Indoor Herb Garden Basics and Growing Advice

Anyone can begin growing their indoor herb garden without much fuss. Fresh herbs contain more flavor, look better, and have a superior texture to anything you can find at the store that has been sitting around for a while. Growing herb for decoration shows your adult friends that you have your life together (right?)as well as providing a pop of color and a wonderful smell in the grow area

While the word “herbs” covers a large swath of vegetation, the vast majority of plants that fit this description will respond well to similar grow environments. They all need:

  • A little light (about 200µmols/m2/sec)
  • Stable moisture in the root zone
  • Very slight root zone aeration
  • limited nutrient content with a focus on nitrogen
  • Limited ventilation

Indoor herb garden in your kitchen or window box

Because of these modest requirements, you can produce a bounty of herbs from your indoor garden in any window box sans supplemental lighting. Even if your grow spot is not in direct sunlight, the lighting need can be met using inexpensive under-cabinet lights, or LED track lighting. Meanwhile, air circulation is nice, but rarely becomes a factor in a lived-in space.

This leaves us with only dealing with nutrients and the root zone. This decision depends on how you want to present the herbs aesthetically, how many you need, and the specific herbs you want.

In general, soil or Kratky are you options for growing like this. Soil wins out with versatility and allowing you flexibility in how you mount everything. This is very important if you need to have that Pinterest-worthy setup with mason jars at angles. Kratky, however, allows for much faster growth and much less maintenance (if done correctly, and that is a big if).

Commercially available small-scale growing systems also exist that might be a good fit. The most famous of these, the Aerogarden, provides a small number of grow sites, easy to use cartridges of seeds, and integrated lighting that allows you to keep a reasonable amount of parsley/mint/basil on hand. Using a full aeroponic grow system, then produce quite well and quickly, from very small seed cartridges.

Picture of Vaxer indoor herb gardenIkea’s KRYDDA/VÄXER kits also provide a prebuilt and attractive place to grow your plants. This system runs Kratky, so cultivation will be slower than in the Aerogarden. However, the whole thing can be tossed in your dishwasher for cleaning, which counts as a big plus in our book.

Growing large quantities of herbs

For systems that grow large amount of herbs, (restaurant systems or where you’re growing to meet a specific need of a lot of a fresh herb [pesto every week!]), some options open up.

Vertical farm
Outdoor vertical grow tower

While soil and Kratky are still viable, Indoor NFT systems now become relevant. They allow you to grow large amounts of any herb, quickly with the trade off of much more complexity, maintenance, and noise. Vertical towers also start to become viable. Both of these generate huge yields. However, getting them to fit in with your kitchen is nigh impossible without truly focusing on aesthetics. Because of this, most larger grow systems typically go in basements, yards, or flat roofs.

Any indoor method will now require lighting, ventilation, and a proper nutrient delivery system.

Next steps

The quick and dirty

If you want to start now without thinking about it too much:

  • Get your herb seeds. Cilantro, parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, etc. They all grow great indoors
  • Get some 16Oz plastic cups, and cut 4-8 slits in the bottom
  • Get a plastic plate or other shallow container you can put under the cups
  • Fill the cups with some potting mix to within 1/2″ of the top
  • Place the cups in a warm, and not-too-bright place
  • Poke a couple of seeds in each one for larger herbs like basil or sage, and just put a bunch in for the tiny ones like cilantro, or chives
  • Water until water comes out the bottom of the cups
  • keep the top moist for a couple of weeks while they sprout. I keep them next to the sink so I remember
  • Once the sprout has 2 leaves, move them to the light
  • Water them for a few weeks when the top gets dry
  • After they have longer roots, you can bottom water them by just keeping 1/4″ of water in the container

The quick and pretty

Same technique, but like a crafting magazine would do it

  • Get your herb seeds.
  • Get some quart mason jars
  • Get some river stones or glass stones for the bottom of the jar. These are for better drainage, and you’ll want a 1″ layer of them
  • Fill the jars with 1″ of the drainage stones and some potting mix to within 1/2″ of the top
  • Place the jars in a warm, and not-too-bright place
  • Poke a couple of seeds in each one for larger herbs like basil or sage, and just put a bunch in for the tiny ones like cilantro, or chives
  • Water until you see water just barely make its way into the drainage stones
  • Keep the top moist for a couple of weeks, but don’t let too much pool up in the drainage stones
  • Once the sprout has 2 leaves, move them to the light
  • Water them for a few weeks when the top gets dry, never let the drain water go over the stones

The best way

First, take our How Should I Grow survey and pick your favorite method that works in your situation.

Next, learn about that grow method by reading the accompanying article.

Then plan your grow, sprout your plants, and gather your materials. In a few weeks you’ll have the freshest herbs you can get.

Happy growing!

3 years ago