gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

How often do you buy fresh herbs in the supermarket, at great expense, only to have them wither and die in a short time? For what they cost, you could plant an indoor herb garden and be able to pinch off what you need, when you need it, encouraging the plant to become bushier and stronger. The only things necessary are a sunny, south-facing windowsill, some good, soilless (seed starter) potting medium, pots and a waterproof tray. Without that south-facing, sunny window, you must have grow lights since it takes at least 6 hours of bright sun or 14 hours of artificial light to start seedlings.

Put some broken crockery in the bottom of each pot, then loosely fill the pots with moist potting soil (or seed starter) and lightly firm to within an inch of the rim. Tip some seeds into your hand and sow them thinly over the surface, being careful not to crowd them. Sprinkle a thin layer of the seed starter soil over the seeds to cover and to keep them permanently moist but not soaking. Use a fine sprinkler or mister to water them. Cover with a piece of glass or plastic and keep them warm in the sunniest window of your house.

Stand the pots on saucers or lids and place them on a waterproof tray filled with pebbles or sand. Keep the tray filled with water for humidity. The pots, which are on saucers, should not be immersed in the water. Water the seedlings daily, with a fine spray or mister, making sure they never dry out. Remove the plastic or glass cover once the seedlings appear and then water from below, pouring water into the trays rather than over the pots.

Thin the seedlings so that the each has a chance to develop fully. There should be an inch of soil around each root. At this stage, the seedlings will benefit by a light feeding with half strength organic fertilizer (like fish emulsion) every other day. Once they have developed two sets of leaves, pinch the tops to encourage bushy growth and the formation of branches. When the plants are several inches tall, and healthy, they can be placed in front of an open window for a couple of hours if the weather is warm and you want to accustom them to the outdoors. When spring comes, you can put them in a protected spot in your garden for a few hours each day, bringing them in at night, until they are accustomed to the much brighter sun than they had indoors

If you notice insects on the plants, which can be a problem when growing plants indoors, simply prepare a sink full of soapy, tepid water and, keeping your hand over the base of each plant, turn the pots over and swish the leaves in the soapy water a few times. The soap will kill the insects. If you can’t immerse them, you can spray them over the sink with a spray bottle, being sure to get the undersides of the leaves, until the water drips off the leaves, into the sink.

Parsley, basil, sage, thyme, oregano and mint lend themselves best to growing herbs indoors. ~