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 lightly 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, parsley and cilantro to enjoy all season long. It's so easy! Even beginning gardeners can’t go wrong with a windowsill herb garden; no fancy greenhouse is required. The trick is providing the right amount of light, water, fertilizer and humidity. 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
· soilless potting & seed-starting mix
· herb seeds and/or plants
The best herbs for indoor growing include basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and parsley. Herbs can be started from seed or purchased as small plants or plugs. Annual herbs, like basil, cilantro and dill, are especially easy to start from seed. Most perennial herbs, like rosemary, oregano and sage, take a little longer to germinate and grow, so it's easier to start with plants.
Use individual pots for each plant to avoid competition and allow each herb individual care. Terra cotta can wick water away, so glazed ceramic pots or plastic containers often work best. We recommend a medium to large pot size between 6 and 10 inches. Be sure containers have drainage holes and waterproof saucers.
If starting seeds, use a soilless seed-starting mix or potting soil without added fertilizer, or a 50:50 combination of the two. Avoid using garden soil, which tends to be heavy and may contain pathogenic organisms. Don't skimp on the potting soil or use the least expensive brand. Herbs do best in lightly moist, yet well-drained, soil mixes. If the potting mix is too dry when removed from the package, lightly moisten it before planting your herbs. Sow seeds. Most herb seeds should be surface-sown and not heavily covered. Keep seeds lightly moist, not wet.
A sunny, south-facing window is ideal for most herbs, although supplemental fluorescent lights may be needed in winter. In general, herbs need at least five to six hours of direct sunlight daily.
The amount of sun 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, you can grow just about any herb, such as sage, rosemary, thyme, and even spicy-tasting nasturtiums. East- or west-facing windows provide less light but aromatic mints and parsley will still grow pretty well. If you don't have enough natural sunlight, don't worry! Herbs can also be grown under grow lights.
Don't allow foliage to touch cold windows, or the leaves will freeze. Herbs prefer relatively cool temperatures at night. The daytime regimen can be around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit 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, to offset any potenial problems with foliar diseases.
Water enough to keep soil moist to the roots but never soggy. Most herbs are sensitive to overwatering or wet soils. Check the moisture by pressing your finger into the top inch of potting mix. If you detect any moisture, don't water. When the soil is dry to the touch, water until the excess drains from the bottom of the pot.
Feed herbs every two weeks with a half-strength solution of an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer. To grow herbs with more intense flavor, be stingy with the fertilizer and water a bit less.
Herbs grow best when there is some humidity in the air. During winter this can be hard to maintain since 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.
Then enjoy those fresh herbs all winter long. They bring a welcome hint of summer when tossed into salads or onto broiled chicken. Add a fresh sprig of rosemary to garnish a roasting chicken or some fresh mint leaves to top off your tea or garnish a dessert. The wonderful herbal creations you can concoct with your kids are boundless. Fresh herbs save money, too, and teach kids all kinds of good things, like indoor gardening, self-reliance and fresh eating. Just follow these few growing tips and start an windowsill herb garden with your children today!