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Growing Herbs in the Winter?

Question:

Can oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, sage, etc. be grown indoors in a home during the winter months in the midwest? Do I need special lights or would window light do?

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Hardiness Zone: 6b

Dorothy from Northville, MI

Answer:

Dorothy,

When it comes to growing them indoors, not all herbs are created equal. Scented geranium, mint, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, chives, garlic and oregano are all considered easy to grow. If you have a south-facing window that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, you should have few problems (mint, parsley and rosemary can tolerate somewhat less light).

Others, like basil, need longer light conditions when grown indoors (16 hours per day) than can usually be obtained during a Midwest winter. They also like temperatures around 65ºF to 75ºF degrees. Grow lights can easily compensate for this if you have the space to set them up. You don't need special plant grow lights for this. You can use standard fluorescent tubes designed for room or shop lighting. Don't use regular incandescent lighting-the color spectrum isn't right.

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When your herbs are seedlings, keep the lights as close as you can to them without touching them. Watch them closely and raise the lights as they grow and turn the seedlings every other day to ensure even growth. Plan on replacing the lights when they reach 70% of their stated service life. By that time, they'll be delivering as much as 15% less light than when they are new.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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September 14, 20060 found this helpful

I grow herbs (basil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram) in boxes in my kitchen year around. (My rosemary is actually in a spare bedroom in a huge pot, and it's grown so much I think I will have to replant it.) Now, I do live in FL, so I have an excellent source of light coming in my windows. If you live in a part of the country where your sunlight isn't strong in the winter, you might want to add growlights. I would also be sure to keep them warm. Also, every so often my basil tries to go to seed, so I have to remove the flowers. (Once they go to seed, the plant will die, so it's important not to let them flower). Also I feed them with Miracle grow every so often which they appreciate.

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Good luck.
Sharon

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