You were told that growing an indoor herb garden would be easy, and that some herbs grow like weeds. So why does your herb garden look like a withered mess of stalks barely holding onto life? It could be that you are forgetting about one of these key indoor gardening tips, or making one of the following common indoor herb gardening mistakes!
Mistake #1: Your Soil Is Terrible
Plants need food just like you and me, and they get their food from two sources: the sun and soil.
If the soil you are using is devoid of nutrients, then any herb is going to have a hard time growing and thriving in it.
So what soil should you be using? For starters, don’t just dig up some soil from your yard or garden.
Even if you live in a utopia which has never been affected by chemical rainfall, the soil probably had its nutrients sucked out of it by the plants which were growing there before. Plus, regular outdoor soil is way too heavy for herb gardening and will dry out quickly. You need soil which is loose and can drain easily.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with suggestions about composting and pH levels of soil. Just buy a quality potting mix and add some fertilizer to it occasionally. Or, if you are ready for a more DIY approach, then try a combo of potting soil, old coffee grounds, and organic compost.
Pro Tip: DIY alternative to store-bought potting mix: potting soil + used coffee grounds + composts.
Mistake #2: Waiting Too Long to Prune
But that basil looks too tiny and frail to cut now! Contrary to what your instincts may be telling you, even those little herbs need to be pruned.
Why do you need to prune herbs?
- When you don’t cut the herbs on time, they will start to grow straight up – which means they will become top-heavy and topple over. Pruning causes the herbs to grow horizontally so they become thicker instead of taller.
- Pruning tells the herbs that they should continue with the growth stage.
- With leafy herbs like basil and oregano, pruning will prevent the herbs from flowering. Once they flower, they will start to die off!
- With woody herbs like rosemary, pruning prevents them from becoming all woody (woody parts don’t grow tasty leaves!)
When should you cut your herbs?
A good rule of (green) thumb is to prune your herbs for the first time when they are 3 or 4 inches above the soil and have 3 full sets of leaves.
Always trim herbs right above a set of growing leaves! This will cause new growth to occur in a “V” shape, promoting the growth of a thick, full plant. You can read a good guide on how to prune plants here.
Pro Tip: prune herbs when they're 3-4 inch above the soil & have 3 full sets of leaves.
Mistake #3: Not Watering Herbs Frequently Enough
Most houseplants only need to be watered about once a week. Herbs are a whole different story though. To thrive, herbs need to be watered regularly – meaning about once daily! Their soil should never be allowed to completely dry out, however, you shouldn’t water them so much that the soil becomes saturated and water-logged.
If you are having trouble remembering to water your herbs, don’t worry – technology comes to the rescue! Get an indoor growing system like the Grobo One Hydroponic Grow Box which automatically waters your plants.
Grobo One Grow Box
Mistake #4: Letting the Herbs Flower
Many herbs have gorgeous flowers, but your goal with indoor herb gardening probably isn’t to get pretty blooms. It is to get edible herbs.
When an herb starts to flower, it signals to the plant that the growing stage is over and the herb will start to die off.
This won’t be a problem if you are pruning frequently enough, so cut back those herbs! If you see a flower forming on your herbs, simply pinch off flower.
"To prolong the life of your herbs, pinch off flowers that form. Herbs die after they bloom!"
Mistake #5: Not Controlling Disease and Bugs
You might think that because your herb garden is indoors, it won’t be susceptible to disease and bugs. But the reality is that some herbs may do perfectly fine outdoors only to encounter problems indoors.
Some of the reasons for this are because insects and disease don’t get killed off by extreme temperatures like they would outdoors, insects don’t encounter certain predators indoors, and there is a lack of air circulation indoors, creating perfect environments for bugs to flourish.
Before you reach for a pesticide or sprays, remember that many of these are chemically based and NOT EDIBLE. Do your research and find a safe, organic method of controlling the problem. Here is a good beginner’s article about common plant diseases and pests.