The 10 Best Indoor Herb Gardens
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in December of 2016. If you are the type of cook who demands only the freshest ingredients in your meals, what could be better than adding a dash of homegrown basil, thyme, or rosemary to your dinner? Our selection of indoor herb gardens can provide you with an endless supply at arm's reach. We've included self-sufficient options with their own light sources as well as some more DIY models to choose from. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
June 04, 2019:
If you're really serious about growing your own herbs indoors, it's hard to do much better than the AeroGrow Bounty, which practically automates the process with its built-in light timer and touch screen control panel that reminds you when water and nutrient levels are getting low. The lamp arm can be extended as plants get taller, and it comes with nine soil-free seed pods to get you started. Another good option for those who don't have a lot of experience with gardening, the Click and Grow Smart 3 has a simple plug-and-play setup process and can hold enough water to keep plants happy for up to a month. Its biggest downside is that the pre-seeded cartridges are a bit pricey to replace after your first harvest is done. The Mindful Design Mini offers sunlight-simulating LEDs and an automatic timer that tuns them on for 16 hours and off for 8, and unlike most other smart planters, it can be used with any seeds, so you won't have to buy expensive refills. However, you will have to supply your own pots.
The Window Garden Rustic Charm takes an old-school approach, with simple ceramic pots that are just the right size for your windowsill. The included soil is made up of long fibers that allow roots to stretch out and provides better airflow than traditional potting soil. The Window Garden Aquaphoric Planters help to regulate water levels to prevent roots from becoming oversaturated, which also means you'll need to water them less often. They're also a budget-friendly option at less than $15 for a set of three. The Mr. Sprout & Co., Garden Republic Starter Kit, and Planters' Choice Growing Kit come with everything you need to get your seedlings started, but the included pots are not meant for long-term use, so your herbs will need to be repotted when they start to mature.
Plants: Food From The Ground Up
So, how does the average apartment-dweller get back in touch with their green thumb?
Almost all of the food humans eat once grew from the soil. Fruits, vegetables, and grains all originally came from the ground, although now some are grown hydroponically. Even that medium-rare flatiron steak would never have made it to your plate if not for a cow peacefully chomping on grass or grain for months straight. Unfortunately, the idea that food comes from the grocery store is widely pervasive today — people have lost touch with where their food really comes from.
But it's not so hard to reconnect with our plant-based roots. Backyard gardening has experienced a renaissance, as more consumers realize they want to not only know exactly how their produce was produced, but also control most of the process. But there are reasons why some people have purchased their vegetables from vendors for generations.
Not every food can grow in every location. Soil conditions make it difficult to garden in much of Nevada, for example, without a lot of costly inputs. At high altitudes and northern latitudes, growing seasons are shortened by cold weather, and it's awfully tough to grow basil underneath a foot of snow. And the simple reality is that many people don't have the space or ability to care for an outdoor garden plot or especially a greenhouse. So, how does the average apartment-dweller get back in touch with their green thumb?
Simple: anyone can make a greenhouse out of their own home with an indoor herb garden.
A Plant In Every Window
The temperature and humidity in a home remain relatively constant over long periods of time. Even if there's snow and ice outside, the microclimate in many kitchens will still support plant life. This year-round reliability is what really makes indoor gardening so easy.
And focusing on small, flavorful herbs means only a small grow light is needed for the garden to flourish. On the other hand, there's no need for artificial lighting if you keep your houseplants near windows where they can take advantage of natural sunlight. The versatility of growing herbs in your home makes it a fun and productive hobby that's accessible to all.
This year-round reliability is what really makes indoor gardening so easy.
Furthermore, indoor gardens can be a great tool for the home plant breeder. Small plots and effective lighting setups are a great way to test out multiple different hybridized seeds. An indoor plot provieds the controlled environment required to test the potential of different strains, and it keeps pests and disease from reaching the most vulnerable seedlings.
On top of the tangible uses of an herb garden in the living room, there are other subtle yet practical benefits. Studies show that the presence of plants in homes and workplaces can increase mental clarity and quality of work done. Even pictures of nature have been shown to improve mood, so one can safely assume that real plants will have a similar effect.
Of course, it's well-known that plants breathe by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. This helps to recycle air, and when done right, it's so effective that even NASA has explored outer-space gardening to provide astronauts with the stuff they need to breathe.
Beyond that, many plants are great at filtering contaminants from the atmosphere. Different plants can tackle impurities like dust particles or even formaldehyde. While this applies more to slightly larger houseplants, there are many ferns and small flowers that will fit in an herb garden and effectively improve the quality of your indoor air.
Alright, I'm Ready To Grow... But How?
Botany is the science of growing plants, and gardening is the art. There are so many different plants to choose from that even a small, indoor garden plot is limited only by your imagination.
There are two main ways to plant herbs. Some, like chives, are as easy as pulling a clump from an existing plot and transplanting an inch beneath the surface of the topsoil. Planting seeds certainly isn't much more difficult, but there are two helpful tips to speed up the sometimes-slow germination. First, scarify the seeds. Scarification is a process wherein the protective hull of the seed is nicked or scratched, letting the seed intake moisture and nutrients fast and germinate more quickly. Also, before planting the seeds, they can be germinated in between two paper towels, greatly reducing the time you'll have to wait for your next harvest of cilantro.
Humidity in the air around the plants even plays a role in the herb's health.
One important distinction to remember while designing your garden is whether your herbs are annuals or perennials. Annuals last one season, requiring replanting when they expire. Perennials can survive for years, alternating growing and dormant seasons while requiring regular pruning.
Of course, for any herb to make it even to one full season, it requires the proper care. Sadly, some of us can't even seem to keep cacti alive indoors, and some herbs can prove finicky to grow. For best results, keep the temperature generally above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, as some herbs are sensitive to cold. Pay special attention to windows, where even a light draft from outside could spell doom for some plants.
Moisture level in the growing medium is also of prime importance. Herbs require a fine balance of not too wet and not too dry soil. A quick poke underneath the surface should reveal some dampness just beneath a mostly dry surface layer. Almost as bad as under-watering is over-watering, which could easily drown some specimens.
Humidity in the air around the plants even plays a role in the herb's health. Softer herbs like basil, cilantro, and chives do well in humid or shadier locations, while tougher-stemmed varieties like rosemary and thyme are more suited to drier and brighter spots.
Above all, be patient and attentive to your plants. Check them every day and prune them regularly. If you have trouble keeping them alive, try out some hardier varieties — maybe parsley, which is pretty hard to kill. And remember to use those herbs in some delicious food.