All summer, I successfully kept a flourishing basil plant alive in the only spot of sun in our yard. I don’t usually plant edible garden decor, but with the enticement of fresh foods, and a $2 price tag at the grocery store for just a few leaves, I decided to make a go of it. Our reward was homemade pizzas and doctored pasta sauces to name a few. Sadly, my green thumb success hasn’t transplanted as well to the indoor herb garden. The house lacks a few essentials; light and consistent warm temperatures. I plan to use these tips on my second round attempts, this winter.
1. Nothing beats natural light or at least a combination of natural and artificial light. The optimum light requirements are about 6 hours of natural light or 12 hours of artificial light. If you have very little light, like me, you can use artificial grow lights to help them along if you are desperate and really want to grow your own herbs.
2. Find a way to introduce humidity. A great place can be a window above the kitchen sink or even a bathroom.
3. Watering too much can be detrimental. This can be true too of all plants, but especially with indoor plants, water will not evaporate as quickly and roots sitting in water will rot. There are soil mixtures for indoor plants that help with this problem. Regular outdoor potting soils will be hold too much moisture. Always let the soil dry out completely before watering. Make sure you use a pot with ample drainage holes on the bottom
4. Snip long-legged herbs. The lack of light may encourage your herbs to be floppy, and tall with few leaves. Cutting them back when they get this way will produce stronger stems and make them more robust. Also, always cut back herbs before they begin to flower, because all the energy will go into flower production and make the leaves bitter. Also, leggy plants may be an indication to try to find a spot with more light.
5. Know your herb varieties. Some herbs need variations on care. For example, Basil can need more water than dry loving Rosemary or Thyme. Also, certain types will take over and thus are better planted in their own pot, such as mint. Other varieties that will grow well indoors are chives, dill, sage, oregano and parsley.
6. Watch for insects. This is a difficult one because indoor herbs can be prone to insect infestation. Usually a little soap and water can get rid of the pests. Either dip the plant in a soapy concoction or use a spray bottle. There are insecticidal soaps that can be used if they get out of hand. Also, if you’ve decided to try to bring in outdoor herbs, try to re-pot with a soil-less mixture to control insects that are already in the soil.
Check out these creative indoor herb uses…
Gathered together for a dinner party centerpiece
These grow bottles are made from recycled wine bottles.
And lastly, here is my favorite easy appetizer recipe using fresh basil.
Caprese On a Stick
- 1 package grape tomatoes
- 12 fresh basil leaves cut in half
- 1 package small mozzarella balls cut in half
- 24 tooth picks
- a pinch of salt
- a pinch of pepper
- drizzle of olive oil
- drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Using toothpicks make a kabob using one cherry tomato, 1/2 of the mozzarella ball, and 1/2 of the basil leaf. Lay flat on a tray with sides. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper to taste. Serve. This makes a great way to serve caprese salad in a party setting and is just about as simple as it gets!