Every time we cook and wish we had a particular fresh ingredient, it makes us want to do an indoor herb garden. Of course, a completely indoor garden would also be fantastic. But is it worth growing your own herbs, let alone indoors?
Most gardeners and cooks agree that an indoor herb garden is worth the effort for fresh ingredients. Factors to consider in the decision-making process include time, space, effort, and money available to invest in the project. Enjoying fresh herbs in a meal is worth the effort in most cases.
Now, keep in mind that it’s always your choice. And you need to consider what your pets think about this – my cat Ginger doesn’t care for an indoor flower garden. But she has let me grow one herb indoors (and it’s not catnip). So keep reading – and I’ll tell you exactly what it is.
Herbs Worth Growing Yourself
There are a lot of herbs worth eating. But there’s only a few worth growing yourself. Some examples of commonly grown garden herbs include:
- and more
But here’s the thing: your garden and yard only has so much space. Or you only have so much time. You don’t need to grow enough herbs to stock a spice shelf at the store. Instead, you need to grow the herbs that you use most. So take a look at the recipes you’re using. See which herbs you use most often.
Those are going to be the herbs worth growing. 🙂
For us, we grow the following herbs:
I’d love to grow some Indian spices, because we love curry. But our cat likes to destroy indoor plants, so it’s hard. So far, the only indoor herb she’ll leave alone is the basil. So we’re currently limited to growing basil indoors.
Advantages of Growing Your Own Herbs at Home
There are some major advantages to growing your own herbs.
Fresh herbs taste better.
Seriously – the best herbs are the freshest ones. Sure, dried herbs from the store are better than no flavor. But in my opinion, fresh is best. The advantage of growing your herbs is that you get to pick them only when you need them. It’s the freshest option possible.
Growing your own herbs means you control the quality.
- Do you want 100% organic herbs? Great. You do that.
- Do you want to use something on the soil to prevent weeds safely? Great. Do that.
You get to do what you want with your herbs. You planted, tended them, watered them, and harvested them. You know exactly what’s in or on them – and what’s not. There’s really no greater peace of mind.
Having fresh herbs lets you control the costs.
Buying fresh herbs can get expensive – even from a farmer’s market. The organic, fresh herbs from our local grocery store sell small packages of various herbs for $2-3 per package. That adds up! Buying dried spices is a better deal, but they aren’t fresh.
The best way to get fresh herbs while controlling the costs is to grow them yourself. Now, you don’t get to control the costs of your water or power bills, but you can take advantage of sunlight, reclaimed rain water, and other ways to keep costs under control.
Disadvantages of Growing Your Own Herbs
On the other hand, growing your own herbs isn’t totally free of effort.
Growing fresh herbs takes time, effort, and money.
Having fresh herbs will require some mix of time, effort, and money. If you have more time to invest than money, then you’ll have to go that route. Or vice versa.
They’ll take time to get growing. They take time to maintain. And then they use more time and effort to harvest. Oh, and then more time to keep them from going to seed if you don’t want to deal with that. Or, if you do want them to go to seed, sometimes it’s like they know it – and they won’t do it.
Fresh herbs aren’t free.
I know a lot of people who started growing fresh herbs to get free herbs. And after they spent a crazy amount of money on potting soil, containers, seeds, and the like, they realized it would have been far cheaper to buy dried spices.
If you’re wanting to grow herbs to save money, then you need to be smart about how you do it. And you need to use what you have rather than going out and buying all of the things.
But if you have read this far and have reached the point when you can say: “What the heck, the thought of growing my herbs may have its challenges, but creating an herb garden sounds interesting, fun, and easy.” Then go ahead and give it a try.
The Easier, More Frugal Ways to Grow Your Own Herbs
Start by selecting at least one herb you like to grow. The choice may be driven by a spice that you think is easy to grow and maintain. Or it can be an herb that you often use in your dishes. Or it can be a type that would look pretty in your kitchen.
Go raid your closet or your shed. You may already have some seed packets there. Or ask a neighbor if they’ve got any extras. Maybe they tried an herb garden and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Go salvage those seeds!
If that doesn’t work, then you may need to get some seed packets or seedlings from a nursery. But see if you can just buy that. Try to skip everything else.
Then, find a spot of dirt that’s appropriate for your new garden. Plant it there. Or if you want to go the container route, remember that you do not have to buy pots to grow your herbs. You can be creative and use any old plastic or tin containers you can find in your home.
The key here is to indulge in doing something that has caught your interest and not be bogged down by the challenges of preparing the things needed or the additional cost it would entail in doing a DIY project such as this.
Whatever you choose, it should be something that gives you a reason to start. That means buying only one pack of seeds, one pot with drainage, and a handful of soil and put the idea into action.
Success may be bitter-sweet. You may or may not achieve what initially gave you the reason to start growing your herbs. Whether you create an herb garden or plant herbs on containers, there’s one end goal we’re working towards here, and it’s this:
Keep learning. Learn something new by trying it out. And maybe you’ll even have some fresh herbs growing to show for all of that effort.
Growing herbs from containers
Contrary to popular belief, growing herbs is quite easy and interesting. There are several ways in which you can do this. The options available range from container gardening to in-ground gardening.
Container gardening is a type of gardening that is ideal for anyone short on space. They’re also ideal for people who want a garden despite harsh weather because you can move them indoors.
Simply put, container herb gardening is the process of growing herbs in a container. Ceramic, clay, or wooden pots can do the trick. The containers could be placed indoors or outdoors depending on the climate and the space availability or depending on a person’s preference. Whatever works for you!
Ideal plants for growing in a container are those without extended roots. Luckily for us, herbs are generally small in size, making them a great choice.
Examples of container herbs include basil, chamomile, chives, lavender, mint, oregano, coriander, parsley, sage, and thyme.
All you need to know as a container gardener are the ideal conditions required to grow plants which are: good soil with the right amount of nutrients, sunlight, water tolerances, and your typical germination 101.
Depending on the type of herb you want, all you need is to go to a store and purchase the seeds. Most of the time you will find instructions on how to grow the herb on the leaflet, so no need to sweat attending agriculture classes for something you can do in a few hours.
The rest is as simple as watering and ensuring the right amount of sunlight gets to your herbs. The good thing about container gardening is that the containers are portable.
In-ground herb garden
Growing herbs in the ground is mostly easy – unless you get an herb that tends to just grow out of control.
Even so, make sure you read the instructions on the back of the seed packet. They’ve proven to be the best guide for how to treat the herbs. And once they’re planted? Water them according to the instructions and let them be. Just make sure your chickens don’t scratch in the area, or they will eat the seeds!
Herbs can be used in a till or a no-till garden. They’ll work either way. And some herbs don’t even need seeds – you can use a stem cutting to start a new plant. Once you have your cutting, then all you need to do is poke a hole on the ground, insert the stem, and cover it with soil to keep it firmly in place.
Most herbs are fairly disease resistant, so you need not worry about using pesticides.
Growing Herbs: Better from Seeds or Seedling Plants?
One of the many dilemmas that come with home gardening is that homeowners sometimes find it hard to choose between seeds of the herbs that they intend to grow or their seedlings. Here’s the good news: they both work. The question you need to ask yourself is this: how soon do you need your herbs?
- If you can wait several weeks (think 6-8 weeks) before harvesting any herbs, then you can start with seeds.
- If you need herbs within a matter of days to weeks (1-2 weeks), then you’ll want to start with seedling plants.
Personally, I like starting with seeds. Then, I get to control what I use on my plants. I like to grow them as organically as possible. Most herbs can be grown from seeds. Typical examples like chives, cilantro, and basil can be grown from seeds.
But my current indoor basil plant dates back to when I needed fresh basil, and the store didn’t have any. It was also in deep winter, so I didn’t have any. But the store did have a small basil plant. I was sure my cat would destroy it, but I really needed basil.
Long story short, the cat has mostly left the basil alone. I’m shocked, but I’m also really glad that I’ve got my basil when I need it.
Herbs Not Worth Growing Yourself
In generally, if you don’t eat the herbs then they aren’t worth growing yourself. Or if you don’t eat them in a large enough quantity to justify growing them, then I’d stick to dried herbs.
There may also be one other category of herbs not worth growing – any herbs that simply won’t grow in your local grow zone. I’ve wanted to grow some more exotic herbs that I can’t find locally, but they also won’t grow in my yard. Furthermore, some of them can’t be imported. So those ones aren’t worth growing – or are impossible to grow for legal, cultural, or weather reasons.
What Herbs Are the Most Profitable to Grow as a Homesteader?
The best way to make money selling herbs as a homesteader is to work with your local farmer’s market. So the best way to find which herbs would be profitable to grow would be to frequent your local farmer’s market.
See what’s being sold. If the sellers are open to talking, see how well the various herbs sell. My area doesn’t have a lot of fresh herbs being sold at the farmer’s market because there isn’t enough support or demand for them. So selling herbs at my local farmer’s market may not be worth my time, as there isn’t a demand.
However, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t create the demand. I’d likely just need to start small – selling to a few neighbors. Just be sure to follow your local cottage industry laws or any required food handling laws. You may need a permit.
Keep in mind that I’m talking about herbs that go on food – and not herbs that are controversial or for medicinal use. There’s a ton of information online about one specific herb/plant that shall go unnamed, but I didn’t research that plant. We don’t grow it, and we have no plans to do so.
What Herbs Should Be Planted Alone?
There are some herbs that positively take over an area, so they should be planted alone to keep them from taking over a large area.
Mint is notorious for spreading like crazy, so I’d always plant it alone. If you can’t plant your mint alone, then go read my article about harvesting mint to keep it better contained.
I’ve also had trouble with basil and cilantro taking over. In fact, ever since that time I keep my herbs in a container garden in their own containers. I don’t need bulk quantities of herbs, so a container garden helps me only grow what we need. And even then, we’ve usually got enough spare to dry, dehydrate, or freeze-dry for later.
Is Growing an Indoor Herb Garden Worth It?
In general, an indoor herb garden may be worth it if you have space, sufficient light, and someone to care for the plants. If you don’t have enough natural light, you’ll need to get artificial grow lights. But if you don’t have these things? Then it may not be worth the hassle to have an indoor herb garden.
However, if you can set aside space, time, and effort for an indoor herb garden, then it’s totally worth it. Indoor herb gardening is a great opportunity to involve your children in gardening, too.
Oh, one more factor to be aware of with regards to indoor herb gardens: pets. You need to factor in your pets to the equation. Some cats (like ours) are jerks who find indoor house plants offensive. Our cat, Ginger, likes to knock them off the counter or table.
We’ve tried moving our indoor herb garden to a room where we can close the door, but then we tend to forget about them. So it’s important to consider your lifestyle and pets into the equation.
But if having an indoor herb garden is doable, I say go for it. Try it out and see what happens. The worst-case scenario is that you end up with a dead plant. But in the best-case scenario? You’ve got fresh herbs year-round.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂
- Shepherd, Lizz. The Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables, Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs from Containers: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply. Atlantic Publishing Company, 2011.
- Lowe, Judy. Herbs!: Creative Herb Garden Themes and Projects. Cool Springs Press, 2011.
- Nuss, James Robert, and P. A. Ferretti. Growing herbs in the home garden. Cooperative Extension Services of the Northeast States, 1978.
- Heilmeyer, Marina. Ancient herbs. Getty Publications, 2007.