All summer we’ve been talking about growing herbs. But who says you need to stop now that winter is here? Herbs are perfect for indoor gardening, giving you greenery as well as a taste of summer freshness.
And best of all, they can be incredibly easy to grow. As long as you’ve got sunny window – ideally south-facing – and the ability to water them regularly, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy fresh herbs whenever you want them.
Annuals and biennials
Not all herbs are equally well suited to growing indoors. And there’s a difference between growing annuals which you can grow and harvest right away, or perennials which you will move outdoors in the summer.
You also want to consider how much space you have, or how tall you want the herbs to be. Dill is an annual that does well indoors, but it can get quite tall – great in the garden, but perhaps not the best choice on the windowsill.
Cilantro is another annual that can become quite tall in the garden – often more stem than leaf by the end of the season if it’s left on its own. But if you grow it in a window box in the kitchen, it’s easy to ensure it stays lush and bushy.
Parsley and basil are also excellent choices for indoor annuals. (To be accurate, parsley is a biennial – it doesn’t produce seed until its second growing season – but since we’re only interested in the leaves we can treat it as an annual).
Basil will do best if you stick to the smaller globe varieties, unless you’ve got room on your windowsill for a large pot.
All of these herbs can be easily started from seed and, given the right conditions, will have you enjoying fresh herbs before spring.
Some of our other favourite herbs are perennials, plants which just keep growing year after year. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy perennial herbs indoors, though. In fact, for some of the less hardy herbs like rosemary, bringing the pot indoors for the winter is the only way to keep them alive in our climate.
Other herbs will survive in the garden – chives, mint, oregano and thyme are all tough and frost-hardy. If you want to enjoy these indoors, one option is to dig a clump out of the ground in the fall, put it in a pot and bring it indoors. Next spring, you can either keep the potted plant indoors or move it outside for the summer.
If it’s too late in the season for that, there’s no reason not to start your perennial herbs from seed indoors. Just be aware that perennials often grow more slowly than annuals, so you may need to be patient before you’re able to enjoy this winter’s harvest.
Pick your pot
There are two main considerations for the pot: how big is your windowsill, and how big is the plant’s root?
Most people who want to grow herbs on a kitchen windowsill will want to stick to a smaller pot. Six inches is ideal, but you can get away with smaller ones depending on the herb. Another great option is to use rectangular pots rather than round ones – they give the plant lots of room to spread its roots without overhanging the edge of the windowsill.
As for the depth of the pot, chives, oregano, tarragon and thyme all do well with just three to six inches of soil. Basil, cilantro, parsley and rosemary all have deeper roots. That’s not to say they won’t grow in a shallower pot; it’s just that they’ll be happier if they have more depth.
If you have the space, a bigger pot will also give you a bit more flexibility when it comes to watering, holding more moisture so that you don’t need to water every day.