By Charlie Nardozzi
Growing Food Indoors
Courtesy of Getty Images(Family Features) While it might be cold and blustery outside, there are a number of edible plants you can grow indoors. Some of my favorites are herbs. Growing herbs indoors successfully is all about selecting the right varieties and having the right conditions to grow them.
Here are some tips for growing herbs inside in winter.
Bringing Herbs Indoors
Window boxes filled with rosemary and parsley can be moved inside before freezing weather.
Some of my favorites to grow this way are parsley, rosemary, and chives. There are a few things to keep in mind:
Don't worry about a few dropped leaves. Light levels in a house, even in a sunny window, are much lower than outside. Older, larger leaves will drop off and smaller, low-light-efficient leaves should form in their place.
Cut back on watering and fertilizing mature plants. They don't need as much moisture or nutrients inside as they do outdoors.
Indoor herbs can be decorative as well as functional. Why not train a rosemary plant on a topiary frame for a whimsical look?
Starting New Herbs
Although a sunny window looks bright in winter, the available light can be only 1/10th of what's needed for plants to grow properly. That's why it's best to grow herbs under grow lights. Select full-spectrum lights and leave them on for 12 to 14 hours a day. Keep the tops of the herbs close to the bulbs and the plants should thrive.
Grow seedlings in 3- to 4-inch-diameter pots and use only sterilized potting soil mixes that are light and airy. Many culinary herbs require well-draining soils, so the lighter the soil the better.
Supplement the potting soil with a liquid fertilizer when watering. Use a half-strength formulation to encourage new growth. Water plants less often but more thoroughly, and only when the soil is actually dry to the touch. Add water until it drains from the bottom of the pot. Keep the air temperature on the cool side (60∞ to 65∞ F) for the best growth.
Varieties to Try
These herb varieties have compact growing habits and pack a flavorful punch.
English mint (Mentha spicata) - Perhaps the best-behaved spearmint variety.
Spicy Globe basil (Ocimum basilicum minimum) - Dense, compact form of basil, 8- to 10-inches tall. The leaves are smaller than regular basil, but taste and smell great.
Blue Boy rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - More compact and diminutive than standard rosemary, reaching a height of just 24 inches. Flowers freely and has excellent flavor.
Dwarf Garden sage (Salvia officinalis 'Compacta') - Smaller leaves and more compact than regular sage, growing only 10 inches high.
For more tips and garden information visit www.garden.org.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He teaches and inspires home gardeners to grow the best vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees and shrubs in their yards.