Herb gardening isn't just for the warmer months. Gardening in the winter is much easier when the crop is as small as a pot with a single herb growing inside. The sight and scent of herbs growing during the shorter days of winter, are also a great pick me up, with their promise of spring.
Growing during the winter months does mean a bit of preparation however. Of course, you will be growing in the protected environment of a heated greenhouse or home. For many of us, having a few herbs growing on the counter is the most realistic way to grow indoors. It is easy and inexpensive.
Unless you have a south facing window, you will need artificial lighting. There are many varieties of lights, many of which now look like regular home decor. Gone are the days of strictly growing under huge mechanical lighting and water filtration units. These dinosaurs are proven ways to garden, but they are unweildy and just plain ugly to look at. They are often left in a cellar or out of the way area, and used copious amounts of electricity-negating any financial gain you may have had from growing your own herb.
Now, you can find lights that look just like a regular household bulb, and fit right into a lamp that you already own. This is a great setup if you are only growing a single herb in a pot, it is inexpensive and efficient for a small area. LED lighting is a new trend that makes sense. The lights are far brighter than the older florescent, and use much less electricity. They also last far longer, so you are saving more money over the lifetime of your indoor garden setup. I have seen some pretty creative indoor lighting setups using LED lighting. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Starting seeds, but can easily be converted to an indoor growing setup.
An assortment of indoor lighting options
Here are some more indoor gardens that use homemade or partially homemade gardening supplies. They work really well in small living spaces that have plenty of window space.
Herb Gardening in a Greenhouse
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, then growing herbs can be viable all year round. Any greenhouse is going to need additional heat, and even then, your more delicate herbs may not do a well during the shorter daylight hours. In my experience, the woody herbs seems to do much better than the juicy or fleshy types. Even if my sage continued to stay alive during the short winter days, the plants grew exceptionally slowly, and almost seemed to go dormant. In my opinion, it made more sense to allow my herbs to go dormant out in the greenhouse, and start new herbs indoors for the winter.
If you are choosing what plants to grow indoors, I have found that bringing plants from the garden works best before the weather becomes too fall like. With the shortening of the days, plants naturally start to go dormant, and if you bring them in, trying to rejuvenate them after this has started, they don't do as well overall.
A Few Final Tips
A final tip: when starting herbs from seed, get them going in late August, for harvesting around the holiday cooking season.
The best success I have with my indoor herbs, is to plant those that grow fast and need to be cut back often. Then, I start my own seeds or bring in cuttings from the garden, and keep in mind that indoor gardening is a fun excuse to keep my hands in the plants. I try not to take it too seriously, and therefore don't become too upset when things don't make it.