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Windowsill Herb Garden

March 3, 2014
Lemon Balm Photo Credit: Charity Bauman

Lemon Balm Photo Credit: Charity Bauman

Fresh herbs add unmatched flavor to many dishes, and what better way to make sure you always have some on hand than to grow your own?  Growing herbs indoors is a great way to grow edibles even if you don’t have outdoor space, to have convenient access all year round, and to add greenery and fragrance to your home.

All you need is a few plants, containers, potting mix, and a sunny windowsill.  Herbs you can grow indoors include basil, parsley, chives, mint, rosemary and thyme.  You can purchase plants from a garden center, online, or even sometimes at the grocery store.  Annual herbs such as basil and cilantro can be also be started from seed, but perennials such as rosemary and thyme can be difficult to start.

There are planters sold specifically for small herbs, but any kind of pot you like will work.  Use at least a 4”-6” pot for each plant, and make sure it has holes for drainage and a saucer to catch runoff water.  Fill your pots with a clean, moistened potting mix.  Once your herbs are planted, place them in a sunny windowsill that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.  Water as necessary to keep the soil moist but not soggy, about once a week.

Once plants are at least 6 inches tall, you can start using them!  Regular harvesting encourages growth, so do so regularly, but never harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at once.

To read more, see our posts on Herbs and Herbal Tea.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaley permalink
    March 6, 2014 2:10 pm

    I have been trying to grow herbs in my aquaponics fish tank and have been unsuccessful so far… Any information you could provide on this?
    My growing medium does not contain any actual soil at this time. I am not sure if I am able to incorporate that due to the nature of the set up I have!

    • March 10, 2014 10:50 am

      Hi Kaley –

      I spoke with our curator of horticulture about your question, and he sympathized. An in home aquaponics system can be very difficult to successfully manage. He mentioned a few of the primary challenges.

      First, it is really important to have supplemental lighting – window light is rarely strong enough.

      Second is what nutrient solution you are using. Assuming you are the right organisms to convert ammonia to nitrite and then a second to convert nitrite to Nitrate, you still need 15 other essential nutrients needed for plant growth that must be added.

      Finally, it is really important to have oxygen rich water because the microorganisms that convert the ammonia and nitrite both need oxygen, and the plant roots need it in the water to absorb nutrients. Beyond using an aerator, it is also very important to keep the water temperature low, since colder water can hold more dissolved oxygen. Most production aquaponic systems keep their tanks below ground to keep them cool.

      Hopefully this is helpful in determining where your problems currently are. These can be very complicated systems, but we wish you the best of luck fine tuning yours. If you get it up and running, please send us a picture!

      Gabe Tilove
      Adult Education Coordinator
      Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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