Setting up your own windowsill garden is enjoyable and easy, or you can create one as a holiday gift for a favorite gardener/chef on your list. Here's all you need to get started:
a variety of containers with drainage holes and saucers
seed-starting potting mix
herb seeds (or starts from your own existing garden)
a windowsill size basket or plate to make an attractive display (optional)
a sunny south-facing windowsill (supplemental fluorescent lights will help in winter)
Good choices for a windowsill garden are rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, dill, basil, cilantro, dill, and rosemary. Check your garden store for seed packets or starter plants. Consider choosing compact or dwarf varieties to fit your space. Some grocery stores have starter plants in their produce sections. Annual herbs are easy to start from seeds; perennials will take a bit longer.
If starting from seeds, fill each pot or container with a commercial seed-starting mix or a half and half combination of the mix with potting soil. You can check the seed packet to determine the proper planting depth for each herb.
Place your containers in a sunny window hat faces south if you can. You can also supplement with fluorescent lighting. As the plant matures, try to keep the leaves from touching a cold window. It's also helpful to learn what conditions each herb prefers; for example, basil prefers a warm location, while sage and rosemary can thrive in cooler temperatures.
Water your herbs so that the soil is moist but not soggy, and be sure to drain any excess from the saucers. Fertilize every two weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer.
Once the plants are about six inches tall, you may snip them to use in your favorite recipes. In fact, the more you snip them, the bushier they will become. Never trim more than one-third of a plant's foliage, however.
If you are stuck for time or not feeling particularly creative, you can purchase a windowsill garden gift set to give to a friend or to enjoy yourself. There are many options from which to choose this holiday season. Check your garden center or here are a few online options:
Plow and Hearth's Windowsill Herb Garden Kit contains the ingredients you need to grow basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley and thyme in an attractive ceramic planter that has multiple openings. $29.95.
Olive Barn's Organic Herb Garden Trio features organic seeds, three rice hull pots and saucers, expanding soil wafers, wood markers for your growing herbs and planting instructions. A nice feature of this herb garden is that you can choose the seed combinations s you prefer to create your own Italian Herb Trio, French Herb Trio or Culinary Herb Trio. $29.95
Giving Plants offers a Chef's Edible Herbs gift basket with four herbs potted and growing in a pretty basket that makes a great gift. The choices of herbs vary by season, but usually include thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano. $39.95.
American Gardens has a Windowsill Herb Garden Kit that includes dill, chives, sweet basil, coriander and parsley and five pots and saucers made from rice hulls and other grain fibers. $9.95. americanmeadows.com
Living Whole Foods sells an Indoor Culinary Herb Garden Starter Kit that contains a plastic greenhouse dome and tray as well as seeds for parsley, sweet marjoram, thyme, cilantro, sage, basil, dill, oregano, garlic chives, and savory mustard as well as 50 Jiffy Peat Pellets, and instructions. $34.95 on amazon.com.