It’s super-easy to grow herbs and chillies indoors – no garden required! All you need is a windowsill and a few top tips.
Follow our easy guide and you’ll be making home-grown basil pesto and chilli sauce in no time!
For our windowsill herb garden, we’ve gone for a mixture of soft herbs and chillies, as these tend to respond well to being indoors, and they don’t take up too much space.
If you’re a total novice, sage, chives or mint are a great place to start. These herbs are pretty resistant and should bounce back from a little over- or under-watering (but don’t take it for granted!).
Basil is a tropical plant and so can be challenging to grow in the UK. It needs a lot of sunlight to really flourish, so if you give it a go, make sure you’ve got a particularly sunny spot for it.
Finally, we couldn’t start a Jamie Oliver HQ garden without chilli plants! We’ve gone all out with Scotch bonnets. Chillies can be grown successfully on a sunny windowsill – they just might be smaller than the ones you see in the supermarket. The flavour will be epic though.
What we’ve done
You can plant herbs from seed if you feel confident, or start with young plants instead, as we’ve done with ours. If you do decide to start from scratch with seeds, then spring is the best time to do this. As you’re keeping the herbs inside, though, it doesn’t matter too much as they will be protected from any bad weather.
It’s a little easier to start with young plants than seeds, and it’s also quicker. You can either pick up young plants at a garden centre, or simply start with pots of herbs from the supermarket.
Thinking about pots
We’ve used upcycled containers, and you can really get creative with this. Anything that’s sturdy and opaque will work – roots don’t like daylight. They’re also great for decorating and customising with kids.
We’ve chosen a mix of yoghurt pots, egg boxes, tin cans, and even cardboard drinks cartons. Think outside the box! Try not to re-pot a plant too often, as it can be stressful for them – yep, plants get stressed out too!
Spend the first few weeks working out how often your plants need watering. This will depend on how warm it is, the humidity, how big or small the plant is.
It’s a good idea to check on the plants every morning. Lift up the pots to feel if they’re heavy (which means there’s still a good amount of water in the soil), and feel the soil to see if it’s dry or not. Over time, you’ll be able to recognise when they need a drink.
Once established, your plants might need to move to bigger pots as they grow, so that the roots have enough space. Bigger pots are also good for drainage so that your plant doesn’t get waterlogged.
- Take your chosen pot and make some drainage holes in the bottom of it (if it doesn’t have them already) – it’ll need about 3 to 5 holes, depending on the size of the pot. The easiest way to do this is with a screwdriver or a drill, and sturdy kitchen scissors will do the job with upcycled packaging and boxes – just watch those fingers!
- Next, create the base layer of your pot. You need a layer of something like clay pebbles (which we’ve used here) or gravel that will allow even more drainage and stop the plant from getting waterlogged.
- Scatter a small handful of your pebbles in the bottom of the pot.
- Then cover with lightly fertilised loose soil. You can get heavily fertilised soil too, but lightly fertilised is more multi-purpose as it allows you to control the amount of food you’re giving your plant. Young plants won’t need very much at all, but if you have an older or bigger plant, you can give them a boost with additional liquid feed (available in garden centres).
- Use a trowel to loosen the soil around the edges of the pot – like running a knife around a cake tin – and then gently squeeze the plant out of its pot, keeping it intact.
- Carefully place the plant into the new, larger pot and add loose soil around the edges to fill the pot.
- Water your plant well to help it settle into its new home.
Feeling inspired? Check out the Vegepedia for loads of tips, tricks and veggie recipes.