Grow herbs indoors: buy a herb growing kit

by EmpressFelicity

If you are new to gardening and want to grow herbs indoors, then a herb growing kit could be for you. Here are some tips and kits for growing herbs indoors

If you live in an apartment without a garden, it's still possible to grow edible plants indoors. The best place to start is with herbs - not only do they look attractive, but herbs don't take up too much space and often have a nice fragrant smell too! You can of course buy herb seeds, containers and compost separately online or at your local hardware store/nursery, but this can be a bit daunting if you're completely new to gardening. How much compost do you buy, and what kind? What seeds, and how many of each type? What's the best size of container to use and should it be made from plastic or clay? The worst of it is that when you try doing some research, you often find conflicting advice. For example many gardening articles and books recommend using unglazed ceramic containers, but for me personally, plastic or glazed ceramics are the way to go. They retain moisture better and I've always found them to give more consistent results.

A herb growing kit is therefore a good solution for the novice indoor gardener, and would make an ideal gift for anyone who's expressed an interest in growing their own herbs or vegetables, but hasn't quite taken the plunge yet! Herb growing kits also make a very good educational tool for children and teenagers, to start them learning about how things grow and where food comes from.

Conditions needed for growing herbs indoors

Ideally, your indoor herbs will need a good source of natural sunlight, so your best bet is to grow them on or near a windowsill that gets sunlight for at least four or five hours per day (i.e. it faces south, west or east). If natural sunlight is in short supply, you can always buy a growing system with an integral lamp, such as an Aerogarden.

The Aerogardens featured here are about the size of a coffee maker and use aeroponics, a technique where the plant's roots are suspended in air and bathed with a carefully-balanced mixture of nutrients. The grow lights come on and off automatically, and an LCD reminds you when it's time to replace the water and nutrients. The Aerogarden doesn't come cheap but it's worth considering if you want something low maintenance but which gives high yields and looks attractive at the same time!

AeroGarden 2101-00B Classic Garden 7-Pod With Gourmet Herb Seed Kit - Black

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AeroGarden 900330-1200 6 with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit, Silver

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Types of herbs you can grow indoors

Most people will be interested in growing culinary herbs (i.e. herbs you can use in cooking), rather than medicinal or fragrant herbs.  The herb growing kits I've found online reflect this - most of the ones I found were squarely in the "culinary" camp although you can also get medicinal herb growing kits and kits for growing herbs to make tea! 

The type of kit you buy will of course depend on your budget and on whether looks are a priority. If you want something that would be at home on the most exclusive of office desks (never mind a windowsill), then the Aerogarden described above is the way to go. But if you'd prefer not to spend too much, then you can always opt for a simple herb starter kit with - say - ceramic or plastic pots. Or even no containers at all - just buy the seeds, and supply the pots yourself.

Indoor Culinary Herb Garden Starter Kit- Start Growing Fresh Cooking Herbs & Spices- Great Gift ...

Cool indoor herb gardening kit. Grow your own fresh cooking herbs indoors year round. Add zest and flavor to your cooking, and enjoy the fun and benefits of indoor gardening. ...

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Assortment of 12 Culinary Herb Seeds - Grow Cooking Herbs- Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Basil, ...

QUALITY & QUANTITY GUARANTEED. Each Packet comes with lots of seed, grow herbs indoors or outdoors. Plenty of seed to experiment with and grow a full herb garden! Assortment ...

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Toysmith Italian Herb Trio Green Ceramic Window Set of 3 Stoneware

This beautiful trio of planters allows you to grow your own herbs right in the comfort of your own kitchen ! Just place the herb pellets into the 7" pots, fill with soil and ...

$29.95  $22.04
12 Culinary Herb Assortment (Sage, Rosemary, Spearmint, Basil, Oregano, Cilantro, & More!) ...

Need to add a little more flavoring to your already delicious meals? This herb seed assortment was put together with the cook in mind, offering you a variety of 12 delicious ...

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My four personal favourite herb varieties

If you haven't used herbs in cooking before, here are some common varieties of culinary herb that grow well indoors and that I've found to be highly worthwhile to have in my kitchen:

Basil. I only ever grow this indoors - I live in a northern temperate climate where it gets nice and warm in summer, but not reliably so; basil really prefers consistently hot weather so it's out of its comfort zone when grown outdoors in my part of the world! Basil goes beautifully with Italian food - use as a garnish, or add torn leaves to tomato sauces after cooking is finished (the essential flavouring oil in basil is very volatile so it disappears quickly if you add

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Chocolate Mint - Grow Indoors or Out - 4" Pot

Indispensable herb for the garden chef, and a wonderful ornamental plant in the xeric border. Mentha piperita cv 'Chocolate Mint' is a wonderfully easy to grow garden herb ...

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basil leaves during the cooking process). The most common variety is sweet basil (you might also come across Genovese basil, which is similar to sweet basil), but you can get a number of other types, e.g. small-leaved Greek basil or varieties with overtones of cinnamon, lime or lemon!

Mint. A really versatile herb. Can be used to make mint sauce to go with roast lamb. If you like spicy Indian food and want a cooling dip to go with it, try making raita, which consists of natural yoghurt (Greek-style yoghurt is good), chopped cucumber and fresh torn mint and coriander leaves (see below). My personal favourite thing to do with mint is to get a handful of fresh mint leaves, put them into a mug and pour boiling water on them. Three minutes later, you've got yourself some mint tea - it tastes waaaay better IMO than mint tea made from dried leaves.

Chives. Attractive, single-stemmed herb which is a member of the onion/garlic family. The leaves/stems have a subtle onion-like flavour and can be chopped up and put in salads, or sprinkled on mashed potato! If you like spring onions, you'll like chives just as much if not more. As a bonus the mauve pom-pom shaped flowers are also edible, and make a very pretty garnish for salads.

Cilantro (otherwise known as coriander). A small handful of fresh cilantro leaves makes a fantastic garnish for curries or chilli con carne. Like basil, this is another herb that I've found is actually better off indoors than outside if you live in a temperate climate, so if you like the flavour then it's well worth finding a spot on your windowsill for it.

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Obviously these are not the only varieties of herb that can be grown indoors but they're good ones to start with. And if you don't want to buy a kit, you can always have a go at growing indoor herbs from scratch. I have had great success at growing basil and coriander indoors, using home-made compost and plastic containers. To reflect light and stop the plants from going all leggy and bendy, I borrowed a tip from the BBC's Alys Fowler and made a propagator out of part of a cardboard box which I covered in aluminium foil and old CDs! Ready-made kit or do-it-yourself - the choice is yours.

© Empress Felicity July 2010

Updated: 01/28/2012, EmpressFelicity
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