If you're a prepper new to growing herbs, container gardening, indoor gardening or all of the above then you've come to the right place. I'm going to be sharing my beginners guide to indoor container herb gardening here in this post. At the end of this guide you should have knowledge of 5 herbs that are easy to grow indoors and in containers. You'll be able to choose the best herb containers for planting your herb garden. I'll cover some indoor garden lighting as well. I'll also share some tips on picking the best container gardening soil for growing your own indoor container herb garden. So lets get started by picking our containers.
What Makes the Best Herb Growing Containers?
There are a lot of containers to start your indoor container herb garden with we're going to cover a few of the main ones that I find work well here. Containers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and each has its pros and cons that we're going to discuss. So lets start by talking about what makes a good container for indoor herb gardening. There are a few different things you're looking for in herb containers and one of the most important in my mind is root space. What I mean by root space is that your pot has to have enough room for your herb's roots to grow inside the container without becoming root bound. Root bound plants will become unhealthy and eventually die if they aren't properly treated for this will occur if the container is too small for your plant or the plant out grows your container. So with that being said you want an appropriately sized pot for the herb or herbs you're going to be growing in that particular pot. Drainage is the next trait I look for when selecting a good container for my herbs. Depending on the herb garden plans you might need a pot that drains really well on the other hand you might want a pot that holds water longer than others and this will be based largely upon what herbs you decide to grow. Now lets take a look at some of the different types of herb containers you can choose from.
Terra cotta pots have been used for what seems like forever in container gardening. They come in a wide variety of sizes so depending your needs you can find one that will work for you. These pots work well for a variety of herbs and offer good drainage as most will have at least one drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Depending on what you're planting one drawback to the terra cotta style pots is that they're made of clay which tends to absorb some of the water from the soil. Terra cotta containers can also be rather fragile and tend to break if you drop them which can lead to you cleaning up a big mess. Overall though I would say the terra cotta style pots are a great place to start looking for a pot for your herbs.
Cheap, versatile and come in a variety of shapes and sizes you can't go wrong with a plastic pot for your indoor container herb garden. These offer the same drainage as the terra cotta style pots and often come with a drainage plate as well. They can be a little flimsy compared to the terra cottas but you can find ones that are just as sturdy as well just shop around and you'll find one that will work just fine. Since they're made from plastic they won't absorb water from your soil either. One thing to keep in mind however is that some plastics contain chemicals that could leech into your soil.
The recycled pots are a great natural way to grow your indoor container herb garden. They come in various sizes and colors and offer adequate drainage as well. One thing that I like about these is that they are recycled from various plant fibers making them all natural. The ones that I have are made from bamboo and are biodegradable after several years of use although their life can be prolonged if used indoors.
Herb Garden Container Ideas
Indoor container herb gardening is about having fun and being creative too so lets look at some cool ideas to plant your herbs in. I have seen thousands of different vessels you can plant in one that I've personally tried and had some success with are the cheap plastic totes you can buy at almost any retail store. They come in various lengths, widths and depths also so they are a great option. You will have to drill drainage holes in the bottom of those if you need more water drainage for your plant. Pottery vases also work great and can add a sort of elegance around the house if you're going that route. Buckets of any sort are a good choice as well. They offer ample room for root growth and companion planting and most will have some sort of handle. Really the sky is the limit for containers in herb gardening . It's all about what works best for you and the herbs you decide to plant.
Container Gardening Soil
The next thing on the list for our indoor container herb garden is soil. Soil serves many purposes for our plants and all are important and should be taken into consideration when making your container herb garden. The main things I would consider taking a look at are water drainage, moisture retention, nutrients, and aeration of your container soil.
Water Drainage and Moisture Retention
Both of these are dependent upon what herbs you're going to have in your indoor garden and should be looked into before planting. For example lavender requires good drainage so it would be a good idea to have a soil that allows the plant to absorb the water it needs and drain the rest. You can add sand, gravel, sphagnum moss and peat to increase a soils draining characteristics. For something like oregano it requires more moisture retention. Which simply means the soil needs to be able to hold moisture to allow the plant enough time to absorb what it needs. This can also cut down on the time you have to spend watering your herbs. Adding compost can help to increase your soils moisture retention; you can also buy bags of soil that are especially made to retain moisture.
What About Nutrients in my Soil?
Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are the main nutrients plants need to thrive. There are a ton of different soils you buy but you probably want to invest in some sort of potting soil and go from there. I've had good luck with using potting soil in the past but one thing you have to keep in mind is that eventually it will run out of nutrients in a container. This means you'll have to supplement your plants nutritional needs by fertilizing which will cover more in just a little bit.
Why does my Soil Need Aeration?
Soil aeration is great for your herb garden. It allows the roots of your herbs to grow and develop into healthy plants and allows them to absorb nutrients and water a bit easier also. Another thing most people don't know is that plants take in oxygen from their roots and not having enough oxygen for them can be bad. So to increase your soils aeration there are several things you can add. The first one I recommend trying is perlite it's kind of like styrofoam in that its really light. This also makes your soil lighter and fluffier thus increasing its aeration qualities.
What is the Best Fertilizer for my Indoor Herb Garden?
You'll find a wide range in opinions about this question but I'm going to share with you what I would recommend for some one starting in indoor container herb gardening. Fertilizers come in two main forms synthetic and organic in these forms you have two types granular and liquid. I recommend staying away from any synthetic fertilizers whenever possible especially if you're going to be consuming what you grow. They have there place but to me its not indoors and its not in an herb garden. My main complain is if you're using a synthetic granular fertilizer you run the risk of having a child or even a pet eating it. I prefer to use organic fertilizers when I can because its natural and I feel safer when consuming it. Now I still wouldn't recommend letting your child eat a bunch of organic fertilizer.
Another thing to keep in mind here is the ratio of the previously mentioned nutrients: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Based on what your plant is needing you may need to get a fertilizer that is higher in one nutrient than the other. I generally recommend that you go with a 10-10-10 fertilizer when starting out as this is a good basic ratio. The 10-10-10 simply means that it contains 10% nitrogen 10% potassium and 10% phosphorus. I like to use liquid garden fertilizers when I know my plants need some nourishment quickly and I don't want to leave anything on top of the soil. If you're going for more of a slow release you can go with the granular type you can also premix this into your soil if your soil has no nutrients or lacks the required amount.
Indoor Herb Garden Lighting
We all know that plants need sunlight in order to grow healthy and have a good yield, but how exactly can we get the sunlight inside our homes? Well there are a couple of ways we can light up our indoor container herb garden; the first would be to place your herbs on a windowsill where they are sure to get all the sun they need throughout the day. This can be a hard thing to do if you don't have a window that normally faces the sun. So this brings us to the realm of artificial lighting. Plants like herbs use all colors of light on the spectrum, but luckily for us they use more of the blue and red parts of the spectrum.
Depending on what you are wanting out of your plants. You can get better results using more of one than the other or even a combination of these colors. You may also want to mimic natural daylight as close as possible this is what I recommend when starting out in indoor container herb gardening. The color of your lights is based on a unit called degree kelvin I won't go into detail about what it means but it's essentially a scale to determine the color of light which is referred to as color temperature. Now you're cooler colors such as blues and whites are above 5000 degrees kelvin and the warmer colors like reds and yellows are below 5000 degrees kelvin. Natural daylight is said to be about 5500-6000 degrees kelvin; I recommend when you're starting out to find a color temperature some where around this.
Different colors of light can actually trigger different responses in your plants so lets take a look at that. Lets say you're just starting your indoor herb garden and you want to give it a little boost. Using cooler temperature lighting will help to increase vegetative growth. The next one you won't have to worry about as much if you're growing herbs but if you're growing some veggies you might be interested. Warmer colors have the ability to aid in the flowering and fruiting stages of growth which could lead to better yields and healthier crops.
What Lamps do I Use in my Herb Garden?
When selecting lamps for indoor container herb gardening there are a few options you can take. The first one to look at are the HID (High intensity discharge) lamps. For most people these are going to be very impractical because of their size. They are a pretty bulky style are quite heavy and tend to have poor choices of color. They are also the least efficient style of type of lamp we're going to discuss. However a lot of commercial growers do use HID lamps for larger growing operations.
The next lamp for us to take a look at for indoor container herb gardening is the fluorescent type. These have been a favorite for indoor gardening for awhile now. They are lighter than a HID lamp and are a more budget friendly choice as well. Another great thing about fluorescent lamps is they come in more of a variety of sizes and color temperatures. If you have a larger area you need to cover you might consider going with a tube style fluorescent lamp. For those of you working with a smaller area such as myself you could go with the compact fluorescent (CFL) style. Both styles are cheaper than the HID type lamps and offer better efficiency as well.
The last type of lamp we are going to talk about is the newer LED types. These are kind of a hot trend for indoor container herb gardening right now. I recently worked on the lighting at a greenhouse that was built for a university and they used all LED type lights for their grow rooms. They offer a very wide array of color temperatures and are the most efficient lamps available. For pricing they are somewhat all over the map. You can find them as low as $15 and all the way into thousands of dollars it all depends on your budget and the setup you're going for. InaRock makes a good LED light for a descent price if you're just starting out.
What are the Easiest Herbs to Start in my Indoor Herb Garden?
Now that you've got the necessary items for starting your indoor herb garden it's time to pick the best herbs for it. There are hundreds of herbs that someone could use to grow indoors and out. I've selected 5 herbs that I find to work well when starting an indoor herb garden.
- Aloe Vera
Growing Aloe vera indoors is one of my favorite herbs to use for indoor container herb gardening. It's as easy to grow as it is useful. Caring for aloe vera plants is generally fairly easy from my experience with the herb anyways. It prefers a well drained soil and only needs to be watered about every couple of weeks or when the soil drys out. This makes the herb particularly easy to grow for beginners or anyone who doesn't have the time for everyday watering. Over watering can cause some pretty significant damage to your herb. You'll be able to tell if your plant is being over watered when the leaves turn into a brownish black color. The aloe plant also quite useful as a medicinal herb as I've mentioned in previous posts on the blog. Aloe Vera can be used to treat minor burns and cuts, and can also be used to help with acne.
Growing mint plants indoors is probably one of the easier plants I tried, this stuff literally grows like a weed. If you're a beginner in indoor container herb gardening this is a must try. You want to be sure that when growing mint plants that you keep them separate from other plants, the reason for this is that they will take over your garden in no time. I used a basic potting soil for my mint and they seemed to grow just fine the only thing is you want to make sure that they get plenty of light as they tend to grow pretty lanky if they are kept shaded. Since you're growing your herb indoors you can probably get away with watering it every 2-3 days. Just keep an eye on it and if it looks a little thirsty give it some water. Mint can be used in a ton of different things from cooking to soaps this herb offers a great aroma and flavor.
I love using basil for cooking it has a great aroma and adds fresh flavor to Italian dishes. I had probably the most success with growing basil indoors simply because I did it from seed to harvest. It sprouts rather quickly and requires only a basic potting soil. You can water your basil every one to two days as basil like a damper soil. Another cool thing you can try with basil is cloning I found that this was an easy one to clone so you might give it a try. All you have to do is cut off a stem about 4-6 inches long with two leaves and put in an inch of water. You can also add rooting hormones to the cut you made to speed up the process. This should take around a week to start seeing results.
Lemongrass has to be one of the easier herbs to start with in indoor container herb gardening. All you have to do is go to your local grocery store buy some in the produce section, cut the tops of and then put the shoots in a glass of water. After a few days they'll begin to form roots and you can add them to your container garden. When you go to harvest the herb you can cut the tops and use in teas to and a fresh lemon citrus taste. Lemongrass requires a bigger container for growing so it might be best to use something like a 5 gallon bucket. You should water your lemongrass regularly especially when it gets bigger as it will consume more water.
Growing parsley indoors I found was pretty easy to accomplish for a couple of reasons. It doesn't require a very deep container to grow in so you can find several different types to get the job done. I would recommend planting parsley in at least a 4 inch deep pot for best results. I also noticed that every time I cut my parsley for harvest it would grow back so I could get another harvest. Although the second and third cuttings were never as good as the first. Parsley is widely used in cooking for bringing freshness to a dish it's a great herb to have in your kitchen cabinets and now you can grow it all year round. I grew my parsley in the same soil as my basil and also had it on the same watering cycle. You could pair the two together and have a nice companion herb container that you could use together in cooking.
Now that you've got all your necessary items for starting out in indoor container herb gardening and have some easy to grow herbs; you should be able to keep fresh herbs year round in stock. I hope you found the Beginners Guide: Indoor Container Herb Gardening helpful if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below or contact us by email. Thanks for reading and check the blog for even more articles coming soon.