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How to Grow Herbs Indoors the Easy Way

Growing herbs is one of the best ways to add a little more depth of flavor to your recipes. It’s nice to have herbs in the garden through the summer, but it’s even easier to use them if they’re growing on your kitchen counter! Growing herbs indoors also means you’ll have fresh herbs on-hand all year. Furthermore, if you tend to choose organic foods, indoor herb gardening lets you control the growing environment and avoid consuming herbicides and pesticides.

Growing your own herbs is also a great way to get an early start on gardening before we can really get outside and grow a vegetable garden. Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme are especially easy herbs to grow indoors in Iowa. Here are a few tips for beginner herb gardeners on how to grow each of them inside your home!

What Do Herbs Need?

A common belief is that all herbs come from hot places with Mediterranean-style climates, so they all need to be kept hot and dry. Many Mediterranean herbs do prefer these conditions, but not all of them, so don’t treat every herb the same! With that said, they all have a few things in common.

All herbs need these things:

Strong sunlight for a minimum of 6-8 hours per day. If you have a sunny south-facing window, that’s the perfect location. You’ll still need to supplement with a grow light during the darkest weeks of winter. Under artificial light, they’ll need 10-12 hours of light per day.

The ideal temperature for growing herbs is between 60-70ºF, so it’s best to keep them in a spot where the temperature is nice and steady, away from drafts and heating vents.

Every herb needs good drainage to prevent the development of root rot. Use high-quality potting soil, and adapt it to the preferences of each plant. Make sure your herb containers have drainage holes and place a saucer under each pot to catch any excess water.

Since herbs have their own different preferences, it’s best to let each of them grow in their own individual pot. 4″ pots are a great size to start with for most herbs.

Organic seaweed fertilizer is excellent for herbs. Seaweed fertilizer has a high nitrogen content, which encourages strong leafy growth, and is available as an organic fertilizer. During the spring and summer, herbs can be fertilized once per week. In winter, cut back to one application per month. 

All plants need good air circulation, so don’t cram your herbs too close together! Good air circulation helps your herbs grow their best and helps to prevent the spread of diseases.

Watering is a bit tricky and varies depending on the herb. Generally, you should only water once the soil at the top of the pot is dry. We’ll include more watering details for each different herb below. 

 

Basil 

Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, but well-drained.
Watering: Basil needs to be watered regularly; it likes evenly moist soil, but not wet roots. Don’t let basil’s soil get too dry before you water again. Basil is sensitive to both over-watering and under-watering, so do your best to keep it on schedule. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other Notes: Pinch off individual leaves for cooking. Pinching the top leaves from stems will encourage bushier growth. Pinch off any flowers you see right away, as the flavor of the plant may lessen once it goes to seed.

 

Oregano

Soil Needs: Sandy and rocky soil.
Watering:  Oregano likes the soil on top to get dry between waterings, but don’t let it dry out completely. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other Notes: Oregano benefits from regular trimming; it encourages bushier growth, so don’t be afraid to add it to your recipes frequently. Pinch off any flowers you see as soon as possible. 

 

Parsley

Soil Needs: Parsley isn’t too picky and will do well in any good-quality potting soil.
Watering: Parsley likes evenly moist soil, so it may need more frequent watering, like your basil. It also likes humidity, so if your house has really dry air, it’s a good idea to mist it once per day. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other notes: Once parsley is about 6 inches tall, you can start harvesting it. Work from the outside in, clipping the stems close to the soil. Don’t cut the tops off the whole plant, as this will stunt new growth.

 

Rosemary

Soil Needs: High-quality potting soil with good drainage in a terracotta pot.
Watering: Rosemary needs its soil to dry between waterings. To test, stick your finger in the soil to a depth of about 1″; if the soil is dry, it’s time to water. 
Other notes: Rosemary does need excellent air circulation because it can be prone to powdery mildew. Indoor rosemary plants will need regular fertilizer. Rosemary shouldn’t be harvested until branches are about 8″ tall, then you can cut off the top 2-3 inches of each stem. Then the plant will need time to recover from the trimming before you can harvest again. You may want to keep several rosemary plants at once so that you always have one that is ready for trimming.

 

Thyme

Soil Needs: High-quality potting soil, with some extra perlite added for drainage
Watering: Thyme also needs to dry a bit between watering, so make sure the top of the soil is dry before you water.
Other notes: You can start using thyme as soon as it has a nice amount of foliage. Clipping the woodiest stems short, right down to the soil line, will encourage new growth. 

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If you’re ready to start your own kitchen herb garden, stop by our garden center for a visit. We’ve got a variety of herbs, soils, pots, fertilizers, and grow lights available to help you get started, and even countertop herb garden kits that include everything you need in one convenient package! 

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Cocktail Herb Gardens

Cocktail Herb Gardens

Summer in Des Moines is all about long afternoons and relaxing in the gorgeous weather, often with a delicious cocktail in hand. And fresh herbs taken straight from the garden are the perfect way to finish a summer drink!

The “drink your yard” trend is a few years old and in full swing, and has to be one of our favorites to come around in a long time. It’s a great way to get creative with the staples in your garden in new and interesting ways you may never have explored before. Here are our top 4 herbs to grow indoors to keep your glass full all summer.

Cocktail Herb Gardens

Mint
While not incredibly original, there’s a reason that mint is such a classic when it comes to summer cocktails. With such fresh flavor, it’s simply meant to be enjoyed on a back patio. From mojitos, to sweet teas, to mint juleps—mint gives a special lift to summer cocktails.

Mint fresh from the garden is so much more flavorful than store-bought. Thankfully, this herb is easy to grow and will only spread with more enthusiasm when you pinch the leaves off often, so feel free to be greedy with your mint this summer. Mint plants are so enthusiastic, you’ll have more than you can drink! You may find yourself giving it away, or hosting friends and family just to make more cocktails. All mints are famous for their growing prowess, but we love Mojitio mint in particular – and we like to keep it contained to a pot to keep it under control.

Try not to let your herb bloom, as flowering changes the flavor of the herb – ironically, though, the flavor will be at its best right before flowers appear. Plant in moist soil and don’t bother with fertilizer. Mint works well in containers, but it’s also been said to improve the taste of peas and tomatoes when grown as a companion plant.

Cocktail Herb Gardens

BasilBasil has a bad reputation for being difficult to grow. We won’t deny that it takes a bit of patience and the perfect Goldilocks-like balance of soil conditions that are Just Right, but it isn’t impossible to grow at home. Once you find the right mix, your basil will thrive. Just remember if you don’t succeed the first time—it’s not you, it’s the basil!

The key is to get the moisture right: not too much and not too little. Start with soil that has great drainage, and find a location that gets a generous 6-8 hours of sun. It’s easy once you find the right fit. 

If you’re used to eating packaged or dried basil, buckle up and get ready to have your culinary world changed. Leaves fresh off of the plant pack an intense flavor that is peppery and delightful. If you’re cooking, add fresh basil at the end as the flavors deteriorate quickly with heat – but if you’re adding leaves to a chilled beverage, you’ll be treated to the full flavor experience. We love the unexpected-yet-refreshing edge that basil gives to so many of our favorite beverages. It’s the perfect summer-fresh flavor.

Full sun is key to the growing basil with the best flavor. The heat of bright sunlight is essential to develop the oils that give basil its signature aroma. Try to prevent your basil from going to flower, as the flavor will change, but when it inevitably does bloom it makes for a pretty ornamental plant. Older plants and older leaves have less intense flavor, so replant new ones every few years to keep a top-quality supply on-hand. In the meantime, pinch leaves off regularly to season your dinner table and drinks. The more you take, the more leaves it grows

Cocktail Herb Gardens

Lemon Balm
There aren’t many flavors more summery than the tangy taste of lemon – whether in a marinade, a dessert, or a cocktail. Get ready to fall in love with lemon all over again with lemon balm. While it’s not on the usual roster of herbs for many people, this subtle flavor workhorse is a great addition to your herb garden. Simply add it to anything you’d consider adding some citrus zest to. 

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is simple to grow and easy to love. You’ll start enjoying this herb as soon as you pick it up to plant it—the plant releases a potent blast of lemon fragrance when you rustle its leaves. Plant in a container to give it a boost in warm soil conditions. Although related to the more aggressive mint plant, lemon balm actually makes a great container mate with other plants. Cut it back often to keep a healthy and bushy plant, and use it on everything from tea, fish, drinks, or even in decorative arrangements. To keep the flavor fresh and full, do not fertilize; water and sun are enough for this low-key plant. To sweeten the deal even further, this herb repels most insects—except bees!

Cocktail Herb Gardens

Herbs are the surprising cocktail ingredient for taking your drinks from simple to satisfying. Experiment with sprigs of fresh herbs, or try infusing simple syrups with them to take your home bar to the next level. Enjoy them all to yourself or impress your friends with your mixology skills!