Where best to grow herbs:indoors or outdoors

herb seedlings in a garden setting

You enjoy gardening, but maybe you want to enjoy your herbs all year round.

So where best to grow your herbs, indoors or outdoors

Let’s find out shall we….

Your reason to grow herbs

You make a conscious decision to grow something, and you take care of it or it will die

So your reason to grow a type of herb can be guided by what you want…

Is it for culinary use or space filler or design element for your garden.

If it is for cooking then you may be better off growing it indoors…

Who want to go outside on a wet and windy day to harvest herbs….

And during the winter you may not have any due to the weather….

So helping them grow indoors is your only choice at that time….

If it is a herb that will grow into a massive bush ..like rosemary or a bay tree, then maybe the garden or a pot is the best place for it…..

Herbs needs – can you give it all in wants

Another factor in growing indoors or outside are the plants needs…

What a plant needs to thrive are six different components

basil growing in a cup
  • Light
  • Water
  • food
  • substrate
  • air
  • temperature

Given in the right quantity at the right time of all of these a plant will thrive …

But if the plant is lacking in one then it may not grow well or will be more susceptible to disease or pests….

Lets have a quick look at each of these for both indoors and outdoors….

Lighting

Most herbs like many hours of sunlight , hence they grow well in summer in most parts of the world…

Most herbs like full sun with at least 6 to 8 hours of basking…

You do have some which are early crops outside that don’t do too well in the full heat of the summer sun

Like chives, parsley and cilantro…

These crop early and are over by the time full summer arrives outside…

But indoors you can have a cooler time all year round where these herbs can do well.

So if you have a south facing window then that is ideal for most herbs…

Some herbs grow to a full height after several years and others are only small and grow to their full height within the year…or regrow if trimmed back…

If your kitchen faces say north, then all is not lost…

Supplemental grow lighting is easily applied nowadays, and can look stylish…

Water

There is no magic formula for watering…

Most herbs like to dry out somewhat between watering…

watering plants

So if your climate is very wet then it may be worth planting herbs in pots that can be sheltered from the wet weather or even growing them inside …where you have a lot more control…but more responsibility.

But don’t forget to have drainage holes in the container, which may need a loose cover to prevent the compost falling out…

Outside if you have a rainy season, as long as the ground is well drained then the herbs will survive…

If the ground is compacted and has little drainage then the herbs will get stressed and may wilt or suffer due to being waterlogged…

Inside then that is a different matter, it can swing the other way…

If your life is a little too hectic then the plants may go unwatered until too late, once gone past the wilted stage for most herbs there is no recovering…

Or you can over water , thinking that this will make them grow faster or bigger…

But all that does is waterlog the roots and the roots, believe it or not need to breathe…

So you are drowning your plants…

The best solution is to use the finger test or a moisture meter.

By pressing your finger down into the soil and feeling whether it is wet or not at the tip you can tell how dry your herbs are….

My fingers are not that sensitive at the ends, so i resort to a moisture meter, pushing in the two prongs a few inches and looking at the meter needle…

When it says dry then a little water until it starts to run out of the bottom…allowing it to freely drain before putting it back into it’s saucer…

The other trick is to add stones to the saucer or small feet to the pot so that there is a gap for the excess water to drain off and the post not sit in it….

And try to make sure your water you give to your plants does not come straight from the tap  – allowing it to sit for 24- 48 hours will allow it to come up to room temperature and any chemical evaporate off if they can.

Outside you don’t have any control over the rain temperature or what it contains, but the mass of soil is a very good buffer for most chemicals…

This is where a herb in a pot loses out to one in the ground, there just isn’t the buffering level there so it will be more affected by chemical rain…

Fertilizer

Your plants need certain levels of food to grow.

In soil this may be in the right amount or close.

Which is the reason some herbs will do really well in your garden with no help

Whereas other herbs are lacking in certain parts of their diet and need help to thrive…

At other times the soil may be too acidic or basic for the plant to take up their food….

So you have a number of choices when this happens….

You can change the soils Ph, by adding something to alter it…

But the soil will fight back .

As I said above the soil has a massive buffering effect  and rain and creatures will move the soil around to bring it back to what it was…

So it will be a continual process of adding chemicals to alter the soil Ph…

Or you could grow them in a pot sunk in the ground…their own little micro climate from the plants point of view …

It will still get a bit of the main soils Ph into the pot but a lot less.

There will be less buffering from rain effects…

And you will need to add more of the right food as the plant takes the nutrients out of the little bit of soil it has….

But most gardens can do with a bit of food every year as the plants do consume nutrients from the soil….

Pot grown herbs will need some additional food to keep growing at peak performance…

As will indoor grown plants…

Monthly reminders to add a little feed may be needed, and adding a good quality vegetative food for most herbs would be a good idea…

So indoor grown herbs may have the benefits of not having the food washed away by the rain…

Soil

What your plants are grown in will have a major affect on how they grow….

As talked about above matching plants to the type of soil you have will allow them to grow to their full potential…

If you try to force them to grow where they are not designed to grow then they will either not grow or show signs of stress throughout their lives…

Most herbs like free draining soil, so if you have clay type soil you will need to add soil improvers to break it up and improve the drainage first…

Or you could do as said above and sink a pot into the ground with the right type of soil – you will need to add drainage below the post so it doesn’t get waterlogged, and you will need quite a bit of that if your region suffers with a lot of rain…

Or plant in pots above ground and move them in times of long downpours…

Or grow them inside, where they are well protected….

You then have control over what type of growing medium they are planted in and how they are treated…

But you must remember to do it….

Air

Outside your herbs are exposed to the wind blowing through their leaves and stems.

Inside your herbs are mostly in still air…

This can cause two things…

A build up of molds which can attack your plant

Or allow bugs to rest on your plant…

Outside the constantly moving air doesn’t allow the molds or some bugs to stay on the plants long enough to do lasting damage….

And it is fresh air….

Inside during the winter most of us hardly , for good reason, ever open the window to allow fresh air in…

We have the heating on drying out the air, so the plants need to perspire to keep their water levels up….

Some herb need a dormant season to grow well next season, but others , as soon as it goes cool die back and never grow again…

Inside you can keep the more fragile plants going for a while longer…i had a basil plant that i kept going for seven years, pinching out the flowers whenever they appears to top it becoming bitter…i’ll tell you how i did it later…

It eventually succumbed to pests, as i took my eye off the ball….

And chilli plants even longer ( 12 years and counting…)

But all plants need air, not only at the top but at the roots as well.

This is the reason you should not over water them and allow the roots to breathe…..

Outside with the natural wet and dry cycles they have adapted to being slightly wetter occasionally and dryer other times…but in extended dry seasons they need our help watering them…

Same rules apply with watering outside – either collected rainwater or tap water, stood for 24 hours, if possible…

This prevents problems from temperature of the water or the chemicals used to treat the water for us….

temperature

Outside the seasons dictate, to a certain degree, the temperature….

W have little control over it…

Unless we have somewhere , like a greenhouse, where we can place plants to help reduce the temperature extremes….

In the ground in the garden herbs are subjected to the full ravages of the climate, with floods drowning and heat waves cooking them..

I am amazed at time that anything grows , but nature has a way of carrying on…

A lot of herbs like temperature similar to what we like…so around 70F about 21C is ideal…

Too much hotter and like us they would like to seek the shade…

Too much colder and they would like to come inside…..

So maybe there is much to be said for a garden which has herbs in containers which can go outside during the spring, be shaded in the height of summer and come inside over the autumn and winter….

Perhaps this is the best way to grow herbs….

Pests

And the one thing touched on above are pests….

These can be the molds or bugs that suck the plant dry…or give it a disease from which it may not recover….

Moving air will help a lot, so a fan placed close but not blowing directly onto the plants will help…

There are hundreds of bugs that will attack plants, but the most common are aphids on herbs…or spider mites…

And there are natural ways and unnatural ways of dealing with them…

Natural ways are to use a gentle(ish) spray of ware – effectively you are creating rain for your indoor plant…

This will knock off most of the the aphids…you may need to treat this a few times to complete the cycle as there will be eggs which will hatch and grow…so wait a few days and repeat the soaking

Or you can use beneficial bugs – the larvae of the lacewing ( as long as it is native to where you are from) can be released to feast on the aphids…

Once grown they can be released or they may lay more eggs depending on the amount of food present.

Ladybirds are another beneficial bug that will eat aphids, but they may not stay where you place them…

Other natural ways are neem oil, and soapy water wiped onto the plants leaves…

Other bugs that can and do affect herbs are spider mites, mealy worms and scale…

These can be removed by beneficial insects or other sprays available at the garden centers…

Is there a best place to grow herbs

As i said at the start …it depends…..

On whether you want out of season crops …you will need to take care of the elements that are not available in nature at that time….

So in the winter if you want basil …

You will need to give it extra light and heat..it can’t stand the cold….

So adding a grow light will help it flourish…

Trying to grow coriander in the middle of a summer heatwave….you will need to reduce the temperature or it will bolt straight away….

So you will need an enclosure for cooling it and other environmental control….

Speaking of which….indoors and some outdoors there is an easier way to grow herbs on the countertop…

And that is called hydroponics….

If you have not heard of it, or heard of it to grow weed, then check out the basics of hydroponics.

But basically you give a plant all it needs to grow…

And it responds by growing, and being in the best of health as it does.

You get more flavor, more vigorous growth, more healthy plants…..

And you can start them in hydroponics with a view to transplant them outside…

Or take a cutting of most plants and grow them on in the hydroponics unit inside….

I have done this with basil – grown one plant for over 7 years…

Chilli..grown for over 10 years…..

Tomatoes ..same plant cuttings grown for over 3 years…..

The work i have to do with the units i have …

Open the lid daily, check the level of nutrient ( food plus water) and top up with water…

Every two weeks empty the nutrient mix and refill…

Check the plants and watch them grow……

The units themselves can fit in most places as they are self lit…

So that alcove where you can get nothing to grow…a hydroponics unit would help….

That space under the stairs that gets no light…a hydroponics unit will take care of that….addition of grow lights and heat and nutrient…your plants will be happy.

Remember that basil plant i kept alive for over 7 years…well that was grown in a hydroponics unit….

Within days of planting and setting up the unit, the first signs of life appeared and it grew so fast….

I was harvesting that much that i gave a load away, and they said it filled the house with the aroma of fresh basil…..

I do grow a range of veg outside in open hydroponics units- using the sunlight , where the plants are most happy….

Effectively in a bucket with an aquarium airstone bubbling air ( remember what we talked about earlier that roots need oxygen)…

And see them grow….

What have i grown…

Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, herbs…and even potatoes….

But you could grow basil, dill, coriander ( in cooler weather), chives, thyme really any herb in this manner…

If they were grown in pots and placed in a flood and drain you could bring them in when the weather conditions became unfavorable for them…..

To carry on growing them inside in the same manner…supplementing the lack of light or temperature to help them survive until next year….

And you can grow more in a smaller area…

And you don’t have to think flat …you can go vertical…

That wall you see the sun shining on daily…facing south…

Why not grow herbs up there…..

So now instead of just raised beds you can pick your herbs are the height you are comfortable with….and see a living wall….

You can grow the edible flowers that add a splash of color to the wall and to your plate.

So which is best….

My personal favorite is the hydroponics…

Giving you the flexibility of moving plants from inside to outside…

aerogarden full of herbs
grow your herbs safely in an aerogarden
flickr

Having moving water inside…

Or stylish units where, when you are cooking in the kitchen you turn and pick a few leaves…taking in the heady aroma of the basil …or plucking a chilli right from the plant…knowing it will have the freshness and heat you like…..

What’s your favorite place to grow herbs…

Are you an indoors gardener or do you prefer outside gardening …

Would you consider hydroponics if you haven’t already….

Let me know in the comments below…

There are a lot of articles on this site to help you with the hydroponics method…once you try it you will find out how easy it is and what you can do with it…

You never know you may end up with no more dirt under the fingernails…..

Website | + posts

I have been growing plants hydroponically since 2009. For years before that i was reading books and looking at systems and saying ...no way...
But once i had taken the plunge with the tomatoes outside, then there was no stopping me.
I tried out most of the systems and started to refine them, getting the plants to grow more efficiently.
Now I am more interested in indoor hydroponics and the challenges it presents. Being able to control the environment, feeding the correct nutrients and giving the correct length and type of lighting....

Leave a Comment