They like a lot of HEAT and may be hard to keep alive in the winter. They are happiest at temps above 80.
Thyme and sage are 'mediterranean herbs' so would be perfect in clay pots, they like to dry out a bit inbetween waterings... you'd need to stick your finger in the soil, if it's dry about to your first knuckle, then it's perfect to water them.
Next, basils don't like as much sun as the mediterranean herbs, so I'd stick them in a less sunny window.
Next... DON'T PUT ROCKS IN YOUR POTS.... they just collect and hold molds and fungus... plus when you repot, they are a pain in the heinie. you could mix a little perlite with your potting soil and that would give good enough drainage to the mediterranean herbs.
okay... and finally... basil and sage will get rather large... up to 2 feet in height. You will need to eventually get larger pots... at least one gallon size.
hope this helps you! The art to growing plants is to find their individual needs and try to give them as much of it as you can.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 11:51AM
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That was really helpful!
I had no idea basil and sage got so big. I'll definitely use a larger pot for those. Keeping the temp above 80 might be difficult here even in the summer since it rarely gets very warm here.

I'm glad I don't have to mess with the gravel so I'll just use the perlite instead.

For the basil, should I use a plastic pot instead of clay? I'm not really sure what other options there are.

Thanks so much for your tips, they were very helpful!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:16PM
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Yer welcome! I'd use plastic instead of clay... clay dries out a lot faster, which makes it great for the sage and thyme, not so fun for the basil.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 8:27PM
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teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

I had so much advice typed... And somehow I hit the right combination of keys to refresh the page.

I'm gonna go cry.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 1:58AM
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I live in the subtropics, and I grow parsley (Italian and curly) in full sun, absolutely no problems at all. In our current drought conditions, with just a brief shower of rain once a month or so, the parsley is one of the healthiest looking plants in my garden.

The nursery wants you to have terracotta pots because they are more expensive than plastic pots! They do tend to lose a lot of water, because terracotta is porous. This MIGHT be good if you tend to overwater - but for indoors - crikey, you don't want to watering every 5 minutes, do you?

I agree with Heathen. Forget the gravel, rocks, etc. It just isn't necessary. What you need for good drainage (an absolute essential) is a pot with plenty of holes in the bottom (a single hole in the middle is as good as useless!), and a reasonable-quality potting mix. Never allow the potting mix to dry out, because if you do, it will become water-repellent. You can water and water, and it will not absorb into the soil where the water can get to it. You can buy soil wetting-agents which help to prevent this from happening. In my part of the world, they are selling tons of the stuff in an effort to keep some moisture in the soil. Also, if you put your pots up on 'feet' (a couple of bricks will do), that will allow excess water to get away.

Most of the popular culinary herbs do NOT need fertilising - in fact they will do much better without it. Having said that, however, do keep in mind that potted plants are high maintenance, and will need more nurturing than plants in the garden. If you can buy bags of compost, a handful or two of that once or twice a year (when the soil level in the pot drops) should be quite enough. Basil is an exception to the rule - it's a greedy feeder. The easiest way for beginners to learn about fertilisers, is to buy general-purpose pellets of slow-release fertiliser, and just follow the directions on the packaging.

Members of the onion family are easily grown and do OK in pots. I prefer to buy seedlings! In fact, I prefer to buy seedlings instead of propagating by seed. It's the lazy way perhaps, but at least you can see what you'll be getting, and you get a head start. Seeds can be fun, but they can be frustrating for beginners, because each type of seed has different requirements of heat, light, depth of sowing etc. Plants like parsley can be painfully slow to germinate.

An ordinary incandescent light is no good for plant-growing. You will need special growing lights which simulate certain of the sun's rays. Not all seeds need light to germinate, as I said above. You need to do some homework. The site below will be helpful to you.

You need to know, too, that basils are annuals, and will die approaching winter. Parsley will die in its second year (biennial) after going to seed.

Be aware that basils and sage can get quite large! Thyme can spread quite a distance too, about 30cm in all directions, and if you're lucky if will self-layer, thus spreading itself even further.

We can't tell you what herbs you like, but amongst the popular ones are the ones you mention plus rosemary, bay, lemon balm, lemon verbena, a selection of mints (spearmint for savoury dishes, peppermint for sweet), savory, lemon savory, lemon thyme, tarragon (it MUST be either the real French tarragon, but Winter Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) is an acceptable alternative - for heaven's sake don't get the Russian Tarragon!). If you like Asian food, you could think about turmeric, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, chillies, kaffir lime and goodness knows how many others. You have many to choose from.

Sadly, it's a rule of thumb that most herbs don't do too well indoors. But if you don't mind that they'll never reach optimum size, and won't have the same flavour as plants grown outdoors (they need sun to produce their essential oils which give them flavour), then you can have fun experimenting.

Take a look at some of the sites here:

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 3:21AM
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We are also just starting a herb garden and are wondering if you can put miracle gro in herbs? And if you can is there a special kind or is "ultra bloom" alright?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 9:40AM
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miraclegro makes fertilizer for vegetable so that would work, but I wouldn't reccomend it. Most herbs don't want to be fertilized and compost is a better choice for those that do.
rosemary is tricky to keep alive indoors.
One thing to consider is green garlic. All you have to do is stick garlic cloves into some soil and wait for them to sprout. They don't need any light and you can keep cutting the greens until the bulb runs out of energy. You can toss the snipped greens into all sorts of things the same way you would use chives.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 11:41AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Miracle Grow products are not very good to use if your growing organically. They basically pure chemicals. If you want to get a decent herb growth indoors, you may want to choose some non chemical based fertilizers, with a decent amount of nitrogen. Gardens Alive used to sell a fertilizer specifically blended for herbs. I found that it increased some of the natural oils like in rosemary and a few others.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 7:35PM
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I finally started my herb garden *yay* and I have a few follow-up questions.

They're growing really nicely but I have no idea how to cut them for use. Do I cut the older leaves down closer to the base of the plant or do I clip the newer growths and leave the stems intact.

How do I get the plants to grow bushier?

Newbie question: What does bolting mean?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 5:02PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Need to know what herb your wanting to harvest. Usually marure leaves are more flavorful, but sometimes you want to pick immature leaves. A good example is cilantro. The early leaves look like parsley and if they are not cut off, they quickly die out and then a fern type leaf forms, then tiny flowers and then seeds (or fruits). Once they start flowering, they don't grow back any parsley shaped leaves again. Basil, once flowered is also going to get spindly. Pinching off tops of some kinds of hersb is fine to get them to bush out, but we need to know what your growing. In most cases, I use basil as fresh chopped, or dried and crumbled later on. Same with dill, and rosemary.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 6:28PM
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Oops! Sorry about that! Currently I'm growing: sweet basil, thai basil, flat leaf parsley, chives, and thyme.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 3:19AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

I've tried to grow herbs indoors, but they always fail. Most herbs need lots of sun. Take the seeds and plant them outdoors.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 9:27AM
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I hope jannie is wrong !

I am just starting a project to build an indoor herb garden, but I am basing it on Hydroponics, as I have a successful herb garden based on the outside.

All the best..>Sam

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 12:30AM
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Congratulations on your herb garden.

I've been growing several varieties of basil in a bay window in my kitchen for a little over a year now. It actually does well for me in terra cotta pots though they need daily watering in the summer heat. I now have some chives growing there as well but most of the window is taken over by plastic pots with various seedlings since things sprout good for me there.

The basil has been manageable for me there cause I use a lot of it so am always pinching to keep the plant short and the variety of basils in terra cotta pots make the window look very nice. I found that plastic pots stay wet too long there and some plants don't like that. I do tend to overwater though and have to watch myself.

Herbs are really fun to grow and your cooking will taste so much better than using dried herbs from the store. I'm still pretty new at this myself but growing herbs has been very rewarding for me.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 2:35PM
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Growing a variety of herbs in your garden can give you more benefits. It can help as a medicine, as an ingredients in cooking or even can swipe away insects or bugs that stay in your place. For example pandan (pandanus tecturius) can block the cockroach from entering because they don't like the smell of this herb. Also it can be use for food flavorings especially in making desserts.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 7:12AM
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I have found a very useful article which explains how to start an indoor herb garden and that will supply you with an abundance of beautiful, aromatic and tasty herbs year round.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 3:49AM
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