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Garden Lifestyle

Grow Herbs Indoors this Winter

Some gardeners grow a fall garden outdoors, some plant an eclectic group of flowers and veggies in a heated greenhouse, and others plant an herb garden indoors.

  • Enjoy herbs all winter.   Photo by grovesa16 under the Creative Commons License 2.0.
  • Bring your herb garden indoors.   Photo by ccharmon under the Creative Commons License 2.0.

It’s a little sad to watch the summer garden come to an end, but there’s always cold-weather gardening to keep up the gardener’s spirit. Cold-weather gardening techniques show up in different ways.

Some gardeners grow a fall garden outdoors, some plant an eclectic group of flowers and veggies in a heated greenhouse, and others plant an herb garden indoors. Then there are those of us die-hards that practice all of the above determined to feed the plant addiction year-round.

You can grow herbs indoors just like any other houseplant, except these houseplants are going to pull double duty as a tasty addition to your winter recipes. You’ll need some sunny windows and a idea of which herbs enjoy what kind of light exposure. I put together a quick run down for you, although this herb list isn’t exhausted by far. Don’t forget to find something you’ve never grown before and experiment – it keeps you young.

Herbs for a Window with a Southern Exposure
Basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme are examples of herbs that’ll perform their best in a window with a southern exposure. All of these herbs love plenty of sun and want about 6 hours of it. Chives will often do well with a southern exposure, too. Because this is the hot window, you’ll need to be sure their soils don’t become dry and may need to water them more often that for herbs in other windows. That said, herbs in general resent wet feet and like things on the drier side anyway. The exception I’ve found are the chives. I always make sure they’re evenly moist.

Herbs for a Window with an Eastern or Western Exposure
Chervil, bay, parsley, thyme, and chives will all thrive in a window with an eastern or western exposure. These herbs either like the light coming at them with less intensity or in the case of the parsley – will tolerate it. This herb station can wait a bit longer for water, but you may have to turn them more often if they start getting leggy while reaching for the sun.

Take Herb Cuttings
Many herbs can be taken as cuttings directly from the plants in your outdoor herb garden. This is certainly true for rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and sage. Because the fall is a mild season, it’s prime time for herb cuttings to be acclimated from the outdoor mother plant to their indoor winter vacation home. It’s a simple trick that can be done in about 20 minutes. In fact, you can multi-task and plant your indoor cuttings while you’re waiting to wash out your hair color one evening.

You may want to start the cuttings off in a soil-less mix like perlite or vermiculite and then transplant the cutting into true potting soil once some roots have grown. This works quickly because the medium stays evenly moist while the cutting is rooting so I recommend it. Take a 4 inch cutting off of the mother plant. The lower leaves should be clipped off the cutting, leaving a couple of leaves at the top.

Stick the cutting into the soil-less mix, pressing the mix gently around the cutting (be sure to water it). Keeping the humidity up around the cutting is another way to get the roots to grow quickly, so you can cover the cutting with a glass jar or clear plastic. If you use the plastic, you’ll want to put a tall stake (a stick or a pencil will do) into the mix to keep the plastic from touching the cutting – you do want air circulation.

All herbs appreciate good drainage so adding some sand or vermiculite to their potting soil when you plant them. The best scenario for indoor herbs as far as conditions are if where they’re placed stays between 65-70 degrees; which isn’t usually difficult when they’re by the window even when the heater’s on inside for us humans. If you can give them temperatures in the 50s during the night, they’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven. The idea here is to duplicate the outdoors as closely as possible without driving yourself (or anyone around you) crazy.

Indoor herb gardens are a tradition for me. Not only do I enjoy tending to my plants and the fresh flavor, but when winter is at it’s darkest my herbs are warm ambassadors that remind me that spring will be here once again.

Pretty in pots or in beds, curly-leaf parsley plays a dual role as an ornamental plant and a culinary herb. Learn more:

How to Grow Sage
• How to Grow Chives 
How to Grow Parsley
How to Grow Culinary Thyme
Overwintering Rosemary in the North

  See more articles on growing herbs…

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