Growing herbs on the kitchen windowsill is like a dream come true…but can it be done successfully? Recently I had Master Gardener Louise Rennecker, the “Herb Lady” on my radio program, WBOI 89.1 FM who simply says, “No.” In many ways I must agree with her on the subject of growing herbs indoors. It is near impossible to grow outdoor plants in the house, especially in the winter when you have everything going against you…low light levels, short daylight hours and the lack of fresh, outside air. However, if growing herbs inside is something that you would like to try, then here are some tips to help you along.
Find an area where your plants can get the most possible light throughout the day. Consider the addition of an artificial lighting fixture to extend the length of day. Try to get a duel flourescent light to hang close above your plants and use one soft and one cool tube for best results. The idea is to extend the day length by turning the light on early in the morning and off around 9:00 or 10:00 PM. Temperature is not a big factor unless you are running too warm. Ideally, 62-68 degrees would be best except in the very beginning while you are germinating your seeds. Germination generally works best around 72-75 degrees and then immediately after the seeds start to grow, transplant them to individual pots, then move to a cooler spot.
Start the seeds in a good, soil-less artificial mix that drains well and be extra careful not to over-water your plants in the beginning. Fertilizer is always a no-no with seedlings but after they have been established in their own individual pots, you may fertilize, but at one-fourth the recommended rate. Keep any flowers from developing by pinching them off at first sight.
Most of the more common varieties can be started from seed but some varieties can only be started from cuttings. It is quite simple knowing the varieties to grow from seed as they are the ones on the seed rack. The seed racks are starting to show up already at your favorite garden centers so give a call to see if they are in. Basil, chives, coriander, dill, mint parsley, sage, rosemary, tarragon and thyme are some of the many herbs that you can get started with right now…good luck!