Growing herbs indoors

I love fresh herbs. I use them for food and medicine. I just can't bear to be without fresh herbs in winter so I always have a bunch of different herbs growing in my house. It just makes sense to have herbs growing right inside my kitchen where I'll be using them, right? The kitchen is the perfect place to grow herbs since it's often warm, generally has high humidity and is right where you'll be using the herbs! The only other thing you need is a sunny window.

Growing herbs indoors

There are at least 11 medicinal herbs that grow well indoors, and plenty more culinary ones, so it's not hard to find herbs that do well indoors even in winter. I am such an outdoors 'always in the garden' person that winter is the hardest for me and I just have to grow some plants indoors. 

Plus you can't beat the taste of fresh grown herbs when cooking!

One of the great thing about growing herbs indoors is that they can be grown hydroponically or traditionally and they taste exactly the same!

Growing herbs indoors

Normally I grow Basil, Parsley, Lemon Balm and Chives on my windowsill in the winter. Occasionally I'll throw in some mint and I try to grow catnip but the cats often find it. *sigh* I've found I get the best results by starting seedlings in pots outside rather then starting seeds indoors. 

It's not the germination, which is's a lack of grow light which can make them get a bit leggy. That's one of the worst seed starting mistakes I make. I always overestimate the natural light available. Unless it's still the long days of summer, then a sunny window will be great for seed starting!

Most herbs like well drained soil so I put some pebbles in the bottom of the pots to give the water room to drain away from the soil, although if you have a pot with drainage holes that would work better. Or both actually, that would be best.

I've had the most success with starting my herbs in summer or early fall. This way they have the active growing season to get established. It seems to me as established plants do much better over winter than trying to start or buy new ones in winter. It's easy to propagate new plants from cuttings if you already have them growing in your garden.

Buying herb plants in winter is often disappointing since they come from greenhouses and most of us can't replicate that environment in our homes. The sudden change often causes them to do poorly.

Growing herbs indoors

Caring for herbs indoors year round

Herbs grow best when its warm, so a sunny draft-free window is ideal. Don’t let the leaves touch the cold glass, as many herbs are sensitive to the cold. Place in a south facing window to get the most amount of sun. If your herbs aren't getting enough sun though you should use a grow light. 

This will probably only be a problem in winter when the angle of the sun is lower. I like to supplement the natural light by turning a LED grow light on from 5pm till about 9 each evening. Culinary herbs require at least five hours of sunlight a day to stay healthy and flavorful.

I give the plants some fertilizer about once a month when indoors in winter. Twice as often in summer. I'll add a bit of compost on top of the soil and/or make them some compost tea. They love it! Be careful about over fertilizing in winter as it's not the herbs most active growing season.

Your herbs will need watered regularly, but don't water on a schedule in winter. Instead use the finger test. Stick your finger down into the soil about an inch. If it's still moist down that far, the plant does not need watered yet.

The reason being that arid winter air dries out the top layer of soil quickly. If you water every time the top of the soil looks or feels dry you'll overwater your plant. This can lead to root rot, fungus and a whole host of other problems. Test before watering, especially in winter and always use room temperature water.

Leggy Basil growing indoors in winter

Harvesting herbs

To harvest basil simply pinch  off a few leaves, wash then use them in your recipe. Pinch off, or cut right above a leaf pair rather than leaving a bare stem. If you need a large amount of basil you can harvest up to a third of the plant without causing damage. 

Catnip, lemon balm and others in the mint family can be harvested by cutting a few sprigs down by the soil. Unless your plant has grown quite big then you can prune small sprigs from several areas to kind of shrink it down a bit. 

Chives can either be trimmed as a group from the top like a haircut, or you can take a few stems completely by cutting each from the bottom. 

I cut parsley sprigs from the bottom also. You don't want to take more than 1/3 of the plant at a time, less if it's a really small plant. If the plants are getting too large you can trim them down and preserve the excess for later. Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried and will keep for a long time once preserved properly.

Which herbs will you grow on your windowsill?

Want more posts on herb gardening? Click here for my other posts on growing herbs.


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  1. I love having pots of growing things on the patin that I can clip and use. Herbs are so easy it's hard to imagine why anyone wouldn't want to give them a try. Very healthy looking basil you have there.

  2. I do love to grow herbs, but haven't ever done them in pots. Great idea!