Jekka's guide to indoor herb gardening

Jekka's guide to indoor herb gardening

Herbs are a wonderful addition to any meal, not only providing flavour but often also aid good digestion.  This blog looks at how you can grow herbs successfully inside.

Which herbs to choose?

The difference between growing herbs outside and inside is the level of both light and sun and the amount of air movement that the plant experiences. 

  • Light - The light makes the plant grow strong and the sun brings the oils to the surface of the leaf so enhancing the flavour. 
  • Air - The air movement not only prevents disease such as mildew but it also helps to make the plant strong. 

So, bearing those points in mind, choose herbs that you will use in the kitchen and which do not grow too tall trying to find a good light source.

These herbs will all adapt to being grown inside as long as they have a good light source: Basil, Wild Rocket, Coriander, Dill, Red Frills Mustard, Parsley, Oregano and Thyme

Sage is not included because it hates being inside as it needs very good light levels to grow and is very prone to disease if it does not have good air flow.

Jekka's tips on growing herbs from seed indoors

  • Choose a small container, fill with seed compost and water well.
  • Sow the seeds onto the surface of the damp compost. Sow thinly, average about 6- 10 seeds per small pot, depending on the size of the seed.
  • Cover with standard perlite; we use this rather than compost.
  • Watering will not be needed for the first few days, only water if you see the compost drying out. Do this in the morning, not at night.
  • Once the seedling emerges, only water in the morning, not at night. This is because windowsills can often be cold at night and a seedling sitting in cold compost can cause it to wilt, commonly called ‘damping off’.
  • Once they are starting to grow strongly and have produced a number of leaves you can then pot up one size of pot, commonly called ‘potting on’.

Jekka's advice for 'potting on'

When you are ready to pot the plant on, there are a number of things you need to consider:

  • The herb container
Choosing the right kind of pot for your plant is fairly important, the main criteria is to ensure that the pot has good drainage holes.  You will need a saucer to go under the pot so you do not have a wet windowsill.    Terracotta pots are great, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, terracotta (unlike plastic) is breathable, so both water and air can be absorbed through the walls, which is good for the roots. Secondly, terracotta pots are very good at regulating temperatures as, if temperatures drop at night, the porous clay slows down the heat transfer resulting in a more gradual change of temperature. 
    Jekka’s top tip is to only pot up one size at a time; do not over pot as young plants will not grow on until their roots touch the side of a pot.  Many young plants die because people over pot thinking they are saving time.
    • Potting compost
    This is the engine which helps your plant grow (see Jekka’s Guide to Soil for more information).  Please try and purchase a potting compost not a multipurpose compost, as this will have the right nutrients to maintain a healthy productive plant. We sell our own potting compost for collection from the farm.

      Jekka’s top tip is to add some broken crocks or some stones to the bottom of the pot before adding the compost as this will aid drainage.

      • Light 
      When growing inside light is one of the most important elements. Your indoor herb garden will need at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. The green leaves act like solar panels, which through positive phototaxis, turn towards the light, so that they can capture as much as they can. 
      Choose a window that does not get the midday sun as this will scorch young plants, especially Basil. West or East facing windows are ideal.  North facing windows are not as good as they do not get any sun.  You can use full spectrum growing lights, these are great in winter when the light level is very low and are ideal for fast growth, especially micro-herbs. 
      • Water
      Water is another vital component in plant survival as it serves many important physiological purposes in a plant's life, including growth and metabolism.  Being human we want to nurture so if we see a plant ailing, we tend to add water which is, in many cases, the wrong thing to do. 
        Jekka’s top tip is to water in the morning never at night, this way you will not send the plant to bed wet when the night temperature drops, so causing the plant to sulk. If you notice the leaves are turning yellow or wilting it is most probably because you have overwatered, if this is the case do not water for a day and see if the plant perks up.
        • Air and ventilation
        Good air flow around a young plant is essential, many new flats have sealed windows, if possible, especially in summer, put your herbs where they can get a draught, this will help prevent disease.
        • Cropping and harvesting
        Please do not be too greedy, only cut what is needed, leave a good third to grow back. Over cropping can stress the plant and, in some cases, kill them.  It is best to pick Basil from the top as this will encourage new shoots.
        • Feeding
        Once the plant is large enough and once you have started cropping it is a good idea to feed the plant weekly.  We use Maxicrop, a liquid seaweed fertiliser.  It is similar to you taking multivitamins, it not only encourages growth it helps to maintain the plants health.  We have a mantra ‘Feed on Friday’s’, that way we do not forget.

          Fancy getting started? We have put together some Jekka's Kits, including a complete ‘Jekka’s Grow at Home Herb Kit’ and a 'Jekka's Grow at Home Veg Kit' which contains all you need to start a little kitchen herb garden.