Tips for Kids
- Learn what conditions each herb prefers. For example, basil prefers warmth, while sage and rosemary like cooler temperatures. Click Here to review additional plant care guides for herbs.
- Pinch back branching plants, such as basil, to keep them shrubby rather than leggy.
- Choose compact or dwarf varieties.
- Leaves receiving enough light will be thick and normal in size. Which window in your house receives at least 5 to 6 hours of daily sunlight? Keep in mind that insufficient light results in thin, small leaves.
- Keep soil moist but not soggy. Pressing your finger into the top inch of potting mix is a good way to check for soil moisture.
Growing herbs indoors on a sunny windowsill can provide a convenient source of fresh basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs for you and your family to enjoy. For beginner gardeners, you can’t go wrong with a windowsill herb garden and you don’t need a fancy greenhouse. The trick to growing herbs inside is providing the right amount of light, water, fertilizer and humidity needed by the different herbs. Fresh herbs bring a welcome hint of summer when tossed into salads or onto broiled chicken. Here are some tips to help you and your children enjoy caring for a small windowsill herb garden through the winter season.
Tools and Materials
· potting soil or soilless seed-starting mix
· herb seeds and/or plants
Choose your Herbs
Good choices include basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. You can start herbs from seed or purchase small plants. Annual herbs are especially easy to start from seed; most perennial herbs take longer to germinate and grow so it's easier to start with plants.
Use individual pots for each plant so you can give each herb the specific care it needs. Be sure containers have drainage holes and waterproof saucers.
If starting seeds, use a seed-starting mix or potting soil, or a 50:50 combination of the two. Avoid using garden soil, which tends to be heavy and may contain disease organisms. Don't skimp on the potting soil or use the least expensive brand. Herbs do best in moist, yet well-drained, soil mixes. Never use soil from the outdoor garden as this is too heavy and doesn't drain well. If the soil is too dry when removed from the package, lightly moisten it before planting your herbs. Sow seeds, checking the seed packet to determine planting depth.
A sunny, south-facing window is adequate for most herbs, although supplemental fluorescent lights will help in winter. Most herbs need at least five to six hours of direct sunlight daily.
The amount of sunlight or supplemental light your plants receive will dictate what kinds of herbs you and your children can grow. In a sunny, south- or southwest-facing windowsill, try growing sage, rosemary, thyme, and even spicy-tasting nasturtiums. The east- or west-facing windows will do nicely for aromatic mints, chives, parsley, and old-fashioned scented geraniums.
Now if you don't have enough natural sunlight, don't worry! Herbs can be grown under grow lights.
Don't allow foliage to touch cold windows. Herbs prefer relatively cool temperatures at night. The daytime regimen can be around 65 to 70 degrees F. while the night can drop to around 55 to 60 degrees F. Also be sure that the plants are spaced adequately for good air circulation and to offset any problems with leaf diseases.
Water to keep soil moist but not soggy, and drain saucers after watering. Most herbs are sensitive to overwatering or soggy soils. Check the moisture by pressing your finger into the top inch of potting mix. If you can detect moisture, don't water. When the soil is dry to the touch, water until the excess drains from the bottom of the pot.
Fertilize every two weeks with a half-strength solution of an all-purpose fertilizer. To grow herbs with more intense flavor, be stingy with the fertilizer. Only fertilize when the potting mixture is damp, never dry.
One of the most important elements to growing herbs is ample humidity, perhaps even more so at this time of year since our forced-air heating systems rob the air of needed humidity. Dry air not only dries-out our skin, it can cause houseplants to develop brown or dry tips.
Have you ever wanted a fresh sprig of rosemary to garnish a roasting chicken? Maybe some fresh mint leaves to top off your tea or garnish a dessert? Wouldn't it be nice to go to the kitchen window and harvest your own plants instead of going to the market? Teaching your kids to grow herbs at home is possible, but you must be up to some simple challenges. These tips can help you and your children start an indoor windowsill herb garden this year!