The other day, while I was removing a cast-iron Dutch oven from a 400°F oven—you guessed it. I brushed my forearm across the edge. Instead of running to the medicine chest and scrounging around for a tube of zinc oxide, I walked four steps across the kitchen, plucked a leaf from an aloe vera plant, and rubbed the cooling gel on the burn. Inside of a few minutes, the stinging had diminished, and the chances for a scar were eliminated.
One example of the advantages of growing herbs indoors? I certainly think so. But there are others, as well. Here are just a few more.
- You can grow as many different herbs and varieties as you choose just inches from your kitchen. Not so in the garden.
You can modify the soil so that it suits each of your herbs’ requirements precisely. Not so in the garden, where modification for each individual plant is virtually impossible.
- Indoor herbs can make dramatic showpieces, adding drama, scent, and color to whichever room you choose. Not so in the garden, where even showy herbs can get lost among the crowd.
- You’ll spend less time protecting your plants from insects and critters bound upon devouring them. Not so in the garden, where every living thing is food for some other living thing.
- You can control the growing conditions of your indoor plants, giving them just the right amounts of water and light to thrive. Not so in the garden, where beggars can’t be choosers.
- You can extend your growing season all year long by growing your herbs indoors. Not so in the garden, where the seasonally shifting light and temperatures affect the circadian rhythm governing your plants’ growth.
- You can take some of the pressure off your outdoor garden planning if you don’t have to worry about providing room for herbs. Aren’t peppers and peonies, jonquils and artichokes, and tomatoes and tulips enough to deal with without having to squeeze in a dozen or more herb plants?
Of course, despite all the pluses to growing herbs indoors, there’s also a negative side that only Mother Nature can address: Plants are naturally outdoor creatures—always have been and always will be.
While we can make numerous modifications to overcome that “short- coming” to allow us our indoor gardening passions, we can’t deny the facts. Outdoor gardening is pretty much a “set it and forget it” affair. Plant enough for the bugs, plant enough for the birds, plant enough for the weather, and take the rest for yourself. It’s called letting nature take its course.
Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to gardening both ways—indoors and out. I’m a strong proponent of both. But,while I see plenty of advantages to growing corn and indeterminate tomato vines outdoors, I prefer all the benefits that indoor gardening gives me when it comes to growing herbs.
Oh, and there’s one more argument in favor of growing herbs indoors. Noshing. Whenever I pass a potted basil or marjoram plant, I take a moment to pinch back the tips to pop into my mouth and chew on. There is nothing zingier, fresher, or healthier than a freshly picked sprig of thyme or mint thrown under your tongue.
Unless you’re in and out of the house a few dozen times a day, you simply won’t have the same opportunity to raid your outdoor garden in passing.
Thankfully, nearly every herb under the sun can be grown under the roof—if it’s planted in the proper soil and given the right amount of light and water. Some notable exceptions are herbs that have long tap roots (carrots, chicory, etc.). If you try growing these, make sure to provide them with a deep enough container for them to stretch out their legs. (Think ten-gallon milk can.)