Take it inside this growing season
Published: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
If you're not quite ready to give up the ghost on the gardening season, move it indoors. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow in containers and many of them perform quite well on a sunny windowsill. With a little effort, you can harvest fresh, homegrown herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano and parsley through the entire winter.
Begin your indoor herb-growing adventure with some clean containers. Plastic or glazed terracotta pots are best, as they don't dry out as quickly as unglazed terracotta pots. Be sure each container has a drainage hole in the bottom and a saucer beneath it to catch the drips. For perennial herbs, you'll want a minimum of 8 inches of pot diameter per plant. Annual herbs can get away with tighter quarters, so putting two plants per 8-inch pot is possible. If you plan to mix several herb varieties in a single container, you can put three or four plants in each 16- to 18-inch pot. And, as many herbs are shallow-rooted, you don't need a very deep container; a shallow, bowl-like pot works just fine.
Fill the container with a commercially made soilless potting mix. These mixes are best for indoor growing, as they are light, well-draining and sterile. Use the most expensive potting mix you can afford, because using a high-quality potting soil means less frequent watering as well as consistent soil volume.
Once the pots are filled, select your plants. Begin this process by deciding what flavors you love — let your cookbooks and appetite be your guide. Visit your favorite local nursery to see what they have in stock. If you'd like, you can seek out smaller-statured varieties of favorite herbs that are specifically bred for container conditions. Included in my personal favorites are ‘Pixie' purple basil, ‘Santo' cilantro, ‘Dr. Ietswaart' golden oregano, chives, sweet marjoram, ‘Cameo” basil, ‘Kaliteri' oregano, and parsley.
Place your new herb garden in a sunny windowsill. Or, for even better harvests, invest in a small grow light. Turn on the grow light for 12 to 15 hours per day. Keep your herbs well-watered by moving the pot to the sink every seven to 10 days (or whenever the soil feels dry) and flushing the pot with water until at least 20 percent of what you put in the top, comes out the drainage hole in the bottom.
Allow the pot to sit in the sink until it fully drains, then empty the saucer and put the plant back in the windowsill or under the grow light. Although it isn't necessary to fertilize your herbs in the winter, especially if the potting mix you selected contains a slow-release fertilizer, you can water the pot with diluted liquid kelp (available at local nurseries, at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, www.groworganic.com, and through other online sources) every three to four weeks.
To harvest your herbs, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off sprigs or individual leaves. Do not harvest more than a quarter of the foliage at any one time.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: NHL stuck in stone age
- Steelers defense’s rapid decline looks similar to that of Steel Curtain’s
- Armstrong man killed trying to rescue dog from house fire
- PNC plans to do away with tellers
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger comes to Haley defense again
- Pirates notebook: Polanco ruled out as Opening Day option
- Pirates general manager Huntington is searching for right player, deal
- Woodley says he’s fine with move to right side despite numbers
- Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Penguins’ Neal apologizes, vows to be better