Herbs to Grow Indoors

Many edible plants can be grown indoors. Herbs and other edible plants make attractive additions to a windowsill and are often pleasantly scented. Growing edible plants indoors also means that they are close at hand when they are needed for cookery, avoiding the need to trek out of doors in cold or wet weather. Many herbs die down or stop growing in winter outside, but in the home these will keep actively growing all year round.

Most herbs are sun lovers, so it is only possible to grow these plants if you have a really sunny spot for them. They look great on a kitchen windowsill. Unfortunately, this is not really the best spot for them, as heat and fumes from cooking can have a bad effect on plants. If possible, grow them in a cool and sunny room, such as a porch or a utility room, and give them plenty of ventilation. If you don’t have a sunny spot available, there are some edible plants that do not need full sun.

Many of these plants will make good indoor plants for only a short while. Eventually they will grow too large or eggy to be happy indoors. Don’t let this put you off. Take cuttings or sow seeds of your favourite herbs in spring, and keep them indoors for as long as they fit the space available. Even large growing plants, such as sage and bay, can be kept indoors for a few years. Once they have grown too big, put them outside and propagate afresh.

Do not be afraid to harvest herbs regularly. Even when they are small, herbs tolerate constant grazing. It is important to help keep the plants small and bushy. The best way to harvest is to remove a small number of eaves from the tops of a few stems, rather than taking out a whole stem. Pinch back to the point just above where a leaf or pair of leaves emerges from the stem. This will encourage fresh growth from this point.

The majority of herbs prefer a well-drained compost and will tolerate drying out a little between waterings, but there are some exceptions that need constantly moist compost.

How to Grow Chives in the House

Chives are useful plants to grow in the home. They are vigorous and quickly recover from harvesting. Select a small bunch of chives and cut right back to just above the base of the plant.

Chives: (chives, allium, purple, green, herb, ...

Chives: (chives, allium, purple, green, herb, purple/green, in Ena's garden) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Use scissors to snip the leaves into small sections. They can be added to many dishes to give a mild onion taste and are good in any dish containing potatoes, eggs or cheese. In spring, purple flowers are produced. These are not only extremely decorative, but are also edible. Add to salads to brighten them up and to give a mild onion flavour. The leaves of flowering plants can become stronger in taste and coarser, so you may choose to remove the flowers.

One of the benefits of growing chives indoors is that they grow year round. In cold winters outdoors, chives stop growing and can die back. They do not need particularly high levels of light to grow well. Water regularly and keep the compost moist at all times. Sow seeds in early spring. They will not need thinning out, as they happily grow in a small clump. Harvest them lightly, but do not cut back too hard until the plant’s second year; then cut back completely several times throughout the summer to encourage a fresh flush of leaves.

How to Grow Peppers Indoors

Chilli peppers are among the best fruiting plants to grow in the home as they are tasty and decorative. By late summer they will be covered in small fruits that gradually turn fiery colours in early autumn. Good cultivars include ‘Apache’, a dwarf pepper that is good for a windowsill. ‘PurpleTiger’ fruits start off dark purple and mature to bright red. Chilli peppers are more compact than sweet peppers, but if you have a little extra space, why not try both?

Sow seeds in late winter to early spring. Thin out so that each plant is in its own small pot. Place in the sunniest spot available. As the plant grows, pinch out the tips to keep it bushy. When flowers appear, mist to help the fruits set. Water well and feed every few weeks with an organic potassium liquid fertilizer. Eat the fruits at any time. The redder the colour, the hotter the fruit. Towards the end of summer, when all fruits have formed, encourage ripening by cutting back on watering.

Tips on Growing Coriander in the House

Coriander is a strong tasting and smelling herb. The young leaves can also be chopped up and used in salads. It is an annual and so must be grown from seed every year. Seed germinates quickly.

Some are grown for their seeds and these will bolt early in the year. The seed-producing types grow too large to be useful indoor culinary plants. The leaf-producing type is sometimes known as cilantro, whereas the seed-producing type is simply known as coriander.

Sow seed early in spring or autumn. Coriander does not like disturbance so sow seeds into the pot where they are to grow. Thin out and start cutting the leaves when the plants are still quite small to keep plants compact.

Leaves become stronger in taste as they mature. When harvesting, remove developing flower stalks. Sow a fresh batch of seeds every few weeks to replace old plants. Keep plants in a bright spot or partial shade and water well at all times.

Bay Trees Make Good Indoor Herbs

Bay plants eventually grow into large trees, but are slow growing, and are good indoor herb plants when young.

The leaves are used in simmering dishes such as stews, soups and sauces. They are added at the beginning of the cooking process and removed before the food is served, imparting a complex and subtle savoury flavour to the juices in which they are cooked. Many believe that they impart a better taste once dried, but they can also be used fresh.

Buy small plants in spring and pot up using standard compost. Cuttings from existing trees are often slow and difficult to root. If the plant has been freshly potted up there will be no need to feed it in its first year. In subsequent years, feed only if it is not potted on at the beginning of the year. Keep the plant in full sun and water sparingly, but do not allow to dry out. In winter, put in a cool, bright spot, and water just enough to keep the compost moist.

It is easy to shape bay into attractive pyramid or ball shapes, although the leaves are quite large so the effect is not as neat as it would be on a large plant. Prune throughout summer. The trimmings can be dried and stored for later use. To dry, place whole, individual leaves on a mesh, or on some other surface that allows air to reach all sides. Spread the leaves out so that they are not overlapping and place them somewhere dry but well ventilated, and out of the sun.

As the plant spreads, start harvesting the fresh young stalks and bulbs. Lemongrass is at its tastiest when still young. Use scissors to chop the bulbs and lower parts of the stem into stir fries and other dishes. A tall spike of tiny pale flowers is sometimes produced towards the end of a warm summer, if the plant has had a good spell outside. (Plants kept indoors all summer are unlikely to flower.) In autumn, make sure that the plant is indoors before the weather turns cold. You can leave the leaves on the plant to enjoy during winter, but this can weaken the plant and slow down its production of bulbs and new growth the following year. It is better to cut the leaves back to a few inches above the bulbs for the winter to conserve the plant’s energy. Water sparingly over winter. The following spring, it is important to divide the clump and replant each section in fresh compost in a fairly large pot.

Growing Mint Indoors is Easy

Mint is a good plant to grow in a container. If it is grown outdoors in a border it will soon start swamping other plants around it, so it needs to be contained in its own pot.

Mentha requienii (Corsican mint) forms a dense creeping matt of tiny leaves that have a peppermint taste and scent. Mentha x gracilis’ Variegata’ (ginger mint) has green leaves patterned with gold.

Propagation Instructions:

Take cuttings in early spring. Mist regularly to keep the humidity high, and water carefully while they are taking root. Once cuttings have taken, nip out the tips to encourage a bushy habit.

Herbs

Herbs (Photo credit: KatieTT)

Care Instructions:

Mints prefer full sun but will also grow in partial shade. They need well-drained compost. Water well throughout summer. To ensure the best foliage production, remove flowers when they start to form. In the home, in warm conditions, they should keep some foliage on them throughout the year.

Grow Basil on a Sunny Windowsill

Basil is among the most delicious of summer herbs. It is the perfect partner to tomatoes and combines well with many other fresh summer vegetables. It is thought of chiefly as an ingredient in Mediterranean cookery, but it is also widely used in the cuisines of Thailand and India to add a spicy aromatic note.

It is quite tricky to grow outdoors in any environment cooler than the Mediterranean. Basil should also be watered in the morning, so that all moisture is absorbed before evening. This makes it far easier to grow basil plants inside than out. Basil should be positioned on a really sunny windowsill.

Start seedlings off in spring (they can take a while to germinate, so be patient). Only give a trickle of water while the plants are still small and always in the mornings. Carefully thin out to prevent them growing too close together. Once their true leaves have developed, lightly harvest, making sure at least one set of leaves is left on the stalk. Remove the stem just above the point where these leaves emerge. It is from here that fresh growth will sprout.

The Benefits of Growing Parsley Indoors

One of the benefits of growing parsley plants indoors is that they will not die down in winter like those kept outside. Parsley is a biennial, meaning it will grow well for two years. However, it is better to grow plants fresh from seed each spring as the first year’s leaves are generally nicer tasting than the second year’s. Sow seed thinly into small pots and keep them on a windowsill. Soaking the seed in warm water for 24 hours can improve germination. In warm conditions and constantly moist soil, the seeds should germinate within a few weeks. Thin out so that only a few plants are left in each pot.

Harvest by cutting a bunch of stems back to 3cm (1 in) above their bases. Cut from around the outside of the plant first, as this encourages the inner leaves to sprout. Keep in partial shade or full sun. The green leaves develop a richer colour when kept in partial shade. Give plenty of water, not letting the compost dry out at any time. Plants can get a little tired and it may be a good idea to carry out a fresh sowing in mid-summer and to use these new plants for winter harvesting. Leaves will be fresher and tastier.

There are two main types of parsley, curled and flat. Flat parsley is generally milder than curled, but less suitable for growing in pots as it is slightly larger. The curled parsley cultivar Petroselinum crispum ‘Curlina’ has been specifically developed for the indoor windowsill.

Grow Your Own Rosemary Indoors

Rosemary works well with meat or fish dishes and imparts a strong flavour to roast potatoes. Whole sprigs can be added to simmering stews or soups and then removed before serving. Rosemary is fairly tolerant of a range of conditions and is especially worth growing indoors in regions that suffer severe frosts. Ideally, rosemary should have full sun, but will tolerate some shade. Give it a well-drained compost with horticultural grit or perlite added. Fresh air is important and plants will benefit from occasional spells outdoors.

The simplest way to get new plants is to take cuttings. They will root easily in spring or summer. Once stems have rooted, pinch out the tips to encourage a bushy habit. Alternatively, buy small plants from the garden centre in spring. Rosmarinus officinalis is the species and it has an upright habit. There are many cultivars available. One that would make a good indoor plant is R. officinalis ‘Prostratus’. It has slightly trailing stems and is the least hardy, so would be difficult to grow outside. Flowers on all rosemary plants are produced in mid- to late spring and are varying shades of blue and purple.

It is a good herb for drying. Hang bunches up in a cool, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight until they are crispy to touch. Do not leave them longer orthey will lose quality. Individual stems can be dried on a mesh or on any other surface that allows air to circulate all around them.

Sage Works Well in Chicken Stuffing

Sage can make a good indoor plant, although it is happiest in a conservatory or porch, where there is lots of light. If you do not have either of these, it is still worth growing, but keep it in the sunniest spot you have. Use sage to add to stuffing and sausages, and also in pasta dishes or home-baked breads. The species, Salvia officinalis, can grow to about 1m (3ft) high and wide, but can be easily kept smaller by regular clipping. A good plant for indoor cultivation would be S. officinalis ‘Aurea’. S. officinalis Tricolor’ is a variegated cultivar. All will need well-drained compost, so buy standard multi-purpose compost and add horticultural grit or perlite. Do not over-water; in fact, compost can almost dry out occasionally. In winter, water sparingly, and keep the compost only just moist. Sage can benefit from one or two feeds throughout the growing season. Plants sometimes suffer from mildew, so ensure good ventilation at all times.

Thyme is a great plant for growing in containers, as it is naturally compact and bushy. It is a useful herb to have around and is particularly good in vegetable dishes and with seafood. It is also good added to stews.

Thyme and Lemongrass are Easy to Grow Herbs

Thyme likes full sun and well-drained soil. Use normal multipurpose compost and add a little grit or perlite to improve its drainage. Water carefully throughout summer, taking care not to over-water and allowing the compost to almost completely dry out between waterings. Regularly trim leaves from the top of the plant and use these in cookery or dry them for storage. The flavour of dried thyme is subtly different from that of fresh, but it is still a delicious and useful herb. Plants flower in summer; the flowers are edible and make a tasty addition to salads. Give the plant a light trim all over to help it keep its shape.

Thymus vulgaris has a good strong taste and is useful in cooked dishes. For a milder taste, try the cultivars of T. x citriodorus, commonly known as lemon thyme.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is widely used in the cookery of Far Eastern countries, adding a tasty, lemon fragrance. It also makes an attractive plant, with tall, blue-green arching leaves. At the base of each leaf is a pale, bulb-like swelling, which is the edible part.

Plant lemongrass into a container that seems a little too large for it in spring. Lemongrass likes moisture-retentive compost, so extra grit to improve drainage is not necessary-although make sure the container has good drainage holes. Keep the plant well watered and feed it occasionally throughout the growing season. If you have outdoor space, place the plant outside for most of the summer. If not, keep it in the sunniest spot you have available and provide good ventilation.

26. April 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit & Veg, Herbs | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Herbs to Grow Indoors

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