Caring for herbs indoors or out isn't difficult. Mediterranean natives such as oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage flourish with minimal attention. Because of their common origin, they have similar needs. So when you do your best to meet them, whether indoors or out, you'll be headed for herbal success.
Getting Sun and Soil Right
Imagine a gravelly, infertile, sunbaked hillside and you'll understand common herb preferences. Choose garden sites that get full, direct sun for at least six to eight hours each day — the more sun, the better. Sun concentrates aromatic oils and keeps herbs full and dense. Too much shade leaves them lanky and lacking flavor.
Indoor herbs need as much natural sunlight as your home allows. South- or southwest-facing windows are ideal. If you're short on sunlight, supplement with extra household lighting. No need for grow lights; any type of lighting works! If herbs lean toward windows, turn their pots a quarter turn every time you water to assure balanced growth.
Excellent drainage is essential, no matter how you grow herbs. Poor drainage quickly leads to root problems, including rot. Give herbs coarse, fast-draining soil, so roots get air as well as water. Herbs in containers need good drainage holes so water flows through freely.
Meeting Water and Nutrient Needs
Established garden herbs rarely need supplemental water, except during drought. Water herbs deeply and infrequently to encourage deep, healthy root growth. When soil a few inches down feels dry, water again. Basil and parsley do well with more moisture, but sturdier, water-wise herbs, such as rosemary and sage, like it slightly dry. Never leave herb soil soggy.
Water container herbs until all the soil is moist and water runs out drainage holes. Water again when the soil's top inch dries. Occasional showers in the kitchen sink are fine, but keep saucers free of excess water.
In nature, most herbs flourish with few nutrients. Aromatic oils intensify in lean, poor soil, but crowded gardens differ from sunny hillsides. Cultivated herbs compete for water and available nutrients, and extra container waterings flush nutrients away. A gentle, natural fertilizer such as Alaska® by Pennington® Pure Kelp Plant Food 0.13-0-0.60 nourishes herbs and replaces lost nutrients.