Indoor herb gardens are a great way to ensure a fresh, steady supply of herbs for cooking throughout the year as well as adding pretty foliage to your home. Not only are herbs easy to grow, drying and storing them are simple as well, so there is no need to worry about a bountiful harvest going to waste.
Herbs can either be started from seed or transplanted from the outdoor garden. Plant the seeds in containers filled with well-draining soil. Different herbs have different container size requirements. For example, dill, fennel and parsley need a medium to large container. Different herbs will also have different growing requirements--some herbs will germinate in cooler conditions than others.
Prune any established herbs from the outdoor garden first before transplanting them inside, recommends Barbara Damrosch in "The Garden Primer." Because some herbs are annuals, they may be at the end of their growing cycle if transplanted at the end of the summer. Instead, take a stem cutting or layer an annual outdoor herb by burying a section of a stem early in the growing season and using that growth for the cutting. Perennial herbs do well as transplants, although some, such as chives and tarragon, need a cold spell to spur new growth. Place these containers outside for a few weeks and then bring them back inside.
Light, Water and Pests
Indoor herbs need plenty of light, so choose a very sunny spot, preferably a south-facing windowsill, on which to place the container, recommends Janet Marinelli, editor of "The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Gardener's Desk Reference." An alternative to natural light is fluorescent or grow lights.
Water herbs regularly, adding organic fish emulsion fertilizer on occasion. Herb containers can also be grouped on a bed of moist pebbles and the leaves misted with water. Some experts say this practice encourages fungal growth, so check regularly for any signs of mold.
Indoor herbs are also susceptible to aphid, mite and whitefly infestations. Wash the plants in the sink with soap and water to remove any bugs, making sure any leaves are later washed thoroughly when harvesting.
Harvesting and Storing Herbs
Harvest herbs before the plant flowers, which is when herbs are at their most flavorful, recommends the West Virginia University Extension Service. After clipping the leaves, wash them in water and then dry. Herbs can either be air- , oven- or salt-dried, in which the leaves are placed in a shallow pan filled with salt for two weeks. Herbs can also be flash frozen by boiling the leaves for 50 seconds, rinsing them with ice water, and then placing the leaves in plastic and freezing.
Dry seeds by first rinsing them and laying them flat on cloth or paper, allowing them to dry for at least two weeks.
Store dried herbs in air-tight, glass containers. Repeat the drying process if moisture appears on the inside of the glass container. Keep the stored herbs in a cool, dark place.