The easiest way to cheer up your kitchen in the middle of winter? Grow herbs indoors. With a few fresh sprigs at your fingertips, you can add instant flavor to everything from smoothies to soups.
Most herbs do well in pots, but not all thrive inside: bay, mint, Italian parsley, chives, and variegated lemon thyme are a few of your best options. Below, we offer expert advice to ensure you’ll have a steady supply of these five hardy favorites all season long.
Plant Seedlings Indoor herbs grow best from seedlings as opposed to seeds. Buy starter plants at a local nursery or online from Territorial Seed, and plant seedlings at the same depth they were growing in their nursery containers. Use a regular potting mix for mint, parsley, and chives. Bay and thyme like very well-drained soil, so plant them in a 1:1 ratio of cactus mix and regular potting soil.
Go Big Choose pots that are at least 5 inches wide and deep—any smaller and you risk root-bound plants. Once the bay plant reaches 8 to 12 inches, repot it into a 1-gallon (or larger if you can spare the space) container. Grow one plant per pot, and make sure the pots have holes in the bottom so water can drain out.
Let There Be Light To avoid plants growing weak and spindly from a lack of light, place them in a sunny south-facing window that gets at least 6 hours of bright sunlight every day. Even better, set them under a grow light that stays on for 16 hours a day and off for 8 hours at night. Using supplemental light encourages more robust growth.
Water Sparingly The roots of pot-grown plants are prone to rotting: indoor herbs most often die from soil that stays too wet, rather than overly dry. Test the soil moisture frequently with the tip of your finger, and water only if the soil is dry down to the top of your first knuckle.
Increase Humidity Indoor herbs prefer drier soil, but their leaves appreciate a bit of humidity. Set the pots on a shallow tray filled with river rocks. Fill the space between the rocks with water, making sure that the bottoms of the pots stay above the water line. As the water evaporates, it helps humidify the air directly around the plants.
Fertilize Later Wait to fertilize until daylight hours begin to lengthen in spring and the plants begin to actively grow. Water the plants with a liquid organic fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth Liquid Solution Concentrate, once a month. Follow the fertilizer application rates and directions on the label.