Depending upon which herbs you use, the requirements are pretty much the same. A south or southeast facing window that provides at least 6 hours of light a day, or an area where grow lights can be used is key. Without proper lighting, the seedlings will become too leggy.

In addition to proper light, the use of good soil-less potting mix, the right amount of moisture and temperature will lend to successfully growing herbs. Try to avoid a drafty windowsill, as cold temperatures may inhibit or kill off your plants.

Indoor lights such as fluorescent or wide spectrum lights provide suitable light for seedlings and plants. Suspended lights hanging from chains can be adjusted upwards as the seedling sprout and grow. Initially, if the lights are about 1-2 inches above the soil they then can be moved upwards as the seeds sprout. There are a variety of growing kits on the market that include containers, lights, stands, heat pads, etc.

Once you determine which herbs you want to go, selecting growing containers is next. Of course, you can start seeds in seed trays then transplant them into larger pots. Inside containers should have adequate drainage and enough room for the plants to grow. Sometimes using a rectangular or larger pot can hold several plants or contain a mix of say pizza-making herbs.

Clay pots work well, but the sky is the limit. The containers should set upon a saucer, plate or pan to capture excess moisture and to not ruin your windowsill. I love using thrift store or yard sale pots for their diversity and sometimes funkiness. Of course, any container should be washed prior to use with a mild chlorine bleach solution.

For growing medium, herbs do well in a soilless potting mix. Garden soil may contain microbes or fungi that will form"fuzz" over the soil and kill the seedling. Again, seed starter kits run the gamut with self-watering trays, reusable transplant pots, and germinating or seed starting soil mixes.

If you are starting seeds directly in the pots, fill the containers to about an inch from the rim with potting mix. Keep the soil moist during the germination phase with a dome of plastic or plastic bag. Some seeds require minimal soil cover, so read the back of the seed packets for instructions. Certain plants, like summer or winter savory, require light for germination; hence, the seeds should not be covered. Basil, on the other hand, needs some soil cover.

seed starting

Keep seeds moist with some type of cover, whether it is a humidity dome or plastic bag. Every few days remove the cover for some air circulation if it isn't vented. Soil that dries out may inhibit germination or seedling growth. Self watering trays or vigilance will ensure the soil has proper moisture. Try to not over water seedlings either.
Indoor seedlings need between 14-16 hours of light per day. There may be need for artificial lighting so the plants grow properly. One trick some gardeners use is to place a mirror behind the seed trays to increase the amount of light the plants receive.

After the seedlings have several sets of leaves they can be transplanted into containers. While the plants are growing occasionally feeding them with a manure tea or natural emulsion will keep your herbs growing and tasting good when harvested.

Cuttings of perennial herbs or digging up smaller perennials in the fall and potting them is another way to have herbs indoors through the winter.

Seed packets, gardening catalogues or Web sites also offer a lot of information on growing herbs from seed and their requirements for growing them outdoors. But until that time, growing herbs indoor will provide you with fresh and tasty ingredients for cooking during those long winter days.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons