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So I want to start an herb garden in my kitchen (moved from Home Cooking)

Living on the bad side of Lake Michigan, we only have roughly 6 months where herbs can grow with any sort of normalcy outdoors. So, I've reserved a section of my countertop for a mason jar herb garden. I know mason jars aren't ideal but it's an easy way to try this theory out and see where it goes. The space will be under two cabinets in a dim corner of the kitchen but it is between one 3 x 2' window and our outside door which has a full window in it so it will get decent light during the day. To help that out, I've purchased a T5 fluorescent , 25W, and placed a layer of mylar under the cabinets. I will keep the fluorescent on the counter, shining up to the mylar which should then reflect it back down onto the plants.

Is this a terrible idea and I'm about to lose $7 worth of starter herbs (yes that is sarcasm)? I have the following herbs at this point:

Thyme (normal)
Italian Basil
Flat parsley, but this is just a bunch with the stems in water
Cilantro, same as parsley, just a bunch from the store with stems in water

I change out the water for the cilantro and parsley every few days. I'm finding it hard to not leave standing water in the bottoms of the other jars, but still maintain a moist soil up top. I'm guessing I need more frequent watering with less overall water at a time. The mason jars are set up with a mulch in the bottom 1", then potting soil and what came with the starter herb above it.

Am I on the right track? Any advice is appreciated, obviously this stuff wouldn't be hard to scrap and start over at this point. At this point I am only using potting soil and water, no plant food of any type.

Thanks for any ideas!

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  1. Herbs need really good drainage, they do not like wet feet. I'd be leary of using the jars. I recommend reading the forums on Gardenweb- here's a link to container gardening. There is also a growing under lights forum and an herb forum amongst others.


    3 Replies
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      I agree that there are many better make shift pots than mason jars.

      Styrofoam coffee cups
      Milk cartons
      Clamshell thingys from vegetables

      Any thing you can poke a hole in the bottom of. The right "soil" and drainages is important as light, especially the ones wit& Mediterranean habitats (oregano, thyme, rosemary I think).

      Also when the parsley,cilanto, and basil form roots, think about potting soil or another source of nutrition.

      Also agree with gardenweb!

      1. re: weezieduzzit

        Another alternative is plastic half-gallon milk containers or 2 liter pop bottles. Use a knife or scissors to cut off the top and make a 4 to 6-inch pot. Then poke some holes in the bottom and on the sides near the bottom with an ice pick for drainage. Set on a saucer or put several of them on a plastic tray to catch the excess water.

        1. re: DonShirer

          Here's a link to an article on indoor veggie gardening:


          Don S.

      2. I honestly didn't know there was a Gardening thread and my thought was I was going to use the herbs in home cooking so why not, lol. No worries, we're human and can mess up :) Thanks for the heads up!

        Weezie, thank you for your post as well.


        1. this past summer i was able to grow scallions just from the ends with roots. look it up on youtube - you can get a "continuous cutting" garden of scallions. this might be worth a little realty in your mini-space!

          1 Reply
          1. re: rmarisco

            Already done, green onions are what actually started this whole thing :) Thanks for the heads up though, it's a great little trick and so easy. Just green onions from the store, water and a vase and... well, more green onions!

          2. I'll have to agree on not using mason jars, you won't get the approp drainage. I've got some scallion and cabbage ends in sour cream containers with holes poked in the bottom; also use deli containers, soup containers etc.

            Do also consider sprouts - they work well in a kitchen and only need rinsing a couple of times a day (no soil, minimal light); in 4-7 days you have salad. They're very cheering in winter. :)

            1. I stopped by the local home and garden store today and picked up 7 plastic pots and 7 drip trays. I understand I'll need a bigger pot for the basil if it starts to thrive. I also picked up "organic soil mix for seedlings" from Burpee, hopefully that will do the trick. I'm also going to look into composting this year since we're going to greatly expand our outdoor garden this summer and we always mulch our grass, I think I can make it work, and use some of that to feed these guys as well.

              2 Replies
              1. re: toddrhodes

                I have a worm compost bin that I can use all year except in winter, I have a little too much kitchen scraps so some goes into the outdoor pile. The worm bin is easy to make from a large heavy plastic tote.
                Every year I start some basil in a 8" diameter pot and always put in too many seeds and never transplant and thin out. This is really a waste of good plants. Basil doesn't grow very well if it's overcrowded. Be brave. Cut and use the excess seedlings. The remaining few plants will grow bigger and better.

                Oregano and thyme are hardy perennials which usually require a winter rest. Rosemary is a tender perennial which will grow year round but may need more humidity that the other plants. It has over-winter indoors best for me in the bathroom with the extra humidity from the shower. Looking forward to hearing how your gardening goes.

                1. re: dfrostnh

                  Thank you for the advice. Basil is an annual, correct? So each year I just need to obtain new seeds and use the existing pots and soil, or completely start from scratch? Basil and thai basil are my favorite, go-to herbs hence the 20 questions :) I tried to winter some rosemary in my office and it failed miserably. The bathroom idea is terrific though, I'll have to try that.

              2. Wow. Good for you.

                I live a bit south of you in Indiana. I'm a transplant from TX and CA. I love growing herbs-- indoors currently-- to use year-round.

                I grew up thinking of both rosemary and cilantro as almost-weeds...but I have not found this to be the case in the snowy Midwest!

                If you can grow cilantro indoors...share your secrets. I've given up. Mine is weedy and tasteless and eventually dies. I CAN grow it outdoors successfully for ~3-4 months a year.

                Rosemary...I usually just buy a container plant at my local garden center every 3-4 years. I cannot seem to keep them alive longer than that (this from a woman who once had huge rosemary plants lining her pool and patio....).

                I have had very good success with both basil and thyme in containers. Thank goodness.

                Looking at your list I would add Thai basil. Especially if your culinary tastes veer to the cuisines of the east. It looks lovely and smells fantastic.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pedalfaster

                  I think you may be telepathic... I just sewed (sp?) some seeds into two different plastic pots for Thai Basil. I am new to Thai food but, in general, I'm sold on it. Plus, you just can't have too much. It came with my fluorescent light from Amazon. It's all up and going in the kitchen now, I'll have to start over on the oregano but that shouldn't be too bad.

                  As for cilantro? It's a shame since I really enjoy adding it to lots of things but I had no luck trying to grow it outdoors last year. So far, a stalk we picked up at the grocery store is holding strong in a little bit of water and now I've added the light so we'll see if that perks it up at all. The flat leaf parsley we have like that looks like the day we bought it, two weeks ago, so I'm encouraged, slightly.

                  1. re: toddrhodes

                    Yes on the previous basil question. Seed usually lasts a few years for me since I don't care if the germination rate goes down after the first year. There is too much in one packet to use in one year. I always use new soil in small pots. Yes, basil is an annual.

                    I have trouble growing coriander outside since it tends to bolt as soon as hot weather starts. I haven't tried it indoors since I believe it has a long tap root. It looked like I got better results growing it as a fall crop here in NH.