Expert-Approved Tips for Creating a Lush, Bountiful Windowsill Herb Garden
Not only will your petite indoor garden look good, but you'll also be able to add fresh herbs to your recipes whenever you want.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme aren't just lyrics to a Simon & Garfunkel song—they also happen to be some of the herbs best-suited to a curated indoor environment. And who doesn't want more fresh herbs readily available for use in their home cooking? Ahead, former senior garden editor Todd Carr and Ryan McEnany, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries, reveal which herbs can thrive in your indoor herb garden and share their tops tips on how to treat your plants right.
"The first thing to look at [when thinking of indoor herbs to plant] is where your natural light comes into your kitchen," says McEnany. "Do you get at least six hours of light each day? Most herbs need almost full sun, so if you don't naturally have a lot of light, you will want to look an artificial light setup." LED growing lights are actually pretty easy to find, so even if your windowsill doesn't receive much light, don't give up hopes of having a thriving indoor garden. "A lot of herbs are derived from a Mediterranean climate, which is why they like those long days of sun," McEnany adds. "It also leads them to prefer well-drained soil, so be sure your pots can drain out of the bottom and that the soil is organic (you're going to be eating from this, so you don't want lots of chemicals mixed in) and intended for pots." Starting off with the right light, soil, and pots will make planting, growing, and caring for your indoor herb garden so simple.
An adaptable perennial beloved for its fresh fragrance and cool flavor, mint is a perfect candidate for indoor growth due to its hardiness. The herb should be kept consistently damp but be careful: Drowning the plant in excess moisture will hasten its decomposition. Plant these delicious additions in your indoor herb garden to elevate your favorite recipes.
Parsley presents an excellent opportunity for windowsill cultivation and is most prolific when exposed to sunlight and sufficient periodic hydration. Much like mint, parsley needs sunlight at least several hours per day. "If you do not have an east- or south-facing window for sunlight, install a grow light," Carr advises. "Grow lights use a photosynthesis-optimizing light spectrum that plants need."
Whether sautéed with brown butter and drizzled over a dish or swirled into a sweet cocktail, sage is a key ingredient in any chef's culinary arsenal. When placed on a sunny perch, this herb can grow in an indoor environment. "Try to position each plant to receive as much full sun as possible and turn the pots in the windowsill," Carr recommends. Rotating your herbs will ensure that the plant's entirety gains sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis without overexposing a single side and thus fostering unbalanced growth or premature peaking.
Carr cautions that rosemary can be a temperamental plant, but attentive care can yield great growth. "Don't overwater your herbs, as mildew can occur," Carr says. Insects are also a concern for sensitive plants like rosemary. "Periodically check for pests, and use an organic pesticide if you find an infestation such as aphids or mealworms."
An herbaceous addition to pestos, salads, and meat marinades alike, cilantro grows rapidly after its initial planting and wilts relatively quickly thereafter. However, its short life span can be reasonably protracted with several hours of direct sunlight per day and moderate heat below 70 degrees, a temperature range to which many indoor herbs respond well.
"A few notable exceptions include dill, oregano, and rosemary, which should have the soil dry out, at least on the surface to the touch," says McEnany.
"Certain herbs like basil grow quickly from seed, producing harvest-ready crops in a few weeks, and are the most cost-effective option," says McEnany.
"Other herbs like bay leaves can take months, so you should start with a small container plant from your local garden center, co-op, or grocery store," says McEnany.
This herb is actually used for medicinal purposes, and tastes great in a variety of dishes, like our tasty Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Soup that's sure to cure anything that ails you.
Delicious in a baked potato, atop eggs, and so much more, this herb has an almost green onion like flavor, but is a fraction of the size.
McEnany recommends this plant to add some extra kick to your window herb garden.