Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Herbs to Grow This Spring

By: Ariana Palmieri
I have a problem: Most books and articles I find online about gardening always assume the gardener has this huge amount of space to work with. Even books or articles about container gardening make reference to “putting your plant outdoors” or “transferring plants outside” at some point. Ugh. It’s so frustrating! What if you live in an apartment (like me) and don’t have a garden?
What if all you have is two windowsills with decent sunlight exposure (no balcony, no roomy areas)? What if you cannot (at any point) move your container garden outside? I’m sorry if I’m ranting a little bit, but these what-ifs are often overlooked and I’m so sick of it.
That’s why I decided to write this article about indoor container gardening. All too often articles and book tell you to move your container garden outside at some point. What the heck?! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a container garden?? It’s so hard to find an article that focuses on both… so I decided to create one. And if you’d like me to create more of these, please let me know. I’m even willing to take suggestions on what you’d like me to talk about.
For starters, I’m going to talk about spring herbs. Since it’s spring now, you know? And I’m going to talk about which are best for container gardens…and don’t need to be “transferred” at any point to an outdoor area (of any kind). So if you’re ready to start gardening from the comfort of your windowsill (and nowhere else), lets hop to it!

Chives are a great plant for indoor container gardening. I tried growing them once before and the only reason it didn’t work out was because I put them in much too small a pot. Chives are great to add to just about anything: They can be used in soups, stews, rice dishes, and as seasoning. They are related to onions and garlic, so they have a similar taste to them. Here are some chive recipes I recommend you sink your teeth into.
You will need:
  • Chive seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch clay pot with drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
  1. Fill your 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil you have pre-moistened. To pre-moisten soil, just scoop some soil, put it into a bowl, and “water” it with no more than 1 cup of water. It should form a ball when squeezed, but not be overtly soggy (or dripping wet).
  2. Now add some seeds to your pre-moistened soil. Don’t worry about numbers or spacing: Sprinkle as many as you’d like. You can always thin them out if need be later (but more than likely you won’t have to).
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more pre-moistened soil, about 1/4 inch deep (in other words, don’t bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can. Personally, I don’t even use a watering can: I use an upcycled glass bottle. It’s easier to water plants this way because there aren’t several watering holes (just one) so I have better control over my watering.
  4. Watering: You should start to see sprouts within 7-14 days: Now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle – which I painted and made look all pretty by the way). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don’t want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch. Also, chives love humidity, so keep them near other plants and/or mist them even when they’re fully grown every once and a while.
  5. Sunlight: Chives also need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means I don’t even bother moving them away from my windowsill. If you see them reaching for the sunlight, rotate the pot to make sure they’re getting sunlight evenly on all sides.
  6. Harvesting: Once they start to grow and get bigger, please note that the grass-like part of chives is the part you want to harvest. That said, if the chives start to flower, you can also harvest and eat the flowers. These don’t have the same taste as the chives stalks though. To harvest the stalks, simply gather some (not all) of the stalks into a bunch and snip them off using a clean scissor. I recommend leaving about 1/2 an inch of stalk attached to the bulb, this way they can grow back! Remember not to cut all your stalks at once: You want to encourage regrowth and have more to harvest at a later time.

Okay, so next up is parsley. This herb is fantastic for adding to salads, turning into pesto, and marinating meat with. It’s got a lot of great uses (here are some more), so it’s well worth growing. As you’ll notice, it’s not that much different to grow from chives, though there are certain things to note that are in fact different (like how it doesn’t need as much humidity). Also, please note that parsley does not take kindly to being transplanted into a bigger pot! With that said, please use a 6 inch pot (if not a bigger one, depending on your amount of space) to grow this herb so it has more than enough room.

You will need:
  • Parsley seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch-clay pot with drainage hole(s)
  • Organic potting soil
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
  1. Fill your 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil (you don’t have to pre-moisten it this time). If you’d like, add a handful of sand to the mixture (this will help improve drainage but it’s not necessary).
  2. Just sprinkle a few seeds onto the soil and cover with some more soil (an additional 1/4 inch of soil should do the trick, if you wanted a measurement).
  3. Sunlight: Now move the pot over to your chosen windowsill. It’s going to need the same amount of sunlight as chives, so about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Make sure to rotate the pot every 3 to 4 days: This will help each area of the plant get an even amount of light.
  4. Watering: Keep watering it regularly, but make sure you don’t overwater it. The soil shouldn’t be soggy, just moist. You should start to see sprouts within 3 weeks time. Also, as your plant grows, if you notice their leaves becoming dry and brittle, they need more moisture. You can help them with this by misting them every once and a while, or keeping them near other plants (chives can even grow in the same pot as parsley!). If all else fails, set the plant on top of a tray of pebbles and add water to the tray (leaving the tops of the pebbles exposed). This will give it the proper amount of moisture it needs.
  5. Thinning: If you feel you have too many parsley sprouts, you can simply thin them out. Do this by clipping out the excess with scissors or pinching them out between your fingernail and thumb. Same rule applies to chives (although the more chives you have the better).
  6. Harvesting: Did you know younger parsley plants have the most flavor? That said, make sure you don’t snip all your young parsley: You want some to grow big and strong! The reason I mention this is because you can literally harvest parsley at any stage of the game. That said, I’d wait until the leaf stems have three segments before snipping some off. Always cut at the base of the plant using a pair of clean scissors. This will actually encourage it to produce more stems (so more parsley for you)! That said, you can also just snip off a few leaves for immediate use: Just cut the outer portions (otherwise known as the old growth). This will help the plant focus on making new growth!
Alright, so this herb is not as well known as chives or parsley. But it’s still worthy of being put into this list! Chervil is commonly used in French cooking. It’s similar in appearance to parsley, so try not to get the two confused. Similar to parsley, chervil doesn’t take well to being transplanted to other pots, so make sure to use a 6-inch one, or something bigger! Keep in mind this plant can reach 12 to 24 inches in height. If that’s too height for the area you’re trying to grow it in, no worries: Just keep it neat by trimming and using the herb frequently. Chervil flavors young vegetables, soups, salads, casseroles and a variety of other recipes.
You will need:
  • Chervil seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch-clay pot with drainage hole(s)
  • Organic potting soil
  • A dish or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
  1. Fill your 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil (no need to pre-moisten it).
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. Sprinkle a little bit of soil on top to cover them gently. You can always thin them out gently later if there are too many clumped together.
  3. Watering: Make sure to water regularly, but not too much. Soil shouldn’t be soggy, just moist, otherwise the seeds will rot.
  4. Sunlight: Chervil does just fine when it gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, though it does like a little shade.
  5. Trimming: To keep your chervil in the best of shape, and not too tall, trim it often. Use the clippings you get while they’re fresh for the best flavor. Trimming it helps reduce bolting. That said, if it does bolt, start new plantings every few weeks to maintain a continuous supply. The best cure for signs of bolting are trimming and reduction in light: Move the plant to a cooler location for 1 to 2 hours of the time it would’ve spent in the sun.
  6. Harvesting: Chervil has a long cropping period, which is great. I’d recommend harvesting the leaves from about 6 to 8 weeks after planting. As mentioned earlier, use the leaves as soon as possible: They tend to lose their flavor quickly. To harvest, just cut the leaves using a clean scissor as you would with parsley.


Want more indoor container gardening? Check out the rest of the series here (this list will be updated):
Part 5 – Coming soon! *Summer vegetables*
Part 6 – Coming soon! *Summer fruits*
I’ll update this series once a month on a Friday. Part 4 will probably be on June 30th. See you then! 

By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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