Growing Herbs Indoors: Specific Needs for Healthy PlantsBy Jacqueline Cross (libellule)
February 5, 2009
The most immediate concern when growing any plants inside is a good light source. Herb plants need between six and ten hours of light per day, depending on the particular plant. Be certain to check recommended light conditions for each herb you intend to grow.
Natural light is always preferable to artificial. Take a look around your home; where might you set potted plants in or near windows? If window sills are not wide enough to set pots on, you may want to extend the sill by adding a finished 1- by 6-inch board, the width of the window. The board can easily be screwed into the existing baseboard of the sill. If you would rather not put holes in the sill, you may set up shelving in front of windows.
Windows on the south side of your home have the longest lasting and brightest light. There will also be more heat on this side of your home. Tender plants may become burned, showing signs of leaf scorch in these windows.
Windows on the north side of your home provide indirect light and much less heat. Light on the west and east sides of your home offer bright light, though much less then south facing windows. West-facing windows will be warmer than the east-facing ones.
Plants should be turned weekly allowing sunlight to reach all foliage on the plants.
Not all homes have windows suitable to growing herbs indoors. If this is the case at your home, you can use grow lights which can be found at nursery supply houses, in garden catalogs and some chain hardware stores. These grow lights can be pricey. In place of these expensive grow lights, you may use fluorescent shop-type lights instead.
When using artificial lights, set them to hang approximately ten inches above young herb plants. For larger or more mature plants hang approximately 1 to 1-1/2 feet above plants.
Lack of humidity is another problem which comes up when herbs, or any plants, are grown indoors. If you are not lucky enough to have a whole-house humidifier, there are a few steps that can be taken to bring the humidity up for healthy plants.
1. Spray foliage with a fine mist of water about once a week.
2. Set a dish of water near the heat source in the room, as it evaporates it will add moisture to the air.
3. Fill trays or water-proof troughs with pea gravel and fill approximately half-full with water. Set potted plants on top of the gravel.
Potted plants tend to dry out quickly. The best way to check them is to stick a finger into soil about one half inch to feel for moisture. If soil is dry, give plant a little water. Never overwater indoor herbs as this may lead to plant rot and diseases such as powdery mildew.
A few herb plants actually do well in poor dry soil. Check water needs of each plant to be grown to insure you are giving them the correct amount of water.
Herbs have different needs when it comes to soil, just as for water. In general, a rich, fertile potting soil will do. Repotting may be necessary if herbs are to be grown indoors throughout the year.
This is a tricky area. Some experts will tell you to fertilize with a weak solution of all-purpose liquid fertilizer about every three to four weeks through spring and summer. Others will tell you there is no need to fertilize plants if they are potted in rich, fertile soil. This is one of the areas where you will have to use your own judgment based on how well your plants are growing.
Choice Herb Plants for Indoor Cultivation
A list of ten often used herbs which do well indoors is provided below. There are many more herbs that can be grown in pots in your home.
1. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
2. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
3. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
4. Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
5. Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
6. Mint (Mentha spp.)
7. Oregano (Origanum libanoticum)
8. Parsley - Italian flat-leaf (Petroselinum neapolitanum)
9. Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
10. Thyme - English (Thymus vulgaris)
Seeds are inexpensive and allow you the option of trying out several of your favorites to see if they will do well indoors.
I was recently reminded of a fairly new procuct on the market whereby plants are grown hydroponically. Called AeroGarden, this product works in low light/limited space areas inside the home. More information can be found concerning this product here at Dave's Garden Watchdog.
Photo of colorful pots at top right courtesy of 'Greenfinger' of MorgueFile.com
Mint photo by 'MissRedBoots' of MorgueFile.com
All other photos by Dave's Garden members; Baa, creekwalker, Gabrielle, growin, Kauai17 and Weezingreens.
*Hover mouse over photos for names of plant and photographers.