I have a dream of becoming a plant whisperer. But, the only green on my thumb is from the guacamole I had for a snack. My family likes to bring up the time that I killed a cactus—a plant that is famous for requiring minimal maintenance and water (oops!). However bad I may be with keeping greenery alive, I am not giving up. So, I reached out to some experts to find the best route to get started with my gardening ambitions. The answer? Start with an indoor herb garden.
Not only is this new hobby good for my mental health, but herbs are great for our bodies too. They add more flavor to food (so you’re using less salt) and they also contain protective polyphenols, which have antioxidant, cholesterol and anti-inflammatory benefits.
“Growing your own food is very rewarding, especially in uncertain times like these,” says Tony Lapiana, founder of Life on the Grow. “Having high quality food will enrich your health and over all well being—and your friends and family will certainly appreciate it when you share with them.”
Sound good? Here’s your guide to starting your own indoor herb garden. You’ll be creating amazing meals in no time.
SET UP YOUR INDOOR GARDEN SPACE
There are two ways to insure your plants grow—optimal natural light or under grow lights.
Find a place in your house or apartment that has the brightest light and most hours of sun. You’ll want to have at least six-hours of direct sun for sustainability.
There are a number of grow lights that are great for growing herbs. Put the plants at least a foot below the bulbs and use them for 12 to 18 hours a day. “Herbs are incredibly easy to grow in hydroponics,” says Hank Adams, CEO and Founder of Rise Gardens.
BEST HERBS TO GROW INSIDE
“If you want something fast and easy, but still exciting, I recommend trying to grow sage,” says Adams. “It has a high germination rate and is relatively fast growing.”
If you don’t have light, try herbs like mint, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. They tend to grow slow, but are resilient to low light environments.
Looking for other herbs to try? Here’s the top eight:
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to grow. Here’s a basic list of supplies:
- Soil: Lapiana recommends Promix Organic MP, but says most potting soils will work fine.
- Good quality seeds
- Trays: Lapiana uses standard 10×20 trays seed trays, but you can use anything that holds soil.
- Indoor lighting such as a Barrina LED light fixture or you can even use whatever extra light fixtures you might have laying around the house.
- Good sharp knife for harvesting
KEEPING THEM ALIVE
Adams recommends the “Finger Moisture Test.” This is only for soil (in hydroponics you don’t need to worry about moisture). “When you go to water your plant, most people make the mistake of only watering the first inch of their soil because it ‘looks’ wet. To make sure the herbs are getting enough water, put your finger into the soil, you can tell if it’s wet by the roots and go from there,” he explains.
It’s also good to do a little research. “The biggest secret to success (like for most things) is just to put in the time to learn a little before beginning so you avoid the mistakes,” says Lapiana. “Also, I would say that it just takes a little consistent effort and attention to your plants in order to have success. They will let you know when they are not doing well, but if you ignore them you won’t see the signs until it’s too late.”
HOW LONG DO HERBS TAKE TO GROW?
Most herbs take 40 days to grow to maturity. Once they are 40 days old, you can continue to harvest them for another 40 to 50 days, or until they grow flowers. “Once they bloom, they send out chemicals that taste bitter or soapy, so it’s best to use them before you see flowers,” explains Adams.
THE TECH OPTION
Now, kicking it old school may not be your thing. If you want to grow herbs, but not into the soil, planting, slow growing way. You can speed it up a bit using an indoor hydroponic garden. Essentially, it’s the techy way to grow plants inside.
Here are a few options depending on your space and needs.
The ultimate tech garden is from Rise Gardens. They have a variety of different sizes depending on your space. Their personal garden only takes up 18 inches of space and you can grow you up to 8 plants out of the box. Set up is 10-minutes and the coolest function is that you control it all from your phone. Perfect for apartments!
Personal Rise Garden, $279
CLICK & GROW
The easiest by far, Click & Grow give you pods with the soil and seeds within, you put in the box, water and turn on the light. That’s it!
The Smart Garden, starting at $70
The most basic, but also really easy to use. Aerogarden uses herb pods that you pop in. THey use at minimum 60 LED bulbs (for the small Sprout) which will help you grow herbs five times faster than soil. It has an automated timer to make sure the lights go on and off at exactly the right time. A great starter.
Aerogarden, starting at $60