Here in North Carolina where I live, the weather has been exceptionally nice. I'm a native northerner and so it's awesome to actually be outside in February and only need a jacket and maybe a sweater – not a goose down parka:). One of the things that this great weather has got me thinking about much sooner than usual is gardening. Now the weather is nice, but it's not so great to the point that I can actually get outside to garden but luckily indoor container gardening is just as much fun and equally rewarding.
Container gardening has always been a favorite of mine since I've lived mostly in apartments with a balcony at best. Since I'm a huge fan of herbs, I generally gravitate towards growing them since they are so useful, look gorgeous, and smell fabulous. Right now I'm setting out to plan my spring herbal indoor garden and whenever I set out to do something, I generally do a fact finding trip just to make sure all my current information is relevant and to find out if there are any new gems of wisdom.
What I'm going to share with you in these articles is what I've gathered from personal experience and research as the best ways to get a great indoor herb garden going!
There are three ways to get started. The first is starting from seed. The second is starting from cuttings. The third (and easiest) is buying small plants from your local store or garden center. In this first article, we'll talk about starting your plants from seed.
Starting from Seed.
The most important thing I've found with regards to starting from seed is making sure the “soil” stays damp but not soaked until the seed germinates (you'll see a little stem popping through). Soil is in quotations up there because if you are starting plants from seed, you are actually going to use a soiless mix. Most garden centers (even the ones in Wal-mart) sell good soiless mixes. They are generally a combination of vermiculite, peat and perlite.
If you are not close to any stores, don't fret, the Internet is to your rescue! Amazon has some great choices of Seed starter mixes. Here's an organic one that protects against damp off. Perfect!
It is possible to use regular potting soil for starting seedlings and sometimes you'll have success, but again since the dampness of the soil is so important, in addition to humidity and aeration, it's a nice reassurance using soiless mixes because they have the right combination of things a new plant needs. In either case, with a potting soil or a soilless mix, you'll want to invest in a mister (Dollar store spray bottles work great!). This is an easy way to keep your soil evenly damp. Mist the pots each day making sure that the soil stays damp to touch but not soaked.
Another way to make sure the soil stays damp is to put a little plastic bag around each pot with a rubber band. This creates a little greenhouse and assures that the soil wont dry out too fast over the course of the day. After you have the pots set up with soil and watered, make sure you place them in a sunny window. In general, indoor herbs need at least 5 hours of sunlight in order to thrive. Find your sunniest southern or western facing window and put your plants there for the most exposure.
In general 4 to 6 inch pots can work for starting seeds. Anything larger is much harder because of the water and air requirements. Terra cotta or clay pots are the best because they drain very well. Another thing you'll want to consider is design. Do you want a lot of tiny pots of herbs or one large windowsill box with a bunch of different herbs? Here is a stacker planter available from Amazon that allows you to plant all your herbs together.
Once you figure out what you want your plants in, add about 3 to 4 seeds at least to every area you are planting, follow the suggestions above, and voila you've got the beginnings of a great container herb garden!
In the next articles, I'll talk about starting from cuttings and small plants. Be on the look out for it!