Archive for Sunday, January 3, 2016

Garden Variety: Make your own windowsill herb garden

Various herbs grow in the sunlight of a kitchen window.

Various herbs grow in the sunlight of a kitchen window.

January 3, 2016


Want fresh herbs to include in your favorite family recipe or the latest foodie dish? Until warmer weather arrives, try growing them in a sunny window right in your kitchen. All you need is love, bright light, good soil, and a little know-how.

The first step is selecting a location. A south- or west-facing window that receives at least six hours of bright light per day is best. If you have the location but space is limited, consider building a shelf or setting a plant stand in front of the window. If your home lacks a sunny window, consider purchasing or building a small stand with grow lights. They are easy to find in garden centers and hardware stores in late winter for the many gardeners who like to start vegetable and flower plants from seed.

Next, decide which herbs you want to grow. Parsley, chives, mint and thyme are good options and may survive in a window with less than ideal light. Basil, oregano, bay, rosemary and sage are also good options for indoors. Availability of plants and seeds might dictate this decision, but at least a few of these common herbs should be easy to find at year-round garden centers.

Various herbs raised in a kitchen windowsill.

Various herbs raised in a kitchen windowsill.

While you are out shopping for plants, pick up suitable containers. Always look for pots that have a hole in the bottom to allow drainage even though it means also getting a saucer or tray to protect the surface on which pots will be sitting.

Give each plant its own pot to maximize root space. Four- to 6-inch-diameter pots will be adequate for a few months in the kitchen. (Plants can be transplanted into larger pots outdoors in late spring to early summer.)

The last thing on the shopping list is potting soil. As always, get a good-quality potting media or mix rather than garden soil. Potting media is specially blended for use in containers, and plants are less likely to become infected with root rot than when grown in a heavy garden soil.

When you get home, fill pots almost to the brim with potting mix, then tap them a few times on a hard surface to get the potting mix to settle. Add more mix if needed until the soil surface is about a quarter of an inch from the top of the pot. Plant seeds according to package directions or transplant herb seedlings into the pots.

Water plants by setting pots in the sink and gently adding water until it flows out the bottom of the pot. Water this way every time, and allow the soil to almost completely dry out before each watering. This ensures adequate watering and will help to prevent salt buildup in the container. You may only need to water once a week or less, depending on the temperature and relative humidity of your home.

The potting mix should include adequate nutrients to sustain plant life for several months, so supplemental fertilization is unnecessary this winter and spring.

Once the herbs are growing strong, just clip stems as needed for cooking and enjoy!

— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. She is the host of “The Garden Show” and has been a gardener since childhood. Send your gardening questions and feedback to


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