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Garden Fresh Herbs All Winter Long

Jump Start Your Spring Garden By Bringing Your Green Thumb Indoors For The Winter

Since the emergence of the ongoing pandemic, gardening has become wildly popular. Excessive amounts of new-found free time, as well as instructions to stay home, have resulted in a surge of at-home gardeners. What happens when a late winter storm strikes and outdoors is not an option, but you have more spring fever than you can stand?  This is the time to get a jump start on your spring garden with some indoor gardening.

Even though your space may be limited indoors, the satisfaction you’ll get by micro harvests of your indoor herbs is satisfying! Just like outdoor gardening, you can adapt to whatever space you have. Whether it’s a window sill, a closet, a table, or an entire basement, indoor gardening is a great way to add fresh herbs to your diet as well as help combat the winter doldrums.

Once you have found a suitable location, you’ll need to make sure the temperature is appropriate and your lighting is sufficient. Temperatures vary from plant to plant, so do a little research for the best results. Finding the appropriate lighting for your plants is extremely important. The GE Grow Light products are highly-reviewed and have excellent instructions on positioning lights and plants. Many of the bulbs are suitable for household lighting so you can have attractive lighting while also benefiting your new plants.

I highly recommend investing in the phone app Picture This. With this tool, you’ll be able to identify plants with a snap of your camera (I’m grateful I identified a poison ivy vine near where my kids play!). Specific details on your plant pop up including different names, how to care for your plant, the best environments, and if your specific plant has any diseases or concerns. This tool has helped me grow from a novice gardener to an intermediate one! 

While we have suggested a few indoor plants previously, here are some of my favorites:

Basil

Basil plants can be found almost year-round at some grocery stores (Trader Joe’s for one!). If given the proper space and attention, this plant can grow rapidly. It is such a treat to grab fresh basil leaves from your plant and create a Caprese salad you’d find in a restaurant. If your basil plants get out of control, you can pop your excess leaves in a food processor along with some olive oil, parmesan & pine nuts for fresh, homemade pesto. 

Mint

In my house, our spearmint plant has become a popular participant in many of our bar activities. Crowd favorite cocktails that are mint-laden include Moscow Mules and mojitos. Mint is a hardy perennial that grows like a weed outdoors.  Try to secure some small, newer shoots when starting your indoor garden.

Cherry tomatoes

Most fruiting plants don’t grow easily indoors, but cherry tomatoes are the exception. A large pot and a tomato frame will assist in keeping this salad topper manageable. 

Succulents 

If you are someone whose thumb is more brown than green, don’t overlook the mighty succulent! These moisture-holding plants are ideal for someone who is less than prompt when it comes to watering; they usually thrive from being ignored! One of my favorite and useful succulents is aloe vera. This beautiful, rigid plant has medicinal benefits for treating burns, cuts, and other skin afflictions. 

Coleus 

The coleus, though not edible or useful beyond its looks, is one of the easiest and entertaining plants. It comes in many vibrant varieties and bold pops of color your eyes will thank you for! Coleus are perennials, but most people plant them every year because the results are quicker and you are able to control plant locations. This past season I learned they are one of the easiest plants to graft. By taking cuttings from last season’s plants, you can propagate your coleus field into next year’s seedlings. Put the cuttings in water until they root. Once they root, you can transfer them to small pots. We already have two dozen coleus waiting for the ground to thaw out!

Credit: Bethany Swain Stone

Preserve herbs grown outdoors – Not all of us have the space or talent for indoor gardening. So what now? One of the easiest things you can do so you can still enjoy home-grown herbs is to dry some of your favorites or freeze them fresh. Most outdoor herbs grow like weeds in the summer! It is certain that one of your friends has an abundance of oregano, thyme, or rosemary. Just get yourself a bundle and get to preserving. Hanging a bouquet of oregano and letting it dry will keep your pasta sauce tasting homemade throughout the cold months. If you prefer fresh herbs, place some in sealed containers in your freezer, and Voila!

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