Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

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Light:

Light is the most crucial element for their success ~ even direct light is a challenge in the winter when intensity is reduced.  Your herbs will need at least 6 to 8 hours of indirect sun a day (for the most light needy herbs, the ones that say ‘bright light’ or ‘full sun’).  There are those that recommend acclimating your plants to lower light by gradually adjusting them to lower light conditions.  Great idea, but ‘ain’t going to happen’ in my case.  My space gets morning and afternoon sun, so I am lucky in that we are talking 8 hours per day.  You can use grow lights, but since I have no experience with them, a Google search is advised.  You are going to see a few changes in the plants due to this decrease in light:  your herbs may drop a few leaves.  The plant is actually shedding its more inefficient leaves by producing more efficient leaves higher up, closer to the light source.  The plant may get a big leggier as it reaches for the light.  I recommend that you turn the plant periodically so that it receives light on all sides;   you’ll know it is time as the plant will ‘lean toward the light’.

Water:

‘Not too much, not too little, just right’.  That is hard when they come indoors.  The really trick is to find that balance.  In general, begin to water LESS often and MORE thoroughly.  Make sure that the soil is dry to the touch before watering, and when you water, make sure that the water runs out of the pot.  Drainage is key, so make sure that you use a well-draining pot.  My favorite pots are your run of the mill, red clay pot.  If you plants are small, a 6” pot will be perfect.  And, make sure that you are using a quality potting soil.  Not making a ‘plug’ for one soil over another, but Miracle Grow makes a good indoor mix that we’ve used for a few years.

Food:

Although we aren’t big promoters of fertilizer ‘in the field’, we do recommend a nice supplementary feeding when your plants are confined to a pot, growing indoors.  Again, just our recommendation ~ a top quality fish emulsion every 2 weeks when the plants are in their ‘grow phase’.  Stinky but effective!

Pests and Diseases:

No one wants to think that they are harboring these ‘nasties’ but you’ll never know what can be lurking inside.  Actually, some of these pests may just piggyback on your plants as they come home to roost.  Bottom line:  be vigilant.  I used to wait to act, but now I’m encouraging everyone to ‘be proactive, not reactive’.  Herbs are more susceptible to common pests when growing indoors, so keep your eyes open for whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and the WORST of all – scale insects!  I’ve begun a routine of regular spraying with an insecticidal soap.  If it works in the greenhouse, it should work on my sun porch.  There are a number of safe and effective products out there, so take a look.

Accepting the Indoor Challenge

I’ll be the first to admit it:  growing herbs indoors is not as easy as growing them outdoors.  But, rest assured, it can be done.  Since I have a lot of greenhouse space, plenty of light and water and 24/7 attention, I never felt the need to grow them indoors, at home.  But, over the years, as your questions about indoor growing became more numerous and specific, I began to grow more and more of them in our bright little ‘life of it’ room (named by my then 6 year old son, who on a cold wintery day, proclaimed that our warm sunny haven was ‘the life of it’) – not sure where that came from, but it stuck.  Twenty -three years later, it’s still bright and sunny and filled with herbs ferns, gardenias and a lot of citrus trees and bushes.

Our room is glass, on three sides, and has an east, south and west exposure;  basically we have a lot of light all day.  We have an old fashioned radiator backed up by a small baseboard electric heater.  I am always out there, watering, cleaning, trimming and keeping a sharp eye out for any potential pests.  So, the basics: light, heat, water and lots of attention.  I do a weekly spraying with a ‘safe’ pesticide made from … herbs!

The second vital component is knowing which herbs do best indoors.  We try to be specific on our site, and try to provide information on why some herbs do well indoors and why others should not be grown indoors.  Do yourself a favor and take our advice.  

Start small and try to pick three or four of your favorites – the ones you will use.  I’d suggest mint, parsley, oregano and thyme.  Rosemary and lavender are a bit trickier but they can be successfully grown indoors remembering that lavenders must dry out well between waterings.  A note of cautions – make sure that you don’t crowd out your plants, as good air flow between plants is a must.

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population. Monarch’s exist because of milkweed plants.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The monarch butterfly population has declined over 80% in the last 20 years.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)

An Overview on Using Herbal & Essential Oils for Your Skin: How They Work and Which Ones Work Best

An Overview on Using Herbal & Essential Oils for Your Skin: How They Work and Which Ones Work Best

Herbal & essential oils have become an increasingly popular way to treat a variety of ailments. They have potential uses for everything from improving a person’s mood to helping someone feel more relaxed and fall asleep more easily. Some essential oils even relieve the symptoms of pain and inflammation, heal irritations on the skin, and boost the immune system.(1) People choose to use essential oils in a variety of ways, such as aromatherapy, and topical application (through the skin) is one of the most natural and most common methods.

Topical Application of Herbal & Essential Oils

Topical essential oils are typically either applied directly to the skin (known as “neat” or “undiluted”) or via a carrier, such as a lotion or another type of oil. To realize how essential oils penetrate the skin, you must understand the anatomy of the skin. All skin has four layers, which are comprised of the stratums corneum, granulosum, spinosum and Basale. The palms of the hands and soles of the feet also contain a fifth layer of skin known as the stratum lucidum. (more…)

White Sage is a Winner With Us! – How to Make a Cleansing Stick

White Sage is a Winner With Us! – How to Make a Cleansing Stick

What is a White Sage Cleansing Stick?

Have you ever seen someone burn a rustic-looking bundle of dried herbs to cleanse their new home or work space? Well, that herb was most likely white sage. Though some people may find this practice a little odd, burning sacred herbs as a safeguard against evil or negative energy actually dates centuries back, to Ancient Babylonian practices. In most recent history, Native Americans continued this ritual throughout North and South America, and burnt this culturally-sacred herb to ward off negative energy and rid their homes and temples of bad spirits. The botanical word for sage, ‘Salvia’, actually comes from the Latin words, meaning “to heal”, and its medicinal properties as well as its natural ability to repel insects (like ladybugs), is probably at the root of its mystical history. (more…)

Grow an Edible Flower Garden

Grow an Edible Flower Garden

Love growing vegetables and herbs, why not choose these edible flowers to grow indoors or outside? Get the most out of your garden, whether it’s an expansive garden or a few flower pots, by combining the tastiness of vegetables with the beauty of flowers. While not all flowers are edible, here are some favorite and tasty flowers that are easy to grow inside, or in your garden, for a rich and aromatic experience.

What Are Edible Flowers?

Whether cooked, steeped, or eaten raw, each of these flowers is edible. However, be cautious when eating flowers. There are many more flowers that are poisonous or inedible. Make sure you know what you’re eating. Be sure you choose an herb that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides and appropriately prepared. Not all edible varieties are edible raw, while some are best served fresh or as a garnish to your salad.

(more…)

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Ever since humans discovered the many, powerful uses of herbs and spices, they’ve been fascinated by their smells, their tastes and their medicinal purposes. What many people fail to realize, is that the simple herbs and spices that are growing in their gardens and sitting in their kitchen cabinets have had important roles in the history of human civilization. Before modern refrigeration, spices were one of the only ways that people could keep their food from spoiling or enhance its flavor.

Herbs were around before the advent of contemporary medicine, so mixing plant ingredients together in a homeopathic remedy was the only option for relief from some illnesses. From the opening up of the spice trade in Asia in the Middle Ages to the misdirected spice seeking voyage that led to America, spices and herbs have played a powerful part in our legacy as a people. Here are some of the most storied tales of the most popular herbs and spices used today. (more…)