Getting Started with Herbs

Indoor herb gardening is a great way to have herbs ‘straight from the garden’ all year long, but it takes a little preparation…

over-winter-herbs1 Window light – Try to find a window with an eastern exposure. This will give your herb plants a clear, bright light that isn’t too hot. Leaves, like people, can get sunburned, too. Second best are windows with a southern or western exposure, but be sure you  have a way to ‘tone down the light’ on the plants during direct exposure times. There’s that sunburn thing again. Be careful if your only window has a northern exposure, because the plants may not get enough light and will become pale and straggly. In all exposures be sure to turn the plants regularly. Unlike in an outdoor garden, window plants will try and ‘reach for the sun.’ To make sure your plants are growing at a steady pace turn them periodically so that all sides of the plant get enough light exposure. Last, but not least, be sure to keep your windows clean. Dirt and dust on windows act as natural light inhibitors.

Soil – Every plant has its own nutritional needs. Herbs, in general are a more vigorous plant than say a flower or a vegetable and are often seen growing wild on hillsides, in drainage ditches and even on the side of a rocky cliff. Get to know your herb before you begin planting and make sure you provide the soil environment necessary for proper growth. Some herbs will require a good solid loam, while others prefer a more sandy soil. Also, be sure to check the seed packets or plant tags for the growing medium’s PH requirements.

Containers – All plants need proper drainage so that they do not water-logged roots. There are exceptions to this, such as watercress, but primarily herbs like their roots moist, but not soggy.

To this end be sure that, before filling your planting container with soil mix, you poke holes in the bottom of the containers. I like to make a hole about the size of my pinky nail and then place a small rock or pebble over the hole. This allows for good drainage without letting the soil leach out of the hole. Be sure to place a saucer or other water catching device beneath the container so that your windowsills stay dry.

Another word about containers…Be inventive! This is your garden! Herb containers can be anything from a window box or clay pot to an old soup can. The containers can be place on a windowsill, placed on shelving installed in front of a window, or even hung from the ceiling. This is your garden and it can be just as beautiful an inventive indoors as it would be outdoors.

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Seeds or Plants? –

Annuals –

basil In gardening, annual often refers to a plant grown outdoors in the spring and summer and surviving just for one growing season. – Wiki. Some herbs are best started from seed or purchased as small seedlings from a nursery each season. There are summer and winter annuals.

Winter annuals germinate in autumn or winter, live through the winter, then bloom in winter or spring. – Wiki.

The best way to ensure a long growing season for these annual plants, by the way, is to make sure you trim off any flower buds as they form. Basil is a good examples. Once the flowers are formed, the plant begins to make seed pods, putting all its energy into ‘the next generation.’ The leaves (the main part of the herb to be used most often with these plants) will then become bitter. Also cutting back the flower heads will, in many cases, make for a bushier plant.

Biennials –

A biennial plant is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months. Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming a rosette. Many biennials require a cold treatment, or vernalization, before they will flower. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant elongates greatly, or "bolts". The plant then flowers, producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants.

Under extreme climatic conditions, a biennial plant may complete its life cycle in a very short period of time (e.g. three or four months instead of two years). This is quite common in vegetable or flower seedlings that were exposed to cold conditions, or vernalized, before they were planted in the ground. This behavior leads to many normally biennial plants being treated as annuals in some areas. – Wiki

Perennials –

Common Chicory A perennial plant or simply perennialis a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annuals and biennials. The term is also widely used to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are also technically perennials.

Perennials, especially small flowering plants, that grow and bloom over the spring and summer, die back every autumn and winter, and then return in the spring from their root-stock, are known as herbaceous perennials. However, depending on the rigors of local climate, a plant that is a perennial in its native habitat, or in a milder garden, may be treated by a gardener as an annual and planted out every year, from seed, from cuttings or from divisions.

There is also a class of evergreen, or non-herbaceous, perennials, including plants like Bergenia which retain a mantle of leaves throughout the year. An intermediate class of plants is known as subshrubs, which retain a vestigial woody structure in winter, e.g. Penstemon. The local climate may dictate whether plants are treated as shrubs or perennials. For instance, in colder temperate climates, many shrubby varieties of Fuchsia are cut to the ground to protect them from winter frosts. – Wiki

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