Herb Garden Woes

Inspired by my own outdoor garden success and urged on by pretty Pinterest successes….I decided to jump in to indoor herb gardening! Little teacups and tiny terracotta pots filled with scrumptious homemade herbs? Count me in.

I told my dear friend that I would love an indoor herb garden and, that sweet soul, she set one up for us while we were in Cuba for a wedding. I came home to an indoor growing light installed with a timer in my cabinet. I was overjoyed. Some plants were all set up!

I ended up not knowing how to take care of those plants and, when I ‘failed’, started “improving the set-up”.

In my fashion, I went to the garden center and was dazzled by all of the adorable seed packets. I went wild buying random selections, without thinking if they would grow well inside or if they were a good match for each other. I think I was mostly charmed by the packages.

My research consisted of quickly reading the back of the seed packets. I then bought suitable dirt and went nuts planning. I even moved my other light above the cabinet so that I would have TWO places to grow things.

And here is where I went wrong. I had TOO MUCH going on. I had a million different kinds of plants on the go, so I wasn’t ever able to keep the instructions on how to water, when to harvest, or when to let them grow correct. I was all in, too fast. Also, I ignored the packages suggestions on using sand, and not gravel, for good drainage, so a lot of my plants would drown in the long run and create a perfect place for fungus gnats to thrive.  ( I used the Sticky Tapes option to get rid of them, recommended to me by staff at Golden Acre Garden Centre). The teacups and mugs, although an extremely cute idea, were hard to keep wet enough and often dried out, stressing out the plant. Then I went on holiday to my mom’s house and my husband was handed my problematic herb garden to water. It was too far gone. I came home to this sad and unavoidable mess…..



I decided I could save my plants by researching them and their problems….they became my juvenile delinquent plants, haha…..but by then there was too much going on. I had ten different plants on the go, and it was difficult to research growing conditions they should have had, their current problems, and what to change. After hours of research, I found they were past most of the solutions, after all. Plus, I still had tiny unidentifiable bugs flying up  when I went to check on them….so I thought I would start over and scrap the whole project. As I deconstructed my indoor garden, I whispered to each plant that I was so sorry I failed them. I was unprepared for how attached I would get to each little growing green guy. There was a feeling that I had been neglectful and failed a growing being, despite the fact that I was growing them to eat them. I am sorry you didn’t reach your full potential, little herbs!


Totally normal, right?

Since I still had bugs, I decided to do what worked the last time, and bake the dirt to sterilize it. I put the dirt in glass containers and stuck it in a hot oven for 30 minutes, as directed. While that was happening, I thoroughly washed the pots with natural soap and vinegar. I let them dry completely (ideally, let them dry overnight) and used leftover Martha Stewart Chalk Paint on the outside of the containers to give them a uniform look.  I did not research the best paint to use, but I am just crossing my fingers this works, as it is all I had on hand. (If you want a truly professional look, I recommend this link ). After the paint was dry, I used a chalk pen to write the name of the herb I wanted to plant. By the time the paint was dry, the dirt had cooled, so I got busy planting.

The pots drying after the first coat.

The pots drying after the first coat.


Now, this time I will research: what I have planted, whether it will grow in winter inside, and what its ideal conditions should be. I recently learned dill is a horrible choice for an indoor herb and that basil can be very picky. Now, we love basil, so we are are willing to baby it, but you may not be. Watch for a post about basil’s best growing conditions soon- once I test out the online suggestions. This time, I planted a limited amount of different plants on one level of my cabinet, instead of two. I intend to research them, test out growing conditions, and post my findings here! Stay tuned.

What I have planted now:

  • several kinds of basil
  • thyme
  • marjoram
  • parsley
  • mint
  • oregano

Six seems like a lot, but I think I can handle it. I have researched basil and will share what I learned, once I have tested some approaches, and will research thyme next.

Now my garden looks like this:

I am very excited to go on this little adventure. Gardening, whether indoor or outdoor, is a lot to learn. I have found it is a consuming little hobby with a steep learning curve. Anyone else?

What I did wrong the first time:

  • didn’t take the packages precise instructions seriously, especially drainage requirements
  • too big too soon
  • too many different varieties of herbs all at once
  •  didn’t buy a moisture meter (essential to prevent over-watering)


I am so excited to grow my own herbs this winter and have something fresh and green to get me through the drab cold months.

If you have a Canadian indoor herb garden, let me know what has worked for you!

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