Few of us who garden are immune to the allure of herbs. And never has herb gardening been so exciting – now with the click of a few buttons on the keyboard, we’re able to procure even the most exotic specimens via the Internet!

Basil

Basil is a beautiful herb with a heavenly scent that fills the kitchen.

Photo Credit: Linnea Thornton

Lemon Thyme

Be sure to repot your herbs so they don’t become root-bound.

Photo Credit: Linnea Thornton

Spearmint

When growing herbs indoors, make sure to select a sunny spot. South-facing windows typically work best.

Photo Credit: Linnea Thornton

Sweet Woodruff

Fiddle with your indoor climatic conditions to expand your herb options to include ones like sweet woodruff.

Photo Credit: Linnea Thornton

But that said, most of us tend to limit our choices. We know by experience that climate and soil conditions determine what we can grow. Most kitchen herbs originated from the Mediterranean. While summer provides decent conditions for growing many herbs outside in most regions of the US, few of us live in those optimal warm, sunny climates that help herbs flourish outdoors year-round.

The good news is that you don’t have to limit yourself to fresh herbs in summer. Moving your herb garden indoors in winter, or growing a separate garden inside your house, can open new possibilities. Your ability to tinker with climatic conditions (including temperature, water and light), as well as soil and fertilizer, means your herb options are virtually limitless.

It’s good to know a little about the herbs you want to grow. The plants fall into one of the following groups: annuals (meaning they grow from seed, then flower, produce seed and die within one growing season), biennials (meaning they grow foliage the first year, die back over winter, then come back to flower and seed the second year) or perennials (meaning they go dormant over winter and come back in spring). You can always buy fresh, inexpensive herbs at your garden center every year, or you can try to harvest seed or propagate your own plants from cuttings. Some herb growers choose to have two or three plants of each type, so they can harvest herbs all year long.

For example, you can allow basil (an annual) to go to seed, or you can snip the flowers off and keep the plant producing for a longer period. Chives (a perennial) like to go dormant, so move them to a cool location and cut back on watering in the winter. Parsley is a biennial; you can allow it to go dormant, or you can keep it warm and watered through the winter and it’ll keep producing leaves. The key is not to plant different herbs with different needs in the same pot. This way you can easily adjust the conditions to meet the individual needs of each plant.

And obviously the key to growing any plant indoors is light. Most herbs need at least 12 hours of it each day, so when you’re growing them indoors, a south-facing window is best. Don’t forget to check your plants for wilting – some herbs can cook when placed in long, intense hours of sunlight, or they might simply require more frequent watering. As with any indoor plant, you may need to supplement with fluorescent lights if natural light isn’t sufficient – especially in the colder months with less sun.

Growing herbs indoors is a great pastime – but a word of caution: It can be habit-forming. Once you realize you can have fresh herbs at your fingertips all year long, you’ll be itching to expand your plant palette far beyond those everyday species!