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How to Start an Indoor Garden: Growing Herbs & Small Vegetables at Home

Fresh basil on homemade pasta. Rejuvenating mint tea. Juicy tomatoes, right off the vine. Using fresh herbs and homegrown vegetables is an easy trick to level up your meals and enjoy the flavors of the world. Luckily, these small gardens can be simple to start and maintain indoors, and they'll help you enjoy restaurant-quality meals from the comfort of home. These are some tips to help you get started with an indoor garden, no green thumb required:

Woman holding a basket of three small plants.

  1. Check the sunlight. Most herbs require at least four to six hours of full sunlight. Before starting your garden, check the sunlight on the window sills of different rooms in your home throughout the day. Generally, the bright light of a south-facing window will be the best location for your indoor garden. The amount of sunlight your home receives will also impact which herbs and plants will do best in your indoor garden.

  2. Choose what to grow. Consider the types of food you enjoy cooking at home. For example, if you like to make Italian dishes, consider growing herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Prefer salads or soups? Chives, dill, and parsley could bring new flavor to your next salad. Consider if you want to add some vegetables to your garden. Carrots, green onions, microgreens, and hot peppers all do well indoors. Tomatoes can also be grown indoors, although they will need as much sunlight as possible to thrive. Finally, consider your indoor air temperature. Most herbs and vegetables will do well when the ambient air temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees. Consider if any drafty windows or side rooms have lower temperatures in the winter; it may be best to avoid these locations.

  3. Gather supplies and start your garden. You can start your indoor garden from seeds, or, for a faster start, consider purchasing starter plants from your local nursery or garden center. Choose a selection of pots or one of the many indoor planter systems available for use that will give your herbs and vegetables plenty of room for their roots to expand. To minimize messes and water spills choose planters with saucers. Use indoor potting soil, which is specially formulated to help plants grow in indoor conditions.

  4. Consider your water usage. Not all herbs and vegetables are created equal; some need more water than others. For example, basil should be kept consistently moist. Well-drained soil is best for herbs like thyme and rosemary. As a general rule of thumb, check your indoor garden daily and water it when the top of the soil just starts to feel dry but the soil beneath is still moist. If the edges of any leaves start to wilt, that’s a sign they need more water.

  5. Optimize humidity levels. If your home's indoor air is especially dry, such as during the winter when the heat is running, mist your herbs once a week. For optimal humidity levels, consider setting your herbs and vegetables on a tray of pebbles filled with water. If humidity levels are too high, such as during the summer months, you may notice mildew forming. Place a small fan nearby to improve circulation.

  6. Harvest with care. Just like with watering, harvesting will be different for each kind of herb and vegetable. For herbs, proper harvesting is important to support their robust growth while vegetables are often easier to harvest. For instance, you can harvest oregano by snipping leaves anywhere from the plant, and chives can be cut down to soil level. Other varieties only survive if you harvest from the top of the plant. Check with your local garden center to learn more about safely harvesting your herbs and vegetables.

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