Basil, and parsley, and mint, oh my! These are just a few of my favorite herbs to use in the kitchen; there’s no reason I shouldn’t have access to them inside my home. Creating a vertical herb garden in your kitchen is economical, fun, and rewarding. Let’s get into it.
Why Grow Vertically?
Vertical indoor gardens will not only save on space but also provide you with fresh ingredients.
Vertical herb gardens, easily accessible from your kitchen, make cooking with fresh herbs much more effortless. During my many years living in tiny apartments, I wish there had been a way to grow efficiently in my space.
There’s no need to purchase those tiny containers at the grocery store that are never quite enough, packed in plastic, and far too expensive. Growing vertically indoors allows folks who love to cook and appreciate fresh ingredients the ability to grow their own all year long.
- Allows you to take advantage of under-utilized and otherwise unused space
- Adds character to your space
- Offers protection from critters
- Provides a controlled environment
- Is easy to monitor
- Is fun to maintain
- Can include children and others of all ages
- Is eco-friendly
- Is Rewarding
Select the herbs you use often or those that can easily be stored if it produces too much.
When going through the process of creating an indoor herb garden, select the ones to grow that you use often. This will make the whole act of creating it and caring for it more rewarding.
Best Choices For Beginners
Some types are easier to grow than others if you’re new to gardening.
Most herbs are beginner-friendly, but here are a few that will grow indoors without much fuss and have many culinary uses.
- Basil: pesto!
- Parsley: The herb that brightens up any dish.
- Thyme: This always comes in handy to throw in soups and for roasting chicken.
- Rosemary: Try tossing a few sprigs in with roasted veggies for a real treat.
- Chives: Everything is better with chives.
- Dill: Cucumber dill salad, anyone?
- Mint: The uses for mint are endless: fresh tea, dried tea, salads, mocktails, added to yogurt and granola, and smoothies.
How to Set Up a Vertical Herb Garden
There are several different ways you can set up a vertical herb garden.
There are lots of creative options for a vertical herb garden. Here are some good ones.
GreenStalk Vertical Planter
These vertical planters can hold many different plants with enough space for healthy root development.
Using the 5-Tier GreenStalk Vertical Planter, setting up a vertical herb garden is a breeze. It arrives with 30 planting pockets, five tiers of six pockets each, giving you lots of space to play around with. Each BPS-free, food-safe pocket is 10” deep, enabling you to grow plants with a large root system with no problem.
The spinning base can be purchased separately and will come in handy both to enable you to turn your plants for optimal lighting and to direct excess water that drains off the planter into a catchment vessel using a short hose. If you are not using one of the GreenStalk bases, place something beneath the planter that will catch water draining out after watering, or place your planter in a water-safe location outdoors.
Check out Kevin Espiritu’s tips on growing veggies in the GreenStalk Planter.
Hanging Shoe Organizer
Sometimes, you can find things from around your home to double as a wall planter.
A shoe organizer is a popular hack for creating a vertical garden space, but with some caveats that you should be aware of! While it can be hung on the back of a door when holding shoes, a fabric shoe organizer does not hold water. Contrariwise, the plastic variants don’t have any drainage.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for gardening purposes! Fabric ones can be hung on a wall or fence outside, where the excess moisture can drain freely from the potting medium. Plastic ones can have drainage holes punched in the bottom of each pocket and then be used outdoors as well.
For indoor use, stick with one of the plastic shoe organizers and find small, well-draining pots that will snugly sit inside each pocket. Remove the potted plants for watering, letting them drain off excess moisture afterward, then pop them back into the pockets. For this use, don’t punch drainage holes in the bottom of the pockets, as you don’t want your hanging garden to drip water on the floor.
Hanging Window Planters
Placing your planter in front of a window will give your sun-loving herbs lots of natural light.
If you’re looking for a practical way to store herbs that adds some life to your kitchen, this is the way. Hanging an herb garden in your kitchen is practical for watering purposes and gives you access to fresh herbs as you’re cooking. If you have a little nook or a “catch-all” area, hanging garden plants may give the space more purpose.
Many herbs grow well in containers, be they glass, ceramic, or plastic. If you want to simplify, just bring outdoor hanging planters inside.
Hanging Ceramic Tiered Planter
Hanging planters are great for corners or walls needing warmth and life.
These are typically more shallow than other options, so they may not work for taller herbs like basil or rosemary. However, this may work for other herb types if you have a small living space and want a chic way to grow and display your indoor garden. Place it in a corner or above a sitting area for visual interest.
Wall Pocket Planter
Fabric pockets or ceramic wall planters make perfect vessels for your kitchen plants.
If you want just to grow a few herbs in your vertical garden and need something a little more low-key, a 3-pocket fabric or ceramic wall planter might be for you. You can hang this anywhere on your wall, move it around as needed for sunlight, and it can double as art. Try growing shallow-rooted herbs like oregano, thyme, and winter savory.
Remember that just like with shoe organizers, fabric versions of these wall pocket planters may not prevent them from dripping onto the floor. You may need to put your plants into small pots that fit inside the pockets and remove them for watering!
Pallets or Wood Boxes on the Wall
Repurpose some old wood to create a beautiful herb garden on your wall.
If you have a clean, unused pallet lying around or have access to plain old wooden boxes, you can turn these into a vertical wall garden easily. You should be able to do this with some landscape fabric, a few basic tools, and a weekend day.
If using a pallet, just cut out the center boards so there’s space for herbs to grow. Giving the wood a good sanding beforehand is advised to remove slivers. Remember that a pallet is not watertight, so you’ll likely want this structure outdoors or will need to devise a water-catching system to prevent it from dripping on your floor!
You can plant directly into potting soil or leave plants in containers for easier watering and maintenance. If you don’t have the tools needed or the skillset to build a vertical herb garden yourself, ask a local handy friend or check out the options on Etsy.
Layer your vertical plants to optimize for their sunlight needs.
Give each of your herbs the space they need to grow naturally. If you have a full sun space where all the plants receive equal light, consider a setup like this, which places the largest and most drought-tolerant plants toward the top:
- Top tiers: Rosemary, lavender, sage
- Middle tiers: Basil, peppermint, cilantro
- Lower tiers: Creeping mint, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, chamomile
Label each pocket if you’re growing any plants that look similar. Interchange pots in the middle and lower tiers for a new look and to experiment with growing habits. Perhaps you’ll prefer the look of thyme hanging over in the middle and bushy basil on the bottom.
If your space only receives partial sun for part of the day on a portion of the vertical garden, consider adapting your plant placement based on the plant’s sunlight needs. Plants that can tolerate partial shade can be in the spots that receive less sunlight, whereas plants that need full sun can be placed in the sunniest portions of the structure.
Pro tip: If you have curious hands and mouths of children or pets at home, keeping any herbs that hang or creep up high is best.
Location, Location, Location
Set your herb garden up for success by placing it where it receives natural sunlight and good airflow.
Place your herb garden somewhere it receives enough sunlight and ample airflow and is protected from pets and curious children. If you have a south-facing window, that would be ideal but not 100% necessary for success.
Position your garden away from any drafts, whether from an indoor vent or a gap in a window. Keep the environment around your garden as consistent as possible to avoid any stress.
Caring For Your Herb Garden
Knowing the needs of your plants will give you lasting results.
Once your herb garden is established, maintaining it is important for continued success.
Fresh herbs need at least 4 hours of sunlight daily, with some species requiring even more.
Herbs should receive 4-8 hours of sunlight per day, depending on their species. Be sure to check the requirements of each herb you’re growing and plan accordingly. If you’re using a garden setup that requires rotating, group plants with similar needs together for convenience.
If you don’t get enough natural sunlight in your home, don’t worry! You can supplement with artificial grow lights and get the same effect. You can control the time and type of light indoors easier than outdoors, so you may see better results.
LED bulbs will be the most economical and cost-effective. There are stand-up versions as well as traditional hanging bulbs. Get creative and experiment with different options.
Pro tip: Hooking artificial lights to an automatic timer will make life easier. Tell it when to turn on and off each day so you’ll never have to wonder if your kitchen garden is getting enough light.
Watering needs will vary depending on the weather and the region you live in.
How much water your herbs need will depend on the time of year, your region, and the overall conditions of your home. You may only need to water as little as once a week in the winter, but plan on much more often in the summer months, especially in warmer growing zones.
Take out each pot when watering and allow the soil to drain out. Make sure the water is moist but not oversaturated. You don’t want any standing, soggy water. Don’t overwater! This is a common mistake when growing herbs.
Herbs like mint, parsley, and cilantro like the soil to be moist to the touch, whereas those that grow best in hot climates prefer their soil to be a little more on the dry side, including sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Pruning encourages new growth and a fuller plant.
Using sharp, clean scissors or shears, prune from the top or from the outermost tips of stems. This may seem counterintuitive because, typically, the leaves at the base of the plant are larger and darker green. However, you want these leaves to remain on the plant to take in light and support the plant.
Also, certain herbs like basil will bush out after pruning up top. When you cut the center stem above a node, the plant will create two side shoots, doubling the amount of basil.
For optimal flavor, harvest before the plants go to flower.
Several different fertilizers will work well for herbs.
Add a well-balanced liquid fertilizer to your herbs every few weeks. Fish emulsion, seaweed extract, or another general feed will work best. Follow the instructions on the package for timing and amounts.
While You’re Away
Ensure your plants have a backup caretaker before leaving them for long periods.
Depending on the length of time you’ll be away, you may need someone to stop by and check in on your herbs to water, rotate, or harvest. Like growing outside, your indoor garden depends on you for all its needs, so don’t forget!
Issues That May Arise
Monitor your plants for any signs of indoor pests like gnats or fruit flies.
Indoor growing presents issues that may not be when growing outdoors. Here are a few.
- Gnats and fruit flies: Attract them to something else by filling a shallow glass jar with apple cider vinegar or sugar water. Cover the glass with plastic wrap and poke tiny holes in it. Place it somewhere near your herb garden. The fruit flies should fly into the glass but not be able to escape.
- Leggy plants: This will occur when the lighting situation is not right, and the plants are stretching towards any available light they find. If you’re using artificial lighting, adjust their height, moving them closer.
- White spots on leaves or dried-out plants: You may have your lighting source too close. Adjust the light to be further away and monitor the results.
- Algae growing on the soil surface: This can occur if plants are overwatered, or humidity levels are high in your growing space. While algae isn’t overtly damaging to the plants, it’s unsightly, so you may want to remove it. Remember that this can be a sign that you’re overwatering your plants or that your growing media is too moisture-retentive! Increase the airflow around your plants, or consider sprinkling some cinnamon to retard algal growth on the soil’s surface.
After harvesting your herbs, there are many different ways to store them.
Once you get the hang of vertically growing herbs indoors, you may find yourself with an excess of fresh herbs and looking for ways to save and store them.
Freezing your herbs is a great way to keep them fresh for long periods.
If you have lots of herbs but not much time to do something with them, roll them up and roughly chop them. Add them to an ice cube tray with a little water or olive oil and freeze them for later use. Throw a cube into a sauté dish to flavor a soup, or thaw one out and use it in a baked quiche.
You can also stack fresh basil leaves on alternating paper towels and put them in a freezer-safe bag before freezing. Remember that frozen basil may become discolored as it thaws out, so using your basil in a cooked dish that disguises the discoloration may be best.
Drying your herbs is a great, affordable way to have plenty of dry herbs right at hand.
Hanging mint, thyme, rosemary, and oregano to dry gives you the option of using them later in winter recipes. Select the healthiest-looking leaves as their flavor will be best. Add any yellowed or dried-out ones to the compost pile.
Once bundled, place them in a paper bag and tie a string around the stems and the end of the bag. Poke lots of holes in the bag for airflow and hang it somewhere dark and dry. The bag helps catch any dried herbs that may fall off the stem.
In a few weeks or so, strip the dried leaves from the stem and add them to an airtight container or mason jar for storage. Discard any moldy or yellowed leaves at this time. Label them with the product name and date for future reference. These should be used within a year. Substitute dried herbs for fresh at a ratio of 1 tsp for 1 tbsp.
Process your herbs right away to make fresh sauces and dressings.
Making fresh pesto with your basil or tabouleh with your flat parsley is so satisfying when it is grown by you. These delicious side dishes depend on fresh herbs for their flavor profile, so having these in the dead of winter will brighten up any meal. While tabouleh should be eaten fresh within a few days, small batches of pesto can be frozen for up to a few months.
Crafting With Herbs
Make fresh, herbal bath tea bags by drying and storing your homegrown herbs.
While herbs are great to cook and bake with, they’re also amazing to use in crafts. Here are just a few DIY craft ideas.
- Herbal bath tea bags. Mix and match scent profiles that suit your needs. Chamomile will be calming, while lemon balm may help to relieve stress and pain.
- Homemade lavender toner. Mix ¾ cup of water with ⅓ cup of witch hazel and 1-2 tbsp of aloe vera. Add in lavender and allow to steep for a few days before using. This can be used on all skin types. Experiment with other herbs if you have oily or dry skin.
- Herbal room spray. Steep rosemary sprigs in equal parts distilled water and isopropyl alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Vertical gardens are perfect for growers with limited space outdoors. They have a small footprint, but give you generous room to plant your herbs.
Yes, as long as your indoor plants are happy and healthy, you can transplant them outside. This is a great way to have access to warm-climate herbs during the off-season. Just don’t forget to harden them off first!
Herbs are beginner-friendly, and growing them inside your home gives you the ability to keep a close watch on them. The key thing to be aware of when growing herbs is their watering needs, as some like to dry out while others prefer to have consistently moist soil.
Now that you see how easy and fun it can be to create a vertical herb garden in your kitchen, I hope you start one of your own soon. The possibilities are endless. Happy vertical gardening!