8 Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors
You all know that my preference for growing herbs is outside in my kitchen garden.
But if you haven't got the space, or the climate is not good for herbs at a specific time of the year, what can you do to make sure that the herbs you grow indoors have the best chance?
Here are eight tips to help keep your indoor herbs healthy.
Sun, Sun, Sun
We've talked at length in previous blogs about the amount of sunlight herbs need a day to grow well.
Your home might seem bright to you, but it's like living in a shade house for your herbs.
If you're going to grow inside, you need to keep them on a sunny windowsill, or even better, invest in some grow lights so your herbs get the light that they really need to do well.
Turn your Herbs Often
Unlike when it is living outside, your herb plants are not going to get sunlight from different angles if they are living in the house.
This means that to prevent them from going 'leggy' and growing towards the sunlight, you should turn them every so often to keep them growing evenly.
Regularly picking and harvesting your herbs will also help them to grow evenly and prevent them from becoming leggy. But it's still important to remember to given them a turn once in a while.
Water on Schedule
I shouldn't even have to mention watering, but some people don't water herbs enough when they are living inside.
Herbs are not like many house plants and, because they're producing lots of leaves that you are (hopefully) harvesting then they are going to need considerably more water than your usual house plant.
Aim to keep the soil damp, but not waterlogged (unless you're growing mint--mint prefers very damp soil to grow well).
Your herb plants are relying on you and they will reward you with lots of growth if you keep them on a regular watering routine. If they start wilting, make sure that you increase their watering schedule.
Keep me warm
But not too hot--or too cold. You like a temperate climate inside your home and so do your herbs.
Keep your inside temperature somewhere in the 18 to 23 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F) range and your herbs (and likely everyone in your home) will love you for it.
Here in Auckland humidity is an issue in the summertime (especially in February) and too much humidity can cause lots of damping off (rotting at the base of the stem) issues with herbs. Basil and Coriander (Cilantro) are especially prone to turning into a squelchy mid-summer mess in my home.
Plant in Separate Pots
Don't be tempted to plant multiple herbs in a planter or large pot. If one of your herbs succumbs to pests or disease, then you'll be able to separate it quickly and save the balance of your plants.
This also means that each of your herbs can also get the special attention that it needs to keep it healthy. Herbs that require damp conditions can be kept damp and those that require the soil light and dry can be kept that way.
Invest in Proper Drainage
That means making sure that your containers have holes punched in the bottom, or those without holes have gravel or small rocks in the bottom to create a space for the water to collect.
The roots of your herbs can't be sitting in water constantly (unless they're mint!) otherwise they will rot and the plant will die.
Containers need to have proper drainage so that the herbs are not sitting in too much water. Add a thin layer of rocks to the bottom of your pots before filling with soil to allow the water to settle there instead of in the soil. Don't forget to put a thin layer of cloth or weed mat on top of your stones to prevent the soil from filling in the gaps between the gravel.
Quality Potting Mix
It goes without saying that you should be using a good quality potting mix for your indoor herbs.
These plants are relying on your for all of their nutritional requirements and they're not going to get those nutritional requirements met if you dig some soil out of the garden, pop your herb in the pot and hope for the best.
Aside from the insect life that I'd be inviting into my home if I tried this (and my soil's got some pretty powerful nutrition going on) I still wouldn't be bringing the outside soil inside my home. I pride myself on the microbial activity that I have going on in my soil and I doubt any of the good stuff going on in there would survive well indoors.
Do yourself (and your herbs) a favour and pick up a good, organic indoor potting mix. It will have lots of bits-n-pieces added especially to help plants thrive in an indoor environment.
Get a Good Liquid Fertilizer
As part of your regular herb care routine, you will need to feed your plants. It's only fair, you're harvesting their leaves, so they're going to be putting a lot of their energy into regrowth.
Because they're not receiving minerals from rain and from outdoor soil and because their roots are so confined, your plants are going to need a regular liquid feed. Pick something that is a good general fertiliser (I'd use something that's seaweed based) and feed them every other week at half the recommended dose.
Keep the above in mind if you choose to grow some, or all of your herbs indoors.
You'll soon learn which herbs grow best for you and how to look after them.
It may be that you only have to bring some of your herbs indoors for a short time during a bad winter, but it's always best to know what to do to keep your herbs growing well inside.
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