Indoor herb Garden

(Question)

Hi,

I’ve zero experience growing plants or vegetables. I’m making my girlfriend an indoor herb garden for her birthday.Shhh it’s a surprise. I’ve read the guide here for growing herbs but wondering if there there are any tips or resources for indoor herb growing?
for instance
– which herbs to buy/not buy
– which herbs will not grow indoors
– etc.

thanks in advance.

(Answer)

Your idea of making an indoor herb garden for your girlfriend sounds like a lovely and fun project.

There are many herbs that you can grow indoors as long as you remember that herbs are not like leafy houseplants, which often tolerate poor lighting conditions because they come from tropical jungles, where there is a mix of shade and sun. Herbs are used to growing on open hills, mountain sides, valleys, and coastal areas. They require lots of sunshine – which is a challenge in indoor environments. So you will need a southern aspect to be able to position your herb garden where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunshine a day. A western aspect may also work. Use grow lights if you cannot provide sufficient natural light. If you locate your herb garden on a windowsill it would be prudent to turn your herb garden each day for an even amount of sunlight on all sides. Bathrooms, conservatories, and sunny porches are often good growing locations.

Use a lightweight container growing mix (not garden soil) and mix a scoop of gritty sand into it, as most herbs seem to love a bit of sand. Trim herbs regularly to avoid letting their stems get spindly and weak.

Do not over water herbs, most prefer to be kept on the dry side. Let the top of the soil get dry and crusty-looking before you water.

Do not fertilize as generally speaking most herbs do not need to be boosted with plant food, they do better without it.

In terms of which herbs to buy/not to buy, particularly if you plan on combining them in a herb garden,   key considerations are their light/water requirements and their growth rates/habits. Your collection may look lovely at the outset but because herbs have different growing rates and habits it may start to look messy over time. For example it is inadvisable to mix perennials (such as Oregano) with annuals (such as Marjoram or Basil).

Herbs that can be a hassle indoors include: Dill (gets tall and spindly), Lovage (grows too big), Mint (spreaders that can quickly become root bound or take over other plants, then they stop producing leaves, if you want to use mint be prepared to dig it up and divide it), Oregano (related to mint) and Thyme (again a spreader, if you want to try Thyme look for T. vulgaris “Compactus”).

That leaves a wide variety of herbs you could buy. There are many books on herbs available to consult as well as societies where advice can be obtained, for example the Canadian Herb society:  https://www.herbsociety.ca/ but some of the more popular herbs to grow include Basil (many different varieties), Chives, Parsley, Sage (many different varieties) and Marjoram (look for a variety called Origanum majorana “kitchen wonder” which was developed especially for pot culture).

Whatever you select I hope you enjoy the project and your girlfriend loves the end result!