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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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Best Patio Veggie Varieties

Ted Lare Best Patio Veggie Varieties

Getting in our daily serving of vegetables can be a challenge, and when your produce from the supermarket tastes less than stellar, it can be even harder. Having delicious, fresh edibles straight from the garden makes getting your daily servings a whole lot easier. With a patio garden, you’ll have all of the best garden flavors as close as possible to your kitchen— you’ll barely even need to leave the house to pick tomatoes straight from the vine! Get your fresh produce from plant to table in record time by growing your favorite flavors on the patio.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Container Gardening with Vegetables:
Gardening trends are always evolving and vegetable gardens are not immune to the growing understanding of the “best” way to go about growing your freshest flavors. These days, our homegrown produce isn’t limited to rows upon rows in a garden bed in the backyard. You can grow food just as delicious in containers, mixing up your gardening routine to something a little more convenient.

Container gardening has lots of advantages that make the most of their space. This growing style offers simpler upkeep, is easy to place wherever is most convenient, reduces the amount of work needed, and often even boosts the flavor of your edibles!

Best Patio Vegetables:
Patio gardening has traditionally been confined to little plants, like herbs. While herb gardens are still a valuable part of your patio garden repertoire, there’s so much more that you can do just outside your door! Container gardens are surprisingly flexible and there are lots of ways to bring beautiful and functional edible gardens to your home:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Herbs
For edible garden beginners, home chefs, and those that like to keep things simple, herb containers are the perfect place to get started. They are low-maintenance, filled with delicious herbs that will elevate your cooking to the next level, and are adaptable to fill your balcony, patio, or windowsill with lush and fragrant foliage ready for the picking.

Each plant has its own unique set of needs, but many of the most popular herbs are happy growing in a smaller container and don’t grow to an unmanageable size. Simply ensure proper drainage, use good quality potting soil, and find a watering schedule that is right for your plants. Then, get ready to enjoy their delicious flavors in your cooking!

There are lots of herbs that pair well together in dishes and in containers for growing, as they have similar needs. We love the fragrant and lush look of rosemary, oregano, and thyme together for a Mediterranean blend, or a combination of basil, parsley, and mint for a container for more temperate homes.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tomatoes
These are one of the garden staples that simply can’t be forgotten when putting together your patio containers. We’re lucky that this delicious vegetable staple absolutely flourishes in containers, making it easy to care for and perfect for the patio. You’ll instantly be able to taste the difference between your homegrown tomatoes and those you pick up from the supermarket—and these lush plants dripping ruby jewels of produce for you makes for a pleasant addition to your backyard.

Determinate tomatoes are the best choice for containers because of their more compact growing habit that doesn’t require as much maintenance to keep upright. These plants ripen quickly and need only a little support from a trellis or cage. Choose from a variety of sizes for all of your snacking, salad, and sandwich needs.  

The key to impressive tomato flavor is consistent watering. Keeping the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, will give you produce that is the envy of your whole neighborhood. Try using self-watering containers for a stress-free way to keep your plants hydrated, or develop a schedule that has you checking your plants regularly in the mornings.

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Peppers
Given the right love and care, some peppers actually grow better in containers than they do in the garden, thanks to their need for warmer soil temperatures. Bushy plants with small, delicate—and brightly colored, ornamental-looking—fruits are perfect for container growing.

Keep your peppers in a sunny spot where they can soak up all the heat that they can. Especially important for hot peppers, a little heat is important while they are growing to bring out the spice in them! Keep your peppers well hydrated to help them make the most of the constant heat and exposure.

Don’t be shy to repot your peppers as they grow and flourish into gorgeous mature plants. With a pot that’s a little bigger than normal, you’ll have a much easier time keeping their roots well hydrated even in the hottest days of the summer. For the best, tastiest, and prettiest pepper results, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every 1-2 weeks.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Leafy Greens
There’s nothing quite as satisfying or healthy as a fresh, crisp serving of greens from the garden. Favorite leafy greens, like lettuce, spinach, and kale, are extremely popular options that really fill out a container garden. Not only will you enjoy the easy access to get them into your kitchen, but you’ll also love that their proximity to your home in containers discourages backyard critters from nibbling away at them before you have the opportunity to!

Most leafy greens are vegetables that prefer growing in the cool season, thriving in the spring and fall, but diminishing in the heat of the summer. These vegetables are perfect for grazing on and pulling a little bit to eat at a time rather than harvesting it all at once.

These greens grow with roots that are shallow and spread out, so planting them in a fitting, wide, and shallow container is ideal. This is a great way to add visual interest to your container garden, too, with a bit of a new size and dimension to enjoy. Plant lettuce, spinach, and kale with lots of sunlight so their broad leaves can soak up the rays. Plant with good quality soil and in a container with drainage, and keep them consistently moist for the lushest and tastiest results.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bulbs
Bulbs do most of their growing work underground, so bulb edibles aren’t naturally the first option people think of with their container gardening. However, they’re actually a perfect fit for containers, which actually keep them very low maintenance and just as delicious. Onions and garlic are great container garden options as they are key ingredients in so many of our favorite dishes.

Plant garlic in the fall, with a bit of time to get established before the first fall frosts arrive. If you missed the fall planting, you can still plant in the spring, but you won’t get to experience end results that are nearly as big. Make sure that you use new, bagged soil and not recycled soil from the garden with your garlic so that you will have fewer problems with pests and disease. Place the container in a sunny part of your patio and watch it flourish with very little work from you!

While you can plant onion from scratch it’ll be much more worth your time and patience to start from sets. Plant them in a large and wide container so that you can get more harvest, and keep consistently moist.

Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task and you don’t have to commit large parts of your landscape to gardening to be able to enjoy the most delicious produce. You can have a source of tasty, fresh edibles that are good for you and your family and bring unparalleled flavor to your kitchen. With plants that grow lush, green, and often adorned with beautiful produce, you won’t even need to sacrifice aesthetic to have it all this summer.

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Vegetable Seeding 101

seeding basics how to sow seeds vegetable garden

Planting your own seeds is a win for everyone. Not only does it save you money, while being good for your health, it is much easier than some myths would have you believe. Planting even a few seeds each year is important. It’s a significant reminder that despite how frantic our plugged-in lives can get, some of our most meaningful joys come from the simplest places.

Why Plant Seeds?

It might be simpler to ask, why not? Our gardening experience has changed in the last few years from the roots up. Slowly, popularity is swinging back to what gardening used to be about: a little bit of dirt on your hands at the end of the day, and getting a taste of our own home-grown food. This movement is more than just a trend, so many people worldwide are turning to home-gardening for countless reasons. All these new people have started to innovate and adapt in their own ways, creating a gardening experience that is both new and old, and totally unique. Seeing your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. Seeding your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. 

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For Your Health:

The health benefits are obvious. Your vegetables are at their best straight from the garden, where they have the most nutrients and vitamins packed in them. The longer you wait after your food is picked, the more your nutrition-per-bite suffers. Growing your own gets all of the nutrients where they belong: on your plate. You’ll also have the assurance that you know exactly where your food was grown and what went into it. Growing your own food from seed ensures the healthiest food that you can have full confidence in.

For the Flavor:

Homegrown food tastes better. If you place something straight from your garden next to produce from the store, we promise that you can tell the difference your backyard makes. After you try a home grown tomato, you will not want to go back.

For Your Wallet:

Growing your own food is basically growing money. You will actually pay much less every month, while reaping the rewards of better tasting, healthier food. You might still buy some exotic favorites from the store, but plants like peppers, beans, or tomatoes are essentially high-interest investments.

For Your Family:

Many people like to seed their own garden for their families. The delicious and healthy foods benefit your entire family, and growing your own saves money. But teaching your children how to grow their own vegetables is a valuable experience that doesn’t actually cost anything. Some lifelong rewards are just too important to be bought.

Getting Started:

The most difficult obstacle for people interested in seeding their own garden, is figuring out when to start. Some of your plants might be sown directly into the soil in the spring, while others may need to be started earlier, indoors. Thankfully, it’s not a very exact science so if your guesswork is a little off on either end, your plants and crops will still be great. For information on how to time your planting for the Iowa growing region, view our Seeding Calendar article.

Seeding Inside:

Some plants are a little more hearty and can tolerate being started outside as soon as the weather is mild. Crops like peas, beans, carrots, and salad greens all grow quickly and don’t mind a slight chill. Other heat-lovers, like peppers or tomatoes, will perform best if they get an indoor head-start on the season. Starting inside is a good way to get the most out of your summer, while offering a fresh green reminder on your windowsill of spring-to-come. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Wash your containers well, with soap and water. Young seedlings can be more susceptible to bacteria and fungi than your matured plants, so you’ll want to start them off right.
  2. Don’t start with soil from the garden. Use a packaged blend specially designed for seedlings to ensure that everything is sterile.
  3. Pick a location. Most seeds won’t need specialty lighting – a bright window will do. The seedlings will want as much light as they can get once they germinate.
  4. Maximize your humidity. Our favorite trick is to use a clear, plastic dome to keep moisture in while the seeds germinate. Once the leaves break the surface, they won’t need the dome anymore.
  5. The initial leaves on a plant are seedling leaves. These are nourished from the stores in the seed itself. Once the roots develop enough for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil, your plant will develop true leaves. Once true leaves start to develop, it’s time to transplant your seedling.
  6. Watering your freshly sown seeds could rinse them away. Instead, opt for the finest mist possible for the first few waterings. Optimally, you should use something that produces an effect like light rain.

Once your seedlings have successfully started, they are ready to move to the garden. Having started from scratch gives you extra satisfaction that will make your homegrown food taste even better, all summer long. Visit Ted Lare Garden Center to select your favorite vegetable seed varieties from Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange.