Growing an Herb Garden Indoors
Having Herbs Available Year Round
If you want to try your hand at indoor gardening, one of the easiest ways to get started is an indoor herb garden kit. Herbs are great for growing indoors because they don't need as much light as vegetables do, nor do they need as much water or fertilizer. Plus, when you are using herbs in your recipes, generally the quantity required is on a much lower scale than the vegetable itself so this compact garden serves many purposes.
Check out the recipes using fresh herbs at the end of this article.
Getting Started with the All in One Aerogarden
Great for Garden Geeks
The easy way to get started is with an all-in-one kit such as the self-contained hydroponic unit, the Aerogarden. You can find them in good hardware stores. This includes the hydroponic pumps, a computer controller, the starter seed pods, and an adjustable grow light all part of one unit. You can find all sorts of Aerogarden seeds to use to grow other plants than just herbs, in fact you can grow some good sized tomatoes with one of these units. They come in more than one size so you can get started with some salad fixings, and increase your growing quantity from there.
Growing an Herb Garden in Containers
Three Main "Ingredients"
There are also more traditional kits available. These will include the seeds, some starting medium like peat pots or peat pellets, and for the more expensive units it might include some simple fluorescent grow lights as well.
However you choose to grow your indoor herb garden, here are some tips to increase your success. Keep in mind that some herbs will grow for years, so you may want to plan for a perennial herb garden.
Herbs don't need as much light as vegetables, but they still need a good amount of light to keep the leaves full and healthy, and to keep the plants from getting leggy or dropping leaves. Keep it close to a window with a southern exposure. If you don't have a good south window for natural lighting, you should supplement your lighting with fluorescent grow lights.
If your herbs start to drop their lower leaves or take on a leggy look you might need an LED grow light. LED grow lights have become popular recently as they can be more energy efficient to save you some electricity costs. You can read more about the advantages in this LED grow light review.
Whether you choose to put all your plants in one container or have several, make sure you have good drainage. Don't overwater (maybe water once a week) and put gravel or broken pot shards on the bottom of the planter to make sure you drain well. Use a standard potting soil or soilless mix, and only fertilize every 6 weeks or so.
Choose compact varieties of herbs to plant indoors, as the normal seed types will be too large to effectively grow inside. Some good types to try include compact dill, basil, and Greek oregano. All of these are easy to grow from seed. Other herbs that grow well indoors include lavender, parsley, rosemary, sage, angelica, chamomile, fennel, and chives.
As we mentioned, drainage is critical, and the soil plays a big part in that. Once you've chosen a good pot, make sure you use something that drains well like a commercial potting soil, or one of the soiless mixes can be a good substitute. If you have compost available, by all means mix a little of this into your pot. A lot of fertilizing is not necessary most times, but you may choose to fertilize every other month or so and see good results in your indoor garden.
Pick your herbs as cuttings when your plants get about 6 inches in height and you are ready to enjoy the mix of fresh herbs in your prepared recipes.
Here's 3 ways to use your fresh herbs!
Shrimp and Red Peppers on Rosemary Skewers
- 6 sturdy springs of fresh rosemary cut about 10 inches long
- 18 large shrimp
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium shallot chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- peeled and minced
- 1 sprig fresh oregano chopped
- 8 large leaves of fresh basil chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
- grated zest of one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black papper
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- seeded and cut into 1 inch squares
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1. Strip the rosemary leaves from the sprigs, leaving one inch of leaves on top.
- 2. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on if you like, and pat dry. Combine the oil, shallot, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a glass bowl. Add the shrimp and toss thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- 3. Carefully thread a red pepper square onto each rosemary skewer and follow with a shrimp. Finish with another piece of red pepper. (Use a bamboo skewer to make the holes, then slide onto the rosemary sprigs.) Sprinkle the skewers very lightly with a little paprika.
- 4. Preheat a grill pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Lightly oil the cooking surface, then cook the skewers for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp are opaque but still springy to the touch.
There are no measurements to the ingredients for this, just take what you have and run with it!
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Total Time: 10-15 minutes
Serves: As many or a few as you want
- Fresh garden tomatoes cut in halves or quarters
- Onion cut in quarters
- Jalapeno peppers with tops removed,seeded, and sliced in quarters
- Garlic peeled and halved
- Cilantro bunch
- Juice of one lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put everything in a food processor and blend until desired consistancy. Some like it chunky, some like it smooth. Use within 24-36 hours.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- generous pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Put the garlic, pine nuts, salt and basil into a food processor or blender and process until pasty. Add the parmesan cheese. With the processor still on, gradually add the olive oil. Pour into a serving bowl and use as desired.
- Toss with pasta or as a spread on bread!
One More Tip!
You're going to LOVE this one!
If you have a few leaves of basil remaining after a cutting, put them in unused ice cube tray, add some water and freeze them for a fresh taste in a winter stew! You'll be smiling come December or January!
This also works using olive oil for the hardier type herbs such as rosemary, sage and oregano. Chop herbs to a manageable size. Fill an ice cube tray 2/3 of the way up in each cup. Fill with olive oil and freeze. Use the cube to start off sauted vegetables or drop in a crock pot for a stew.