How to Grow Your Own Indoor Culinary Herb Garden

This is a guest post from Sylvie of Gourmande in the Kitchen. Welcome, Sylvie!

The fresh grassiness of a sprinkle of chopped chives over soup, the robust earthy flavor of fresh thyme leaves on roasted vegetables, and the heady aroma of just-picked mint in your tea are just a few of  the reasons it’s easy to fall in love with cooking with fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs offer us good looks, great flavor, and intoxicating scents. Luckily, these rewards aren’t limited to those of us with a garden; just a few pots indoors can supply you with a variety of flavor-enhancing culinary herbs all year long.

Cultivating an extensive herb garden is wonderful if you have a yard, but many people don’t have access to an outdoor space. Fortunately, it’s not hard to grow the same herbs indoors, even in a small space.

If you’re a novice gardener or don’t have much of a green thumb, growing an indoor culinary herb garden is an easy place to start.  Most herbs are sun worshipers, so all you need to get started is a nice, sunny place in your house for them to call home.

ALL photos by Sylvie.

Commonly used herbs

Each herb has a different aroma and taste. Choose ones you use the most often in your cooking.

Rosemary is an evergreen herb that is generally found in warm climates, but that will do well inside in containers in colder areas.  It has a strong aroma and flavor and is generally used in Mediterranean cuisine.

Basil is a member of the mint family. The most popular kind of basil used in Italian cooking is sweet basil, but another widely-known type is Thai basil.

Chives are a member of the onion family.  They grow in clumps like grass, producing hollow, thin leaves.  Another popular variety is garlic chives.  Both varieties have a mild flavor that is great with eggs or on top of baked potatoes.

Oregano is another Mediterranean herb with a strong flavor; it’s a favorite in Greek and Mexican cuisine.  Another herb with a similar flavor profile is Marjoram.

Thyme has woody stems with small intensely aromatic green leaves.  It is a classic addition to French cuisine and pairs well with numerous vegetables, meats and egg dishes.

Parsley comes in two main varieties: curled leaf and Italian.  The Italian variety is milder and most often used in cooking.  It adds freshness to a dish.

Sage is a beautiful herb, with a soft grayish green color.  Like oregano and rosemary, it’s another strong herb that should be used sparingly.

Mint comes in two main varieties: spearmint and peppermint.  Peppermint is the stronger of the two and is the mint of choice for medicinal purposes like soothing upset stomachs.  While spearmint is milder in flavor, either can be used for cooking purposes.

Caring for Your Herbs

Potting

Choose a container large enough to accommodate growth and make sure it has ample drainage holes.  Also make sure to buy a tray for underneath your pot, to collect and drain off excess water.

  1. Start with a high quality organic potting soil (one that is appropriate for vegetables) and a few of your favorite herbs.
  2. Fill the pot with soil about three quarters of the way up.
  3. Moisten the soil lightly with water until moist but not wet.
  4. Remove the herbs from their containers, loosening the soil at the root base, taking care not to damage the roots.
  5. Evenly space the herbs in the pot and fill with enough potting soil to cover to the top of the root ball.
  6. Pat the soil down lightly and water well when finished.

TIP: Mint grows like a weed and can easily overtake and crowd out other herbs, so it’s best planted in its own container.

Light

Light is the most important element in growing indoor herbs.  Find a spot in your house that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of light per day.  If you find your herbs are growing long stems but few leaves, then they are probably not getting enough light and are stretching to find it.

TIP: Regularly rotate the orientation of your pots with respect to the source of sunlight so that they don’t lean in one direction.

Water

Water each herb according to its individual needs.  To test whether your herbs need watering, insert one finger up to the knuckle into the soil to test for dryness.  If the soil is dry, water the herbs.  Make a habit of testing the soil before you water your herbs to prevent overwatering.

Good drainage is also important; don’t let water accumulate at the bottom of the pot.  Water thoroughly, then let drain completely to avoid water logging the roots.  Leaves turning yellow are one of the first signs of overwatering.

TIP: Plant herbs with similar watering requirements together.  Rosemary, for example, prefer to remain on the dry side while basil needs to be watered frequently.

General Tips

Regular clipping will promote further growth.  Even young plants need to be clipped regularly to encourage them to branch out and become fuller, but don’t cut more than a third off.
If your herbs start flowering, they are not being clipped regularly enough.  Cut off the blooms and clip back down to one third.

Growing your own herbs indoors can be a rewarding experience that doesn’t require a lot of experience or effort to be successful. Their beauty and aroma are sure to inspire your cooking creativity.

What are some of your favorite herbs?

About Sylvie

Sylvie Shirazi is a freelance food photographer and food writer. On her blog, Gourmande in the Kitchen, she celebrates the joy that food brings to our lives every day. Her motto is “cook simply.” She believes that good food isn’t fussy or pretentious; it’s simple, it’s real and it’s made with love for those we love. Through her blog, Sylvie hopes to inspire others to follow their instincts, trust their taste buds, and find a sense of confidence in the kitchen.

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Comments

  1. We have an aerogarden and love it. Also an herb “trough” on the side of our house. Never too many herbs … I love to bring inside just to smell them.

    Great post!
    Sandy @ RE’s last post: Day 12- Leafy Greens with a Tiny Bit of Agave

  2. Hi. Thank you for those tips. This is what I’m longing to do; to have my own garden of herbs. I love the aroma and taste of herbs that it add to my cooking. I will look for a sunny spot in my house later to start my own herb indoor garden. :)
    Shannon@internetbusinessstrategies.org‘s last post: Internet Marketing Tool

  3. Thank you Sylvie!!!
    madhu’s last post: Sunday

  4. Extremely informative… I would love to grow my own herbs but do not have a green thumb at all…Though, based on tips in this post, I might give growing herbs again…I love to use herbs in my dishes – they perk up almost anything instantly!

    Thanks for sharing.
    -Shilpa

  5. This is next on my list of home improvement, feng shui, general wellness projects. Thanks for the great tips!
    Steve @ HPD’s last post: Freebie Alert

  6. Thanks for this – I would love to create an indoor garden like this. We love basil, and I miss it so much during the winter.
    Lissa’s last post: Personalization with the Silhouette

  7. What a great post, Sylvie! I love fresh herbs… it is the one thing I can grow successfully! Such great tips.

  8. This is a fantastic post, Sylvie. I’m not good about growing herbs inside during the winter, but you have definitely inspired me!

  9. I grow every herb you mention as well as tarragon and lavender too! I used to do the big garden thing but with my children grown it is simply too much work and too much produce for just me so I concentrate on the herbs.

    I remember when I was much younger and the beginning of my ‘green thumb’ was taking hold. Though we had a lot of windows, our first home was literally in a forest of trees, so one bedroom (before kids!) was dedicated to planting seedlings and keeping herbs. Amazing what one light with the spectrum needed for plants can do if you don’t have great light. I love all of the flowers in my garden but their blooms fade quickly…the herbs are what I treasure the most.
    Barbara | Creative Culinary’s last post: Sugar and Spice Popcorn

  10. Great post! I love using fresh herbs and should start an inside garden this winter.

  11. Fabulous tips and gorgeous photos Sylvie! Thank you!
    Wenderly’s last post: Tickled Pink Raspberry Spritzer

  12. Love these tips! Always wanted to grow my own herbs, but never really knew how to. thanks!
    Dustin Gilman’s last post: Kazu- Japanese Izakaya How Did I Not Go Sooner!

  13. Hi There, Thankyou so much for sharing interesting tips on gardening. I will surely keep these tips in mind while maintaining my little pots. Have a great day….Sonia !!!

  14. I am loving my outdoor herb garden right now (I plant one every spring) but I know it’s short lived. As soon as the first frost hits, my herbs will be gone. I have never thought of planting them indoors though. These are GREAT strategies. I just may try this in the fall. Thank you!!!
    Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)’s last post: Every-week Frugal Vegetable Stock

  15. Great write up!!

  16. What an informative and beautifully photographed post! I have always grown herbs in the apartments, finding an enormous satisfaction in cutting some to use in my meals. The only one I managed to kill was rosemary, and it drove me mad! I could not keep it alive in the winter, even indoors, until we moved to California. But here everything keeps on growing:)
    Thanks for sharing your tips!
    Lana’s last post: Book ‘em!

  17. Hi Sylvie,
    We have a small outdoor garden and we always have oregano planted for medicinal purposes. I’m thinking of adding more herbs this summer but our garden is getting crowded. I think it’s a good idea to start an indoor herb garden instead. I have some areas near one of the kitchen windows that gets lots of sunlight and we also have some space in our balcony.
    Thanks for sharing these excellent tips!
    Theresa Torres’s last post: The Dos and Dont of Summer Road Trips

  18. wow – you said it all! now i can do this myself! thanks!
    sapir’s last post: How to wax a car And what is the best car wax

  19. I am hoping to grow fresh herbs in my (tiny!) apartment come September and this will be an invaluable resource! Thank you so much for your clarity! :)

  20. Interesting post! Fresh herbs make life to much more interesting huh?
    Lisa @ Tarte du Jour’s last post: Happy first anniversary Tarte du Jour! Im celebrating with a tarte aux fruits filled with crème pâtissière

  21. Wonderful tips for growing your own herb garden. I hope it encourages a lot of readers to grow their own. :-)
    Lemons and Anchovies’s last post: Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

  22. My mint and rosemary are doing well in my east facing kitchen window, but the basil, parsley and sage aren’t thriving and have white spots on the leaves. Any ideas?

    • From what you are describing, it sounds like those spots are probably from aphids. They can be a real nuisance and infect other surrounding plants as well, so I would suggest quarantining the infected plants until you get it under control or it may spread.

      I would start by thoroughly washing the leaves of the infected plants and removing the white spots by gently rubbing the leaves between your fingers. It may take a while, and repeated washings to eliminate the problem. You can also try to spray the leaves with a diluted mixture of mild soap and water. Continue to do this on a regular basis until the infestation is under control.

      Hope that helps!
      Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen’s last post: an indoor culinary herb garden growing your own flavor

  23. I have been trying to get some herbs started and plan to have a dedicated herb garden. However, it is so convenient to have some indoors where they are an inspiration all the time. Thanks for the wonderful and informative article to get us started. I LOVE so many herbs- can’t pick my fave. Amazing the flavor they impart to food!
    sarahworldcook @ homestyleworldcook.blogspot.com’s last post: Pulau Basmati Rice Nepali Rice

  24. Thanks for the great tutorial! I’ve been saying I’m going to plant herbs for years, but I’m so awful at remembering to water plants. Luckily my 3yo daughter is now a little obsessed with watering plants so the time may be right for us to team up on an herb garden. :-)
    Kathy – Panini Happy’s last post: Panini Happy’s Great American Sandwich Guide

  25. Wonderful tips Sylvie…fresh herbs are amazing! I do have an outdoor garden but I know many do not have the space and this is a perfect instructional post for growing indoors. I actually wish that my mints were indoors, they are quite wild :)

  26. love this post, Sylvie! I love my herbs and I love my garden (although highly neglected). Once again, you’ve inspired me! x

  27. Thanks
    I want to show my culinary students (grade 9)the joy & growing of herbs, this will certainly make it easier to explain the growing process & care of the plants, as my thumb is far from green. The students should be far enough along in the program to utilize the herbs in recipes once the herbs are ready to use.

  28. Hi Sylvie,
    Lovely photographs! Is it more challenging to grow indoors starting with seeds?
    Thanks!
    June’s last post: Exclusive Interview with Robyn Butcher, Landscape Architect

  29. I ‘d really like to thank all of you for sharing your experiences!
    I have just started off with 5 lemon balm plants and they are sprouting out their leaves already! My lemon balms are currently 17 days old, not all have real leaves.

    *Special thanks to Sylvie for making this post!*

  30. I have always loved gardening this past year I received a greenhouse for
    Christmas, and started my herbs indoors for the first time,I had so many starter plants I had to put some outside. I am where there a 4 seasons. I am planning to grow indoors this winter I will bring the greenhouse indoors this year. I am looking forward to having herbs all year round. I am so glad I have found your site the information is amazing and thank you for the tips. I have recently started a blog of my own,I would really love you to stop by and tell me what you think. http://theindoorherbgardener.com I am happy to say one day is not enough on this blog. Thanks for the amazing article .

    Karen
    Karen’s last post: Ways To Improve Your Garden Soil!

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