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Indoor Herb Garden Tips for Every Season

Don’t let your prized rosemary die with the first frost. Our guide will see your herb garden through the winter -- and beyond.

Contributing Garden Editor

Colder weather may mean goodbye to garden-fresh tomatoes, but we’re hanging on to herbs as long as we can. Indoor gardens, a year-round solution for small-space or apartment dwellers, can also play home to already thriving outdoor plants -- a fine alternative to starting from scratch each spring. Follow these tips and enjoy easy access to fresh herbs for months to come.

Photography by: Jen Causey
How does your (indoor) garden grow?

Pick wisely. Some herbs take better to indoor climes than others. Best suited for overwintering are sub-shrubs, which have woody stems as they mature (rosemary and lavender, for instance), and tougher herbs like thyme, oregano, parsley, and chives. A delicate herb like basil would never survive, and since growing new plants from seed is so easy, there’s really no need. You could try repotting sage, tarragon, or cilantro; personally, I’d rather harvest the remains and start over indoors.

Shake it off. If you’re replanting what’s already in your garden, keep in mind that outdoor soil will likely be heavier than a good potting mix. This could interfere with drainage, causing fatal buildup in smaller pots. The trick is to take up as little root ball as possible and replant in a lightweight potting mix designed for indoor use.

Photography by: Kate Mathis
Let it all hang out. Three-tier hanging wire basket, $13,

Mind your moisture. The biggest concern for indoor gardeners isn’t light, but humidity. Most modern homes are so sealed off from the elements -- especially in extreme summer and winter temperatures -- that the air is too dry to support growth. Encourage moisture by keeping plants away from heat vents and radiators, as well as out of direct sunlight, which could fry them in parched conditions. I like to set my potted plants atop pebble stones in trays filled with water, which creates a humid zone as the water evaporates.

Ease off. Make “survival first” your mantra. The trick is to allow the plant to go more or less dormant -- don't feed it or water it a lot, because the low light and imperfect conditions won’t support the resulting growth. By all means, enjoy what’s available -- but keep expectations realistic, and avoid picking your plant dry if you want it to see another season.

Photography by: Marcus Nilsson
Herbs on a pizza: always in season.

 Do you have any indoor gardening tips?