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Tips for successful indoor gardening

Start with some basics like rosemary, basil and mint. All are easy to grow and smell amazing!

DENVER — In the middle of winter, I need something to lift my spirits. Indoor herb gardening is a perfect solution.

If you are a beginner gardener or you’ve tried growing things inside without much success, I encourage you to start with an actual plant instead of starting something from seed. 

When you start with an actual plant, you’ve already got herbs to use in your cooking and I want you to feel more successful as you begin your garden adventure. 

Local garden centers should start carrying herbs so now is the time to start looking for them. Start with some basics like rosemary, basil and mint. All are easy to grow and smell amazing!

Here are my tips for getting your herb garden started now

Light is the most important thing for growing herbs indoors and this can be the most difficult thing to get right. For the most part, herbs need at least six hours of full sun and a sunny window is the easiest solution. But if you’re like me and your kitchen windows face north, you need to add supplemental light. 

I have a grow light with a clamp so I can move it and place anywhere I need to. This was an easy, important investment. You don’t need an elaborate system.

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Indoors or outdoors, my plants will have different watering needs than yours. The amount of light, type of soil, and size of container will all have an affect on the watering needs of your herbs. 

Don’t wait until your basil has dried out and wilted, that just stresses your plant. Instead, either test the soil with your finger to see how moist the soil is or invest in a soil moisture reader. This will also help to ensure that you’re not overwatering, causing your plants to drown.

Whether you’re starting from seed or transplanting a plant into a pot, make sure your pot has a drainage hole and saucer. Use a good potting soil mix. It shouldn’t contain pieces of wood or other fillers but should be light and fluffy so it doesn’t smother the roots or emerging seedlings.

If you’re placing your herbs in a windowsill, be mindful that this time of year our windows get cold and this will affect your herbs, especially basil. If you have to, just move your plants away from the cold window at night or during our next polar vortex.

If your indoor herbs develop an insect problem, don’t panic. Aphids and spider mites are the most common offenders, and they are easy to knock off with a quick, cool spray of water from your faucet.

If you suspect any other kind of bad bug, consult your local garden center for a safe, organic insect control so you aren’t putting any harmful synthetic chemicals on your herbs that you will then eat.

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As you trim your herbs to use them in your cooking, make sure you don’t cut more that 1/3 off at a time. You want the herbs to stay compact and bushy but you don’t want to give them a severe hair cut that causes them stress or to stunt their growth.

Once the weather warms and spring rolls around, I move all of my herbs outside because that’s where they truly want to be to thrive.

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