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Tips for growing herbs on the windowsill

Carson Arthur –

One of the first spots that future gardeners often start is with herbs in the windowsill. If you can keep these alive, you can pretty much grow anything!

Unfortunately…it’s not as easy as you think. Just ask my kid sister, who has successfully killed many helpless rosemary and thyme.

A majority of the herbs that we grow for cooking and flavour, are Mediterranean by descent. They grow best when you can recreate their favourite growing conditions. Hot, sunny and sandy!

Herbs love airflow! The movement of wind around the leaves not only strengthens the plants, it also helps prevent diseases like powdery mildew and fungal infections.
Herbs love sun. North facing windows are the hardest to grow in because they get the least amount of sunlight.

Here is a short-list for the herbs that can handle less light.
Lemon Balm

Herbs like heat! Keep them warm in the winter if they are beside a window that is drafty or cold to the touch. The easiest way, use a blanket or a thick towel between the pot and the window. Keeping the roots warm will go along way to keeping your plant happy.

Herbs love sand! If you are repotting or transplanting your herbs, add some sand to the soil mix. By blending the sand in with the other soil, you improve the drainage. Aim for one part sand, two parts potting mix.

Herbs need drainage. They MUST be in a pot that has a hole in the bottom and hate sitting in a puddle of water at the bottom of a flowerpot.

If you have a really cool planter and want to put an herb into it, then keep the herb in its original pot, put gravel in the bottom of the new planter, put the old pot on top of the gravel and cover everything with moss so that no one knows!

Not all Herbs love the same size of pot. Some herbs, like Parsley prefer to have a deep pot that allows for longer roots, while other need a wide pot for lateral root growth. The general rule of thumb: tall plants like tall pots and bushy herbs like wider pots.

When it comes to watering your herbs, most of them are drought tolerant and prefer to be watered less.

Once a week is plenty for most herbs but consider planting a rosemary bush in your mix. Rosemary is a great indicator plant…when the leaves start to droop or look wrinkled, its time to water everyone!

For a pot that is 4”s across, put five ice cubes on top of the soil once a week. For every extra inch of width, add one more ice cube. Simple!

-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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