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I love gardening. I’m not the best at it, but the sense of accomplishment I get when I get to harvest something I grew myself cannot be beat. Besides… it makes me feel good. I need dirt therapy, lots of it. And growing a few herbs indoors is one way to not only get some of that dirt therapy, but also to give us a year-round supply of fresh herbs for cooking and utilize some lesser-thought of indoor space for growing some of our own food or medicine.
We’ve been in a heat wave of sorts here in Indiana, but it’s beginning to cool down. The hustle and bustle of summer is coming to an end which also means planting garlic and cover crops and putting our garden to bed for the season. Sad face….
But, just because the outdoor growing season is coming to a close doesn’t mean we have to be limited. Fall is a fantastic time to start thinking about starting your own little windowsill herb garden. Whether you start some from herbs from seed, propagate some from your herb garden, or just bring in already potted plants for the cold months, a lot of herbs do very well indoors through the winter.
And who doesn’t love the smell of fresh parsley being chopped up for some spaghetti? Especially in the dead of winter when the snow is falling down and the lush green garden seems like a distant memory never to return.
Dried herbs are great, and I can’t say I never use them. But nothing is as invigorating as cutting up something fresh from the garden to throw into a dish. The aroma… mmmmm…. It makes you drool. Or, it does me. Maybe I’m weird….
Anyway, a lot of herbs are pretty simple to grow in a south-facing window or, if you aren’t lucky enough to have any south-facing windows you can grow them under a grow light pretty successfully as well.
I am growing a handful right now in our kitchen window and plan to add a few more to another window right by my desk soon. If only I can find a way to keep the toddler out of them….
While given the right environment you can grow just about any herb indoors, some are less fuss than others. And everyone likes a successful gardening venture, right? So, here are my favorite, must-have, herbs to keep on hand in the kitchen window all winter long and a few tips for growing success.
7 Herbs to Grow Indoors For Fresh Flavor All Winter Long
I use a lot of oregano when I cook. It’s sort of a hmmm… this will probably be better with a little oregano type thing. And if you’ve never used fresh oregano, you’re in for a treat. The flavor is so much different than the dried leaves in a bottle.
Thankfully, this herb thrives in indoor environments and is a fantastic starter herb. All it needs is a bright, sunny window and it will grow grow grow. It’s a hardy plant and can thrive anywhere from 50 degrees to 80 degrees. So, you don’t have to worry if it gets a little chilled from being in the windowsill. Alternatively, if you don’t have a south-facing window you can place it under a grow light and it will do just fine.
- Oregano grown indoors tends to be a little more trailing than when grown outdoors. But, if you regularly cut some off when the plant is around 6″ tall, it will become more bushy and thrive, thrive, thrive. Just leave a couple sets of leaves when you trim.
- A great potting mix for oregano is cactus mix. If you want to make your own you can mix equal parts of potting mix and sand.
- Water when the top of the soil feels dry. But, do not overwater. Make sure the potting container has a drain hole.
I used to dislike rosemary. I would omit it from every recipe that called for it. I don’t know why, really. I just didn’t like the flavor. Until I tried fresh rosemary. Then, my world changed. And rosemary plants? They’re pretty beautiful, if you ask me.
Rosemary is a little more finicky than oregano. And if you bring this plant indoors from being outdoors, you need to slowly acclimate it to having less light. It can handle room temp and a little cooler or warmer (55 to 75 degrees or so). But this herb needs light. As much as you can give it and not a ton of water as rosemary is known as the upside down plant. It likes dry roots and to pull moisture in through its foliage. Overwatering as well as under watering are often issues with these herb when grown indoors.
- If your rosemary isn’t getting 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, put it under a grow lamp for part of the day. It will die pretty quick without the proper amount of sunlight.
- Same as oregano, rosemary likes cactus potting mix or equal parts of potting mix and sand. Putting small gravel in the bottom of the pot can help with watering issues.
- When harvesting, don’t remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.
Chives are right up there with oregano for me on the must-haves indoor herb plants. Their onion-like flavor is a favorite of mine to throw on loaded potato soup on a cold winter night or an omelette in the morning. Their aroma is also a natural pest repellent (most pests don’t like onions in general). Which, is always beneficial. Plus, they’re pretty. They can really brighten up your space and add a little green when everything else is dormant.
Chives are not overly picky and are pretty easy to grow without killing. They benefit from a regular trimming. So, when the plant is about 6″ tall, go ahead and trim it back a bit leaving about 2″ above the soil. They’ll continue to grow. Watering is a cinch, just wait until the soil dries a bit on top and water them. Generally a time or two every week.
- Plain ol’ all purpose potting mix is best for these guys.
- Chives will thrive with a little less light than some other herbs, but should still be getting 4-6 hours of sunlight daily. If the plant begins reaching, just turn it around.
- If the tips of your chives are beginning to yellow simply water the plant. It’s not near as finicky about water as rosemary, though you don’t want to neglect it too much or drown it.
Thyme… no venison steak is complete without this herb. And, as usual, the fresh version is a lot more flavorful than the dried. Can you use dried thyme?? Of course, but what doesn’t taste better fresh??
Thyme is super easy to grow as well. Perfect for a beginner that doesn’t feel confident growing anything, especially indoors. It’s not super finicky and just needs sunlight and some well-draining soil.
- Cactus potting mix works well for this herb also. Like I mentioned before, you can mix equal parts of potting mix and sand.
- Thyme needs roughly 6 hours of sunlight a day. So while a south-facing window is best, you could also throw it into a western window. Alternatively, you can put a grow light on it.
- Cut back overly woody stems to promote new growth and remove the flowers to promote foliage production. You can harvest thyme as soon as you have a decent amount of foliage.
Bay is the tree of the herb world. Believe it or not, it can get over 50 feet tall if grown outdoors in the right conditions. Potted plants will not get near that large, obviously. And bay can be continually pruned to keep it whatever size you want. Bay is a great addition to your indoor herb garden, especially if you make a lot of stews and casseroles.
This herb is fairly easy to grow and is often grown as a house plant. It is only hardy to zone 8, so if you live anywhere else? It has to be brought in in the winter time. This herb, unlike the others, is generally placed in a big pot and allowed to grow to several feet tall before it is pruned back. So, it probably won’t be in your windowsill, at least, not for long. It likes infrequent, deep watering.
- Put bay near a south-facing window, it loves light. It is hardy down to 20 degrees, so you don’t have to worry too much about temperature, but it needs light when grown indoors.
- Regular potting mix or really any kind of soil will work for this tree. As long as it is well draining, the plant will adapt just fine.
- The leaves can be harvested and used fresh, or dried to use within a year at any time. The flavor is most pungent when the leaves are harvested in the summer when the plant is primarily indoors.
I remember when I was a kid the restaurants would put a sprig of parsley on the plates when they served the dish. And I always thought it was weird. And then, as an adult, I would toss dried parsley into dishes and try to figure out why because the bottle of dried leaves had very little, if any aroma.
Then, I made some chicken marsala using some fresh parsley and I realized… wow… this stuff is pretty flavorful! This herb is very easy to grow indoors and can handle a little fluctuation in temperature. It will grow best in a south-facing window (of course) where it can get 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. If you don’t have that available… you can use a grow light.
- Unlike some other herbs, parsley does best when planted from seed as it does not transplant well due to its long tap root. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to start from seed.
- Potting mix works just fine for this herb. As long as it is well-drained. Don’t let the soil get soggy.
- The sprigs can be harvested as soon as the plant is established, make sure you leave about 2″ when you harvest to promote more growth.
This is another favorite of mine. Not only for its flavor in dishes, but because it’s actually a beautiful plant. While basil is often grown in the outdoor herb garden, it can be easily grown indoors as well.
Growing basil indoors is incredibly easy, try to avoid a drafty window as it prefers heat. If that’s an issue, using a heat mat and/or a grow light will help sort it out. However, if you use a grow light, you’ll need to keep it on 8 or more hours to ensure adequate light for your plant.
- Basil is not tolerant of overwatering, at all. So ensure the pot you select has adequate drainage. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy or the roots are likely to rot.
- Plain potting mix works fine to grow basil in. If you want, you can add a little compost to the mix, but not too much or it will lose its flavor.
- Only harvest up to 2/3 of the plant so it can continue producing. Simply snip off the leaves as you would mint. Routinely clipping encourages a round plant.
Growing these herbs inside all winter allows you to continue making delicious, farm-fresh meals all winter long. Even when it’s 10 degrees out, you can chop up some fresh oregano for lasagna or fresh parsley to make your favorite dish. Whatever it is, it still affords that sense of pride and accomplishment that growing something of your own always does. And I can’t wait to experiment and see what else we can grow inside this winter.