Herb gardens allow gardeners to spice up their meals with fresh flavors. A well-cared for herb garden can last years with proper pruning, watering and care. Beginners should start container herbs from transplants rather than from seed and can find transplants at local nurseries and garden centers in the spring.
Herbs must be planted in containers with drainage holes in the bottom, since those planted in containers with no holes may develop root rot or other diseases. In general, terra cotta containers will dry out faster than plastic containers. Place a container with drainage holes inside a decorative ceramic planter to camouflage the container if you're worried about aesthetics.
Herbs grow in two main types: annual and perennial. The University of Southern Utah lists common perennial plants as catnip, chamomile, chives, lavender, lemon balm, mint, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. The most notable annual herbs are basil and cilantro. When planning your indoor herb garden, plant annual pots in different containers than perennial herbs, or plant each type of herb in its own pot.
West Virginia University suggests a potting mix for indoor herb gardens of two parts potting soil to one part of either perlite or coarse sand. To boost drainage in the container, place 1 to 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the pot before adding the potting mix on top.
Herb gardens need sufficient light to grow. While gardeners can move their plants outdoors in late spring and summer to maximize light and heat, during the rest of the year they still need sufficient light indoors. Place herb containers in a south-facing window to allow the most exposure to sunlight. Rotate the containers in the window once or twice a week so all plants receive equal exposure to sun. Alternately, set up a plant light system using fluorescent lights.
Herb gardens need water to properly grow, but too much water is dangerous. To check the moisture content of the soil, stick your finger 2 to 3 inches into the potting mix. Dry soil will feel crumbly and will not stick to your finger; wet soil will be moist and will cling to your finger. Water the container herb garden when the soil becomes mostly dry, but not bone dry; add water until the water flows out the drainage holes at the bottom of your container. Then allow the container to dry out again. Gardeners can also mist herb plants with a spray bottle periodically.