Grow Your Own Herbs

Grow Your Own Herbs

Fresh basil in the organic garden

The end of the growing season doesn’t have to mean the end of fresh herbs.  Herbs make fragrant and attractive house plants.  Whether you live in the country and have your own organic garden or live in the city, consider growing your own herbs.

House-bound Herbs Need…

Light: If your most convenient window doesn’t get much, supplement it with a special bulb called a grow light.  (Two hours of grow light equal one hour of natural sunlight.)  Requirements vary:

All day sun: Chives, basil, anise, marjoram, borage, chervil, coriander, caraway, dill, rosemary, savory.

Partial sun: Mint, bay leaf, parsley, rosemary, thyme, myrtle.

No direct light: Ginger, lemon balm.  If the foliage turns yellow, the plant needs more light.

Moisture: Use luke warm water or the rinse water from sprout making.

Keep moist: Mints, lemon balm, rosemary, ginger, scented geraniums.

Dry out between watering: Bay leaf, marjoram, sage, oregano, thyme.

Seldom Water: Aloe (the very useful “burn plant”) thrives on neglect-dry soil and little light.

To increase humidity, set potted herbs on trays filled with water and gravel.  Make sure the plants are over the water, not in it.

Fresh air: Herbs thrive at 50 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  On cold days, a slightly open window in an adjoining room will provide cool air without a draft.

Pest protection: Although herbs are usually pest free, indoor conditions can sometimes attract bugs.  If they do, make a soap spray by dissolving two tablespoons of Ivory Soap Flakes in lukewarm water.  Spray both sides of the leaves once a week.  Note: Rinse leaves thoroughly before cooking or eating.

Space: Use a container with a diameter of one-half to one-third the ultimate height of the plant.  Group plants together (this creates humidity) but not so close that they touch.

Plant an indoor window box: Place large plants (rosemary and tarragon) at the edges.  Put smaller plants (basil, chives, thyme, parsley, and marjoram) in the center.  Not good in boxes: Sage needs a deep container…lemon balm and mint spread like crazy.

Decorate with herbs: Put parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, savory, and nasturtium in hanging baskets.  Put tall plants (bay leaf and lovage) in decorative pots in corners.  Place miniature plants (oregano, parsley, thyme) on tables or shelves.

Trimming: Keep plants cut back for a uniform, attractive appearance.




To get Started



Herbs can be grown from…

Seeds.* Clean your containers and fill them one fourth to one third full with drainage material (bits of broken bricks or clay pots, pebbles).  Then fill them to within one inch of the top with sterile commercial potting soil.  Label.  Mist daily until germination, then water as needed.  Fertilize with liquid seaweed or fish emulsion one week after germination and again in one month.  When the plants grow their first set of true leaves, thin them by leaving only the healthiest plant in each pot.

Cuttings. Get cutting from friends with outdoor herb gardens.  Many herbs (chives, mint, oregano, lemon balm, etc.) spread so quickly that gardeners are happy to give some plants away.  If you can’t plant the cuttings immediately, put them in water.  When time permits, prepare a pot with a drainage layer, then fill it about half-way with soil, tamping firmly.  Soak the soil.

Small Plants from a nursery. These are the easiest to deal with, but the most costly-about $2.50 each.

* The best seeds (open pollinated and chemically untreated) are available in natural food and gardening stores and on the Internet:

High Mowing Organic Seeds–

Johnny’s Selected Seeds–

Seeds of Change–

Originally published in The Quick and Easy Organic Gourmet by Leslie Cerier Copyright 1996. All right reserved to Leslie Cerier.