Winter is here. There is six inches of snow on the garden. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk a few feet (in your robe and slippers) and snip off some fresh herbs—from inside your house? Getting herbs to grow indoors can be a challenge, but it is possible and the results can be rewarding—and delicious!

Giving your indoor plants proper sunlight

In order to grow best out of doors, most herbs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Indoors, you need to supply your plants with the brightest light available. Fluorescent grow lights will give you the best chance for successful growth. You will need to provide twelve hours of artificial light each day to maintain a lush, healthy supply of fresh herbs.

Lettuce may be able to tolerate the lower light of a windowsill without a grow light. Choose your home’s brightest window (south-facing is best) and experiment with different varieties of lettuce and leafy greens. The Ferry-Morse lighting system supplies 20% more light intensity than a regular fluorescent grow light, and its 2-foot length can illuminate several pots at once. Find a spot in the house where you can leave your grow light on for 12 hours without interruption. The area should maintain a steady temperature between 65-70ºF. A programmable timer works well to keep the light on and off as needed.

Maintaining your plants will depend on what you grow

Some popular herbs for home chefs include parsley (flat leaf and curly), basil, rosemary, chives, cilantro and oregano. Most seeds need darkness to germinate, so you will not need to use the light until the seedlings begin to emerge. Some seeds do need light to germinate (chervil, dill, lemon balm, winter savory) and should be planted by pressing lightly into the soil. Choose small pots with drainage holes, but be sure to put trays underneath to catch excess water. A long narrow window-box type planter will work well underneath the lighting device, as will individual pots on a tray. Put a piece of coffee filter or paper towel over the drainage hole to prevent the soil from escaping, then fill your pots with a good quality sterile potting or seed-starting mix. Plant herb seeds according to package instructions and mist well to moisten the soil. Be sure to label your pots to help you identify the herbs in their younger stages of growth. As the seedlings emerge, thin them out as needed, and keep soil from drying out completely, but try to avoid over-watering.