A Windowsill Herb Garden – Make It Yourself From Scratch

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There is nothing more irritating than a grey, slushy winter that won’t go away except the outrageous price of fresh herbs at the grocery store. Fortunately, I live in a place where the perennial herbs don’t ever seem to go dormant. I only wish the same could be said for the annual herbs. For about three months out of the year, I have no basil. Even if I’m on top of planting the cool weather herbs in the spring, they somehow never seem to get very big before the heat ramps up and fries them crispy. A windowsill herb garden is the obvious solution here. And if you want to try your hand at this project too, read on and I’ll show you how to get it set up.

Important Supplies

A brightly lit windowsill
It gets bonus points for having a ledge or a sill that’s big enough to hold plant pots. However, any bookshelf, dresser, table, etc. that’s raised up high enough to be almost even with the window in question will work equally well. Kitchen windows are an ideal place for windowsill gardens because the herbs are easy to grab when you’re cooking and they’re in your face most of the time so you’re not as likely to forget to water them.

Annual Herb Seeds
Some good choices here are cilantro, dill, chervil, parsley, and so on. Pick your favorites! After all that’s the point. Look for compact plant varieties where possible. Of course, borage is not going to be a good choice because the plants get fairly large in a hurry. And, unless the window in question is particularly sunny and warm, you might not want to bother with basil since it needs warmer temperatures than most in order to germinate.

Fresh Potting Soil
A lot of herbs have a tendency to look like weeds when they come up and vice versa. So the best way to avoid eating crabgrass or worse (not at all advisable) is by using new potting soil. While I normally recycle my dirt, this isn’t something you want to do here.

Small Pots
If you do a lot of gardening, you probably have a ton of tiny terracotta or ceramic pots floating around. These containers are all too quickly outgrown by any plants they encounter, leaving you with dozens of perfectly good pots that often remain depressingly empty. This project is a good way to put them to use. New terracotta pots will run about $2 apiece.

Extra Supplies

Saucers for the pots
Using saucers will keep your house-proud spouse or your landlord from screaming at you about water stains. Spend about $2 for a set of cheap plastic ones or splash out for the pricier terracotta ones. Even if you could care less about the furniture, you probably have better things to do than get embroiled in petty fights.

Use whatever you’d like. Just be sure to read the instructions on the package carefully to avoid problems later (like dead plants).

$0 to $18, depending on the supplies you have on hand. I had all the supplies on hand already so it didn’t cost me anything.

1 hour to put together. A minute or two per day to water. Several weeks until herbs sprout.


1. Select your seeds. Some of these will require a bit of prep work before they can be used. Pre-soak the parsley seeds overnight in a glass of warm water if you’re using them. You’ll also need to rub nasturtium seeds over rough surfaces so they’ll germinate.

Make your choices…

2. Gather all your supplies together somewhere outdoors so that you don’t make a mess inside. Clean out your chosen containers, if necessary.

Freshly washed container (on right)
Containers ready for the next step.

4. Sprinkle the seeds on top. Then cover with as much dirt as the instructions say to use.

Plant the seeds

5. Apply water carefully until the liquid starts coming out the bottom of the container

Water your plants.

6. Set each container on its corresponding saucer and carry them inside.
7. Arrange plants on windowsill.
8. Don’t forget to water them when the soil dries out.

Most herbs show up in about 2 weeks, but some might take longer to appear.

9. Once the sprouts appear, you may want to thin them out if they are too close together. You can eat the unfortunate victims of this process on your sandwich or something.
10. When the plants get to be a couple of inches tall, you can start clipping off pieces and eating them. Of course, you can clip and eat the baby plants whole if you don’t mind the fact that they won’t grow back.

Other Windowsill Herb Garden Tips

Gardeners that don’t care how their windowsill garden looks and aren’t concerned about the durability of their containers might want to wash and reuse some of the plastic pots that they already own. After all, these come along with just about every plant you buy and they’re not big enough to do anything else with.

If you really suck at growing plants from seeds, you can instead buy small plants for about $4 apiece. This has the benefit of being a quicker project to put together but it’s also more expensive in the long run. Most retail chains with a garden center will probably only have a few of the more common plant varieties. If you’re looking for something specific like pineapple mint, head for your locally run establishments first because they tend to have a more extensive selection of plants.

You could also swap out the species I used here for things like baby lettuce, arugula, mesclun mix, or edible flowers to use in your culinary creations. Just keep in mind that any plants you want to grow obviously won’t get very large since you’ll be growing them in small containers.

As always, best of luck and happy gardening!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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