Humans have been growing and using herbs since prehistoric times.
In fact, the cave paintings from Lascaux, France, believed to originate between 13,000 and 25,000 B.C., depict drawings of herbs. In the 5th century B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates created a list of around 400 commonly used herbs.
The Middle Ages saw the utilization of herbs to mask body odor and bad breath, preserve meat, and conceal the rotting taste of food that couldn’t be refrigerated. American Indians applied herbs in medicine, tanning and dyeing leather.
Today, growing herbs is a very popular and rewarding activity, especially if you love cooking and want to have a fresh supply of herbs within your reach at all times. Also, there’s something inherently peaceful and relaxing about gardening – planting seeds, waiting for the first signs of progress, watching the plants grow, and caring for them, doing your best to make them thrive.
Even if your living space doesn’t come with a garden, there are ways to grow herbs indoors. The perfect spot is usually in the kitchen, where your favorite condiment is at an arm’s length anytime you need it.
This article will explain how to ensure perfect conditions for your herbs to thrive the entire year, regardless of the season.
Use a Hydroponic System
Hydroponic growing is a great alternative to traditional, soil-based methods. Essentially, it refers to growing plants without soil, using only water and mineral solutions, as well as a growing medium like gravel or perlite where required.
An ideal way to grow herbs, a hydroponic system has multiple advantages over soil-based growing, including:
- optimal conditions (like light and warmth) for growing all year long, regardless of the season,
- efficient use of water,
- taking less time and effort,
- requiring no pesticides,
- taking significantly less space,
- various levels of automatization.
Hydroponic Systems for Different Budgets
The hydroponic systems are available at different prices. If the money is tight, you can use a basic hydroponic system like the SavvyGrow DWC Hydroponic System Growing Kit (under $50) or Back to the Roots Water Garden and Fish Tank (under $100).
However, if the budget limitations aren’t an issue and you want to take advantage of the newest technological advancements in hydroponic herb growing, go for a product like Alexa-enabled AeroGarden Bounty Elite. Check out our comprehensive review of great hydroponic systems here.
Choose the Right Herbs
Most herbs can thrive the entire year in any type of garden, provided that the conditions are suitable. They are divided into annual and biennial herbs on one side, and perennial herbs on the other.
Annual and biennial plants complete their entire life cycle (from seed to flower to seed) in one (annual) or two (biennial) years. Such herbs include:
- summer savory,
- sweet marjoram,
They grow fast and are best sown in intervals (three to four weeks) throughout spring and summer. This ensures a guaranteed continuous supply of fresh leaves.
Perennial plants persist for multiple growing seasons. These herbs include:
- Russian tarragon,
- lemon balm,
They grow slower and require more permanent accommodation. Ideally, they should be sown in spring.
Find a Good Spot with Plenty of Light
If grown in typical garden soil, herbs can be planted in borders, planters, beds, containers, or on windowsills. If you’re planning on growing herbs indoors, you need to make sure they receive as much natural light as possible. Not providing enough natural light for your herbs can cause them to become pale or yellow, grow poorly and/or slowly, or produce smaller leaves.
This means you need to place them near a window, preferably facing south and receiving at least six hours of sunlight every day. If you can’t achieve south-facing space, then west is the next-best thing for herbs that don’t require as much light, including parsley, mint, and thyme.
If providing enough natural light is a difficult (if not impossible) task, a great alternative is to purchase a grow light that mimics it. The market is filled with all sorts of excellent, full-spectrum solutions out there that will suit your herbs (and space). In the beginning, have the lights on for 12 to 16 hours a day for bright-light plants and then adjust according to their specific needs.
Provide Good Drainage
Unless you’re using a hydroponic system that waters your plants automatically, you might accidentally over-water your herbs. Over-watering and letting them sit in too much liquid can downright kill them as it causes their roots to rot. This is why you need to use pots with drainage holes and a saucer or drain pan under it to catch the extra water.
The opposite – drying out is just as bad. If you’re living in a dry climate or the air in your spaces is dry because of the heating or air conditioning, avoid using clay pots as they dry out quickly. Additionally, invest in a good potting mix formula which can help the soil re-wet while feeding the plant and defending it from gnats.
Set the Right Temperature
Indoor herbs like indoor temperatures – around 65-70°Fahrenheit (18-21°Celsius). Even if the temperature near the window falls to 55-60°F (12-15°Celsius) during the night, that’s mostly fine as long as the leaves aren’t touching the window glass because this might cause frostbites.
That said, some herbs are trickier. Take basil for example. It prefers temperatures in the 70s°F (20s°C) both day and night, which is typically impossible to achieve if you constantly keep it on a windowsill. So basil should definitely be moved away from the window during colder temperatures.
Heating or air conditioning might seem like a good solution to adjust the temperature for your herbs but this might result in dry air which is actually damaging for most herbs. If you must use these, it’s best to also use a humidifier.
Ensure proper nourishment
Similar to humans, animals, and critters, herbs can get hungry and need to be properly nourished to stay healthy and alive. Nourishment is typically provided in the form of water and fertilizer, often poured in the soil from where the plant feeds itself or supplied by a water pump in a hydroponic system.
Today, you can buy all sorts of nutrient combinations to make sure your herbs grow strong. Alternatively, you can make your own plant food at home to make sure there aren’t any harmful filler ingredients and chemicals sometimes present in store-bought plant food.
This way, you can save money as well, since there are plenty of common household items that can be used as plant nutrition. Examples include:
- baking soda,
- Epsom salts,
- coffee grounds,
- bone meal,
- banana peels,
- eggshells, and more.
You should apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer to your herbs once or twice a month, or as required by a specific herb or its condition.
Find your Green Thumb
There are many secrets, tips, and tricks to learn on the way to becoming a master herb grower. Hopefully, this article has put you on the right track to success. You now know what herbs to grow, where to put them, and how to ensure perfect conditions for them to thrive. The rest is now up to you. We wish you the best of luck and many successful seasons.