During winter, you can grow herbs indoors to keep up your fresh herb supply. The best rooms are the kitchen or bathroom, as these stay slightly warm and humid through the winter months. Sow your herbs in pots and place them on a windowsill or in a place that catches the full benefit of any sun.
If sufficient warmth and light are a problem, you can place your indoor herbs under a fluorescent light or sun lamp, but don’t leave it on all the time, just for the recommended 4 to 6 hours a day.
To keep your herbs growing, just snip off the amount of leaves you need for the dish you are preparing. Your indoor winter herbs won’t be as lush as your outdoor summer garden produces, but they will give you the unrivalled flavour of fresh herbs.
The Best Herbs to Grow Indoors
- Chives: Use in salads and sauces or with vegetables
- Chocolate mint: Use in teas, soups, and salads.
- Rosemary: Use with meat, especially lamb.
- Oregano: Use for sauces, especially Italian cuisine.
- Thyme: Use with fish and poultry.
Find the Perfect Pots
You will need to pot up some smallish-size herb plants, because the containers need to fit on a windowsill. 4-inch pots work nicely.
Remember to use pots with drainage holes so your herbs don’t rot. And that means the pots need to rest in saucers, which — if you are eyeing the width of your sill right now — should be a little wider than the pots. So you need at least a 5-inch windowsill. We like terra-cotta pots, but they do dry out quickly in winter’s heated indoor “weather,” and the saucers leak. Use a plastic liner or rubber pad.
How to Plant Indoor Herbs
1. Cover the drainage hole with a small square of window screening; then fill the bottom one-third or so of the pot with potting soil. Use the plastic nursery container (with the plant still in it) to check the soil level.
2. At this point, you can just pull the herb out of its original nursery container and place it on the soil. But here’s a neat trick: Put the herb — while it is still in its nursery container — in your windowsill pot, and fill with potting soil. You read that right: You now have a pot within a pot. It gets less confusing.
3. Press down the soil between the rims of the two pots with a thick dowel or your fingertips. Add more soil as needed. Do not press down the soil in the plastic nursery container.
4. Now carefully remove the nursery container (and plant) from your windowsill pot. There will remain a perfectly formed hole in the center of the terra-cotta pot. You probably already know what’s coming.
5. You take the herb out of the plastic nursery container and place it in the dark void at the center of your terra-cotta pot. It fits! Now water the soil and get growing.
Bring Outdoor Herbs In
Another way to start a winter herb garden indoors is to move plants from your garden into your kitchen.
You won’t want to uproot whole plants, because by this time of year they are far too large for just about any windowsill. And buying pots for huge herbs would offset any savings you might make by growing gargantuan greens indoors. What you want to save are pieces of the plant runners or divisions. Herbs like chives and mint divide easily; others require a bit more work.
However, since the plants at this point are basically freebies, you don’t need to concern yourself as much with what will make it through the dry-heat season indoors. If they die, they die, and you’ve had free fresh herbs out of season for however long it took those ill-fated herbs to sputter out.
Do not consider any such windowsill sputtering as a gardening failure. Consider it scientific experimentation and financial pioneering. Maybe you do want to try growing that basil indoors after all.
How to Transfer Outdoor Herbs
1. To transfer suitably-sized outdoor herbs to your windowsill pot, look for new growth.Some herbs can be divided. Others, such as this golden thyme, can be separated from the mother plant by inserting a trowel sharply just behind the newly-formed roots of an advancing stem.
2. Put the plant and root ball in a plastic bag to transport it back to your kitchen sink or potting table.
3. Pot it up, water thoroughly, and sharpen your scissors.