Indoor Herb Gardens

Today we are talking HERBS. Kath and Christine from Garden eats are here to share their expertise with everybody. Which ones are the best? How do we grow them indoors? What are the best ways to take care of them? But first...I'm talking pretty pots.  

Below are some creative ways to display your herbs. Have fun with it. Make pretty display boxes or revamp old cheap pots. Ikea has a great supply. Or buy some creative handmade ones via etsy. A friend and PUREmamas reader, Warren Macdougall, sells Tower Gardens {shown above} for growing larger gardens indoors. They really work and are pretty - as you can see. Read more about them via his web site

Etsy has some wonderful creative pots for sale. Here and Here. 

Etsy has some wonderful creative pots for sale. Here and Here

Woolly Pockets are my favorite modern way to display herbs and plants indoors. 

Woolly Pockets are my favorite modern way to display herbs and plants indoors. 

Now, Garden eats' Christine, and her mother Kath, are here to give us tips on how to grow herbs indoors. Since I have NO green thumb, I'm very thankful to have Christine's mom here to give me these tips. Read on...to find out what they have to say...

Some of our clients living in places like NYC or San Francisco in high rise buildings still want the chance to have an edible garden, yet lack the space some of us enjoy. Growing herbs inside your house is as easy as growing them outside! You just need a sunny window. And why not have them year round to enjoy? They have so many uses, from culinary to beauty and cleaning up the casa. 

Here are a few of our top picks.

B A S I L

Coming from an Italian family, the scent of basil brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen and the sweet smell of sauce simmering all day. In Italy, a bouquet of basil is a sign of love.

Italian large leaf basil, the most common of basil, is the Italian cook’s favorite. Use it in pestos, sprinkled over fresh tomato slices or in your homemade salad dressing. I add it to my tomato sauce in the last ten minutes of cooking to grab the best flavor.

If you’ve ever grown Lemon basil, then you know what a clean fresh scent it has. And it really tastes like lemon! Put a leaf or two in your tea for an extra punch. Garnish your favorite fish or picture it on fresh melon slices. Yum!

Purple leaf basil, also known as Opal basil, has dark purple ruffled leaves and looks great in a summer flower bouquet. Its licorice flavor complements frosty summer drinks. Surprise your dinner guests with a dark purple pesto served with your favorite pasta or soak it in a bottle of balsamic vinegar for a week and pour over fresh veggies.

Basil doesn’t need too much attention to grow a large bushy plant. It loves rich soil so I plant mine right into a pot of compost. Water it when the top soil dries out and if any flowers appear, pinch them out and your plant will thank you with more leaves. Yup, it’s that easy.

R O S E M A R Y

The uplifting aroma of rosemary will convince you to have it in your kitchen. Just brushing the stems gives off a great scent. A few leaves in tea will aid your digestion and help headaches. Steam a few sprigs and use as an expectorant. I guarantee any one entering your house will ask what smells so good!

Want to beautify naturally? Try it as a hair tonic by simmering 5 sprigs in water. Let cool, strain and  pour over shampooed hair. Expect an extra shine that cleans hair follicles and promotes new hair growth. The same spray works wonders for cleaning the air in your home! And, if you want to prevent fleas on your pets, a couple sprays of the same tonic will keep those pests away. Here’s a recipe to make your own Rosemary oil. Use it as a massage oil to reduce muscular aches or dab a few drops on your temples to relieve tension and stress.

Rosemary oil

  • Dry a cup of rosemary needles overnight on paper towel.
  • Place the needles in a covered jar filled with organic oil of your choice.
  • Keep in a sunny window for six weeks, shaking the jar frequently.
  • After six weeks strain and keep it covered in a cool dark place.
  • Voila, rosemary hair oil!

We love rosemary in the kitchen

Rosemary is a pretty strong herb so the rule applies here; more isn’t better. The leaves and stems can be used, fresh or dried. We’ve all seen the expensive specialty oils at our local stores. Make it yourself by soaking a few sprigs (tied together) in organic olive oil. Strain, add vinegar and season to make your own dressing. A favorite in my house is roasted sweet potatoes with dried rosemary leaves. A newer trend is topping ice creams and mousses with a couple leaves. I have to try that still!

Growing Rosemary indoors is easy. Purchase a larger plant since it tends to grow slowly. Rub a stem between your fingers. If the needle-like leaves feel dry or fall off, pass on that one. This aromatic herb likes regular watering, but not soaking. Insert your finger into the soil to about an inch. If you don’t feel any moisture, then it’s time for a drink. You won’t need to do this every time. You’ll get the hang of when to water it. It grows best in sandy loose soil. If you do fertilize your rosemary, use an organic one specified for vegetables. Just be sure to do it only in spring and fall, not during the summer growing months.

L A V E N D E R

By far my favorite herb, and it couldn’t be easier to grow. While it thrives best outdoors, it can  definitely be grown happily inside. Oh the uses for this sweet gem! When we think of lavender, we’re more likely to picture using it in a bath or perfume, but there’s more to this herb.

Let’s start in the kitchen. Garnish a summer ice tea with lavender and expect a sweet mild taste. Garnish a limoncello and wait for the oohs and ahhs. Add a ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried lavender buds to brownies, cakes or cookies. Anything “lemony” loves lavender. If you enjoy a lighter dressing on your salads, ½ teaspoon lavender buds, ¼ teaspoon lemon basil and a pinch of salt combined with red wine vinegar and organic olive oil will do the trick.

The fresh or dried flowers of lavender are chock full of medicinal properties. Make a small sachet by placing a bunch of dried lavender buds in a small cloth bag and place under your pillow for peaceful slumber. Known as the “relaxation” herb, just a whiff of it will take away stress and tension. As with many other herbs, letting it steep in your favorite oil for a few weeks will provide you with a great massage oil (same directions as the rosemary oil above). Rub it onto your skin for a muscle relaxer and to reduce inflammation. A couple dabs on your temples and above your lip is likely to soothe.

Tidy Up! Using lavender to clean your house not only smells great, it’s also a natural disinfectant. Make your own environmentally friendly cleaner by combining:

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of lavender oil
  • ½ teaspoon tea tree oil in a spray bottle.

Safe to use on counters and near food!

A few varieties: English lavender is the most popular grown today and is great used in bouquets and the best type to use in recipes. Typically, the darker the flower, the stronger the taste and scent.

French lavender’s scent isn’t nearly as strong as the English, but its serrated silvery leaves are pretty nonetheless. Use it more for crafts and flower arrangements.

Spanish lavender has deep purple pinecone spikes with a butterfly shaped flower atop. This one however, blooms in the spring. Prune it back and enjoy grey green foliage all summer.

Lavender grows well inside with a few basic steps. It needs well drained, almost sandy soil. Keep it in a sunny window and rotate the plant every few days so it doesn’t become lopsided. Water only when the soil dries out but don’t make a soggy soil since it can be prone to root rot. After flowering, cut your plant back a couple inches to encourage bushiness and repeat flowering.

Happy herb growing!