Grow a Windowsill of Flavor This Winter - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Grow a Windowsill of Flavor This Winter

(Released: 07 November 1996)

By B. Rosie Lerner
Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist

Although the outdoor garden may be getting ready for its long winter nap, you can continue to harvest the fresh flavor of herbs by growing a windowsill garden.

Many herbs, including dill, parsley, thyme, chives, oregano, and mint, are adaptable to growing indoors in a sunny window. While some of these herbs may grow to be several feet tall in the garden, thankfully, they will be much smaller in the indoor garden where their root systems are restricted to small pots.

Your garden will get a head start if you take cuttings from your outdoor herbs, such as basil, mint, sage, and oregano, before they die back for winter. But if you didn’t get that accomplished before frost hit, there are many herbs that can be easily grown from seed, including dill, parsley, thyme, anise, basil, and cilantro.

Use a good quality potting soil mix for your indoor garden to ensure good root development. Garden soil is generally too heavy for using in potted plants and may carry diseases and insects that will prove too challenging for young indoor seedlings.

A warm, bright location away from direct sunlight is best for getting seeds started. Once the seeds have germinated, you’ll need to move the plants to brighter, more direct light. Herb plants produce oils that are responsible for the particular flavor of the herb. The greatest amount of oil is produced under sunny conditions, so try to provide your indoor garden with as much light as possible. If your home does not have a well-lit window, artificial lights work well as a supplement to natural light. Use a combination of both cool white and warm white fluorescent tubes for optimum plant growth. If you have trouble finding the warm white fluorescent, look for light bulbs and/or tubes that are labeled specifically for growing plants. They emit the best quality light needed for plant growth.

Once plants are up and growing, some light fertilizing will be helpful, but don’t overdo it. Follow label directions on whatever houseplant fertilizer you have on hand. Similarly, you’ll want to provide adequate water for your herb garden, but don’t overdo. Make sure the plant containers have drainage holes at the bottom for excess water to escape. When you water, apply enough so that some water runs out of the bottom of the container. Then allow the pots to dry a little before watering the next time.

Most herbs grown for their foliage can be harvested a little at a time, making fresh herb flavor available all winter long.

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