How to Plant a Window Sill Herb Garden

How to Plant a Window Sill Herb Garden

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  1. Nothing beats the taste and aroma of fresh picked herbs added to your favorite recipes. With a few pots and a sunny window sill, you can grow fresh, delicious herbs all year round. Whether you start your herbs from seeds, cuttings or young plants, gardening on a window sill allows you to enjoy the fresh tastes and scents without taking up a lot of space.

    Choosing the Window for Herb Gardening

    Most herbs require bright sunlight for several hours each day to thrive and grow into lush plants. A south-facing window provides ample light for most herbs. Herbs also prefer overnight temperatures that are a little cooler than daytime. A drop to 50 degrees or lower overnight will make your herbs feel right at home. Avoid planting herbs near a heating vent to prevent excessive drying. Close the vent or redirect the airflow, if possible. If a south-facing window is not available, an east- or west-facing window is the next best choice, although this exposure may result is slower plant growth.

    Selecting Planting Materials

    Select pots that will sit comfortably on your window sill. Look for planters with drainage holes and trays to catch the runoff. Many home improvement stores and garden centers have sets of planters that sit in a tray, which are perfectly sized for a narrow window sill. Plastic or sealed ceramic pots will not dry out as quickly as clay pots and are available with snap-on trays in a variety of sizes and colors. Purchase a good potting soil or make your own by mixing one part each of compost, vermiculite (or perlite), potting soil and sand.

    Picking the Herbs to Grow

    The most important thing to consider when selecting herbs to grow is what herbs you and your family like. Think about the recipes you prepare that may benefit from fresh herbs. Then decide if you want to start your herbs from seeds, cuttings or plants. Herbs such as basil, chervil and parsley grow well from seeds. Some do better when started from cuttings, such as oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage. Others, such as chives, bay and tarragon are best started as clumps from an outdoor plant or purchased plants.

    Planting Herbs from Seeds

    To start from seeds, follow the seed pack directions for planting depths and start the seeds in a small pot. As an alternative, or to grow a larger quantity of plants, start seeds in trays and transplant into individual pots later, when they are a few inches tall. Start the seeds in a quality seed-starting mixture, available at garden centers. Many herbs are easily grown from seed, although some require a longer germination period. For this reason, it is better to start the seeds separately and repot the seedlings according to their growth pattern.

    Planting Herbs from Cuttings

    Take a cutting from a healthy plant early in the day, before the heat of the day dries them out. Cut a 4- to 5-inch section from the plant, strip off the lower leaves and pot the cutting in perlite or vermiculite, a soilless growing medium. Keep the medium moist and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap to provide humidity. Once the cuttings root, transplant them into individual pots. Use a loose potting soil with good drainage.

    Digging up Clusters or Starting with Outdoor Plants

    If a friend has an outdoor herb garden, digging up and separating clusters of existing plants is a great way to prolong the growing season. Pot them and transition them to growing indoors gradually, keeping them in a sheltered area outdoors where they will receive adequate lighting. After a few weeks, bring them in and position on the window sill. Chives, which clump and spread throughout the season, are easily divided and can be potted. Parsley, which tends to get a little faded as the season progresses, can be dug up, cleaned and trimmed back for indoor growth in a pot. Be sure to clean up any plants you dig up, and look for signs of disease or bug infestation before bringing indoors.

    Maintaining Healthy Herb Plants

    Once you have your indoor window sill herb garden established, caring for your herbs is simple. Provide them with adequate water when the top of the soil is dry. Empty trays to prevent wet roots, which can kill an otherwise healthy plant. Bear in mind that plastic pots will not need watering as often as clay pots. Check herb plants often for bugs, especially aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. If you find infestation, separate the plant and use an organic insecticidal soap spray to eliminate the pests. Avoid chemical sprays, as you will be eating these herbs. During dormant periods in winter, decrease the amount and frequency of watering. After the dormancy, feed with diluted liquid seaweed or work a top dressing of compost into the top soil. A plastic fork works well to cultivate the soil and work fertilizer down into the plant’s roots. Keep the leaves free of dust and give the plants an occasional shower. The ideal scenario is to rinse them with the hose in the kitchen sink.

    With a little planning and maintenance, your window sill herbs will reap a bounty of flavor and your indoor herb gardening will be a rewarding and fun experience.

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