Attempting to Grow an Indoor Herb Garden

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I have wanted to grow an indoor herb garden for a long time. Fresh, practically free herbs at the ready without packaging waste or transportation emissions? What’s not to love? After doing a little research online, it seemed like a snap. “I can totally grow stuff,” I thought, “what could go wrong?”

A lot, it turns out. But more on that later.

Thanks to a local community garden, I was able to get some clippings for free. I chose basil, oregano, and what I’m only about 75% sure was mint. I mean, it was labeled “mint,” but there were a lot of things growing very close together, and it didn’t look all that much like the mint sprigs that usually garnish a mojito, which is honestly all I have to compare it to, so it’s possible that it was something else. Anyway, I decided to go for these particular herbs not because they were the easiest to grow in the environment I planned to grow them in (the windowsill of my apartment), but because they seemed like they would be nice to cook with. And because how cool would it be to have friends over and serve them homemade mojitos with homegrown mint? So, yeah, that was probably my first mistake.

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As per the instructions I found online, I clipped off the lower leaves from each of my sprigs and placed them in jars of water on the windowsill. This allows the roots to grow before planting.

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And grow they did! After a week or so, my little herb-itos each had a healthy cluster of roots sprouting from the bottom. As you can see in the photo though, the some of the leaves were starting to brown, so I figured it must be time for planting.

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I picked up some soil at the hardware store (the internet was somewhat unclear as to what type of soil was needed, but I knew I couldn’t just dig some up from the backyard), and I found these adorable little pots on the clearance rack. Each herb got its own wee pot on my windowsill.

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I was able to throw a couple oregano leaves on a slice of pizza and add just a little basil to a salad before things started to go downhill. The basil began to flower, which is apparently a bad thing as far as herbs go. It’s like the plant’s way of saying “Yo, I’m done producing leaves for your little recipes, here’s something pretty before I kick the bucket.” The oregano grew tall and spindly, without growing new leaves. And the leaves on the 75% mint shrunk rapidly.

I took to the interwebz for help, where I learned that the most common mistake with growing herbs is watering them too much, so I backed off on the showers (the plant showers that is—I promise I still took showers myself). But then of course leaving my little herbies alone meant that I may have occasionally forgotten about them and they possibly got too little water.

More and more leaves started to dry up and fall off by the day, and I was at a loss for what to do. First the basil died off, then the oregano, and finally the last of the now teeny tiny 75% mint leaves gave up. My poor little herb garden was gone. Clearly growing stuff is harder than it looks (either that or I’m just inept, but I’m trying to quit negative self-talk because of self-care and stuff).

I would like to try growing herbs again, but I probably need to do a little more research and preparation this time around. Looking back, I think perhaps the biggest problem was that my little guys didn’t get enough light, and/or they were too cold next to the window. I think I need to invest in one of those light contraptions for indoor plants. Also, I should probably choose herbs that are a bit heartier and can handle apartment life because unfortunately, I probably won’t have the space for a real garden anytime soon. C’est la vie.

Have you ever grown herbs indoors before? Do you have any tips for me? I would love to hear them!

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