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Herbs: The Windowsill Garden 8 June 2006

Posted by cath in general info, herbs, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes.

I love cooking with herbs, fresh, fragrant, delicious. I used to be forever going to the grocers and other shops hunting for bunches of fresh mint, basil, oregano, bay leaves, chives, in fact most herbs…


My Windowsill Herb Garden

Bay tree

The Kitchen Bay Tree


…Not any longer! Now I grow my own herbs on the windowsill. Well, to be more accurate it is a table by the window and I still don't have corriander or oregano, but it has revolutionised cooking and taking care of, snipping and using the homegrown herbs is a great feeling.

Now I was suspicious at first, after all, growing herbs indoors seemed a bit lame…but I live in a sunny flat and I've always wanted to give it a go. I've gradually built up the collection but now have several basil plants, some mint and chives grown from splitting and repotting "growing herbs" from the Coop, and some plants from Dobbies (Garden Centre): a largish pot of garden mint, a small black peppermint plant, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, rosemary and parsley. In the kitchen I've also got my Bay tree and some chives.

All the herbs are a couple of months old now, and they are all doing very well. For the small expense at the garden centre, I've got more herbs than I need and they are growing strongly. Even my attempts to repot individual basil and mint plants from the shops has been a massive success. We've had plenty of basil for tomato sauces, cheese sandwiches and other pasta and vegetable dishes…we've also been drinking up plenty of fresh mint tea in the evenings and have made mint sauce and Laab (thai salad) with the growing mint too. In fact, the more I use the herbs, the more they grow…it's been a real time and money saver all in all, and a very tasty one too!

Where to grow them 

I grow most of the herbs in a sunny (south facing) window of a small room – door closed most of the time, it's my personal greenhouse. The room is not draughty at all and gets quite hot in the summer sun.

The bay tree is happy in the kitchen, again by the window, although this is a North North West (ish!) facing window , it does get some evening sunshine, but only a touch – and it's loving it there where there is plenty of light. It has been growing like mad.

Growing Herbs anyone? 

If you tend to buy pots of growing herbs, I would recommend getting them out of those poky wee pots and splitting up the best seedlings into larger pots of compost, 3 or 4 basil plants to a pot, more for mint or chives. I usually stick all the weedier seedlings back in the original pot and use them first, giving the better plants a chance to develop. When you're cropping the plants, remove a whole stem, say above the first two leaves…the plant literally grows two stems where you cut one off, so you should have loads of herbs within weeks. Basil and mint have worked particularly well as I use them most often. Of course you have to feed the plants once in a while, I've been recomended Tomorite and will be watering them with a weak solution once a week.

Get growing your own herbs too! 

Even if you don't have green-fingers, this is definately something to try. Start off with some growing basil or nip down to the garden centre and try it yourself. Highly recommended by the cookalicious tasters!


1. v - 12 July 2006

why tomorite

2. cath - 20 July 2006

indeed! I have no good reason except that my Mum recommended it – she has grown tomatoes in the past. I’ve been using the Tomorite and it seems fine…however, its not organic…

I’ve also come across a seaweed extract that claims to be approved for organic growing (Maxicrop The Original Seaweed Extract) which I am going to be trying on my next round of basil plants…

Depends what you are aiming for I think – at the moment I’m still at the Wow! I can grow herbs in the window stage, and as my experiments progress I may go the 100% organic route. I’ll keep you posted.

3. Gail Hoyos - 2 February 2007

I have enjoyed your blog. Please take a look at mine about gardening

4. Mich - 12 August 2007

I have always been as much as i can, an organic food eater. I love herbs and they become costly when organic. I ran across a web site that said we could grow some of them on our windowsill. So here I am! Do you know all the herbs that I could grow inside my small little apartment. I do have a window that has the sun in there few hours in the morning. Would that be enough? What do I need to buy besides the pots haha. Im a novice. But I so what to do this. If anyone can walk me through it, I would be forever appreciative :)
Thank you,

5. cath - 15 August 2007

Do I know all the herbs you can grow?! No, sorry! But I’ve had great success with:
Mint – of all varieties. It seems to grow both in the sunny window and my NW facing window – it just likes to be in light, rather than requiring a lot of full sun. I have rooted it straight from the healthy stems that I’ve bought at the local Asian grocers…just sticking each stem in a jar of water and keeping that fresh and topped up, the plant roots easily if kept out of direct sunlight, but in a window, and then plant them as the roots appear. It grows like mad – so keep using it – try boiling potatoes with a sprig or two of mint in the pan.
Basil – again, several varieties are doing well this year – sweet, purple and a basil-mint. They need the sun, so a good sunny spot will be best, but I expect they will grow OK with just the morning sun if you put them in a warm room. These plants don’t survive the Scottish winter too well though, so I’ve had to start again each year. Last year I also grew Thai Sweet Basil which was great, but I’ve not seen it this year and again it didn’t survive winter.
Chillies – last year they loved the unusually hot Scottish summer – but again they like the sun. They are growing this year, but it’s just not as warm so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the chillies grow.
Others – I’ve also got some reasonable looking oregano, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. Some of this will only last the summer season, but it’s nice to have. I’ve got one older oregano plant which likes it in the stairwell just underneath the skylights, not getting direct sunlight, but a lot of daylight instead. The bay tree is growing well in the NW facing window, same one as last year, so that was a good buy.

I’ve bought my herbs this year from organic nurserys, via some local delis and the farmers market. They are very healthy looking, so check the plants well before you buy them.
I’m afraid you may just have to experiment, starting with the herbs you like most/are most expensive or hart to find and try the sunniest spot for most of them.
If you’re not confident of your indoor gardening skills I would try growing mint. From my experiences, I expect wherever you are/wherever you put it, it will do well. You can also learn how to prune and take care of plants – hopefully (like me) it will then give you confidence to try other things and work out the best growing spots in the house.
Oh and by the way, Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Food (Organic) has been keeping my plants fed and well all year, I highly recommend it.

Hope that helps you get started!

6. Led Plant Growing - 19 March 2008

We enjoy your blog. Great pictures your plants look awesome.

7. Shelmerdine Larsen - 9 July 2010

How can I get a “kitchen bay tree”?

cath - 19 July 2010

The plant I bought was called a Kitchen Bay Tree. Nothing special about it though, its just a small bay plant that I picked up at a garden centre. I expect it was a cutting from a larger tree. Some areas may have reasonable weather for planting bay outside to grow into a small tree…but I’m not sure that it would work where I live! By keeping the plant in a pot on the windowsill and cropping a fair amount of each year’s growth my small plant won’t quickly outgrow the house. But it’s a very useful herb – evergreen so I can even have fresh bay leaves even throughout the winter.

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