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Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Thursday, January 22, 2015
I don't know about you but around this time every year I find myself missing warm temperatures, sunshine, and gardening. Starting an indoor gardening project may help lift the spirits! To satisfy my garden craving, I took on an indoor herb planting project.
I started out by choosing a location in my home which would be suitable for herb growth. I am blessed enough to have a garden window which did the trick nicely! Herbs are sun loving plants generally speaking. However, many indoor locations such as window sills may be suitable for starting frost tender herbs indoors by seed so they are ready to plant out doors in the spring.
If you would like to continuously grow herbs indoors, I suggest choosing a location where a mix of natural and artificial light can be used. For example, try growing herbs on a window sill with a low energy fluorescent light mounted about 1 foot above the plants. Ideally, you can rig the light to a pulley system so that as the herbs grow and later get trimmed, the light height can be adjusted. I usually use a timer and put my herbs on a 16hr light cycle.
Fertilizer may be needed to help your herbs grow. You can mix a time released fertilizer into your potting mix or purchase a potting mix that includes time released fertilizer as a component. Another option is to purchase fertilizer and use it only when needed. I fertilize my herbs about once a week with regular house plant fertilizer cut down to half strength.
For maximum production and taste, it is usually a good idea to prevent your herbs from flowering by pinching off any flower buds you see right away. Most herbs are annuals so they start to decline after they have flowered and set seed. Additionally, herbs are often stronger in taste when they are flowering which is sometimes undesirable.
When choosing containers, be sure they have good drainage. This helps to prevent root rot. You will then need to decide if you are starting seeds for outdoors later or growing inside permanently. If you will be moving the herbs outside in the spring, you may want to use a small peat pot which will make transplanting a breeze! If you will be growing them indoors, choose a pot big enough for the herbs to grow into. You can even grow more than one type of herb in the same pot! For example, my container has both Thyme and Dill in it. When planting multiple types of herbs in the same container, be sure they have similar requirements in terms of temperature, fertilizer, light intensity, and water.
Speaking of water, be sure not to over or underwater your plants. I feel the soil daily and only water when it is dry.
If you are starting from seed, don't be discouraged if the initial sprouts don't look like much, it can take a few weeks for your herbs to get established.