Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ask the Internet: Indoor Herb Garden Advice?

Last week, a reader named Whitney wrote in asking for information on indoor herb gardens. (Hi, Whitney!) Sadly, I can’t find the actual question, making me a big dummy. So, Whitney, please forgive me for the following paraphrasing:

Q: Tally ho, good website! ‘Tis a glorious day for a question on your electronic board! Earlier today, I was taking my morning constitutional to the local herb grower when it struck me: with a little ingenuity and some old-fashioned elbow grease, I could grow my own herbs indoors! Bully! Alas, I’m baffled and bewildered about where to begin. Your counsel would please me exceedingly. Huzzah!

A: Thanks for writing, Whitney! Growing herbs indoors is a great alternative to buying them at the supermarket. There’s much less waste, and the financial aspect, especially if you cook with a lot of fresh herbs, could work out very well in your favor.

To get started, I might check out IndoorHerbGardenTips.com, then peruse the tutorials as eHow and HGTV. For ideas about what kinds of herbs thrive indoors, this slideshow from This Old House could be very helpful. If you’d like to prettify the whole setup, I love this window treatment from Apartment Therapy’s 2007 Smallest Coolest contest. Finally, CHG's own 156 Cheap, Healthy Recipes for Ten Common Leftover Herbs might be useful on the cooking front.

A quick word about the Aerogarden, which you might have seen on commercials: Rachel (who often writes for this site) owned one in her last apartment. She says, “If you have gardening experience, you’ll probably do great. If you don’t, do some research beforehand. It’s good for people with low-light environments and no outdoor space. The only con: do not keep it in your bedroom. Those lights are bright, yo.” Hee.

Readers, what about you? Do you have an indoor herb garden? What herbs do you grow? What tools do you use? What are your favorite online resources? What advice would you give Whitney?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Anna N said...

I'm going to recommend the blog posts below, which are really helpful. One thing that I've had problems with is dry air indoors -- a horticulturist once told me that houses are drier than the Sahara in winter! Plants don't like that. To keep them happy, you can spray or mist them with water, or put the pots on top of a shallow tray of pebbles with a little water in it. The water will evaporate and keep the air more humid.

Growing herbs indoors: http://www.nybg.org/wordpress/?p=1121
Sowing seeds indoors: http://www.nybg.org/wordpress/?p=2014

Since it's always nice to get some hands-on experience and be able to talk to someone in person, I'd recommend checking out your local botanical garden or cooperative extension program or skill share event for classes or demonstrations on herbs or container gardening - they might even be free, like these ones from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden:


More classes from the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx (full disclosure: I work there): http://conted.nybg.org/conted.php

There are lots of useful books, too; I'd recommend "Herbs: Organic Gardening Basics Volume 5" from Rodale, and "Gourmet Herbs: Classic and Unusual Herbs for Your Garden and Your Table" from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Local Cook said...

Thanks for posting this - i was JUST thinking I should try to grow indoor herbs :-)

DMBY said...

I would like to grow herbs indoors too, but I worry that when I need some, I will take all the leaves off the plant and then how long will it take to grow back?

Ali said...

My hubby and I got an AeroGarden as a wedding gift and were eager to try the herb pack. All the herbs aside from the thyme (which replaced cilantro that didn't grow at all) did really awesome and for a couple months I was able to make a few batches of pesto, have chives for topping things, some dill for soup and mint for... well nothing really. The mint actually did amazingly well but I just don't like mint much. If you aren't getting the system as a gift though it is a bit pricey. I think pots under a grow light would probably have faired just as well.

Whitney said...

Thanks a lot for mentioning me in your post! The “paraphrasing” was alas, funny and a welcomed deviation from the normal non-slang enhanced/”fun” English I have become accustomed to speaking here in Norway (alas has become the word of the day among my non-American friends and I-so thanks for that too!).

As I have my own food blog (http://thanksforthefood.blogspot.com/) I’m always happy to make my mark in the food-blog-o-sphere. My Norwegian doctor has recommended that I maintain my pre-Norway eating habits to keep my health and spirits up during the long and dark winters. Using fresh herbs is a big part of that. I’d also love to venture into growing my own chilies too one day.

I am at a bit of a disadvantage from the US readers, since I live in Norway. The Aerogarden looks very interesting, but I couldn’t find it here in Norway and importing (and getting 25% tax thrown in to boot + import duty) is discouraging. The books mentioned from the BK Botanical Garden are also out of reach for me unless I buy them and have them sent to Norway.

Looking forward to more of your comments and advice.