1Thing: Start Your Own Windowsill Herb Garden

September 4, 2018

By Lori Melton

In a big city like New York, access to personal outdoor space for gardening is limited. Don’t worry, though - there are many creative ways to bring a little of the outdoors into your apartment. Cooking enthusiasts will be especially happy to know you can grow your own herb garden right on a sunny windowsill to keep your kitchen stocked with fresh herbs throughout the year. Just follow these tips.

Pick a Sunny Windowsill

The first thing you need to do is pick the right windowsill to house your herb garden. Ideally, the window should be south-facing and get at least six hours of natural sunlight a day. If you don’t have that type of window in your place, you’ll have to provide some type of artificial plant lighting to help your plants grow. Fluorescent lamps will work and should be placed as closely as possible to the plants without touching or burning them.

Plants vs. Seed Packets

You can purchase herb plants or start growing herbs from seed packets. Good windowsill herbs include dill, rosemary, sage, basil, cilantro and thyme. Seed packets cost less but will require more work and take longer to grow. If you choose to go with plants, use containers that are six to 12 inches deep. Multiple herbs can be planted in a longer or wider container. Or, if you plant single herbs, make sure you have at least a six-inch pot. Seeds don’t need a pot to start out. Any container will work and then you can transfer them to a bigger pot when they reach a height of two to four inches. Make sure all containers have drainage holes; place saucers underneath to catch water and keep it from damaging your sill.

How to Plant Herbs

When planting a windowsill herb garden, it’s best to avoid using garden soil, as it can contain diseased organisms. To avoid spreading disease to your new herbs, use a soilless potting mix.

For seeds, fill the container to about an inch from the top with potting mix, put three to five seeds on top of the soil and cover them with a light layer of mix and then plastic to help seal in moisture. Seed packets should give directions, or you can follow this detailed list of seed-starting instructions.

For plants, put about a two-inch layer of potting mix in the bottom of the pot, carefully take the herb plant from the pot it was purchased in, put it in the new pot and gently spread out the roots. Fill it in with potting mix about an inch from the top, leaving space for watering. Water upon planting to help seat the plants down in the soil mix.

Herb Garden Care

Place your herb containers on your sunny windowsill or under fluorescent lighting to stimulate growth. Add water regularly to keep the soil moist, but not pooling or soaked. Drain saucers after watering and use a half-strength, all-purpose fertilizer solution that’s labeled for use on edible plants about every two weeks.

Fertilizer acts as plant food and you can adjust the amount you give according to how the plants look and the seasons. If plants look wispy, use less fertilizer. If they look unhealthy, give them more. They will also use less food in the winter because they grow more slowly. Snip a couple of inches off the tips of the plants to promote branch growth and bushiness. Once plants grow to about six inches tall, herbs should be ready to use.