Even though winter has set in and your gardens are under snow, you don’t have to be without fresh herbs. You can plant an herb garden on your kitchen windowsill.   Here are some hints on how best to grow herbs indoors:

Most herbs are not hard to grow indoors, but they do need plenty of light. Many of the herbs we use are plants native to the Mediterranean area where the climate is sunny and dry. An east window is ideal for growing herbs, but a south or west window will also work. A north exposure may not give the plants enough light, especially for sun lovers like basil, sage, and thyme.   Six to eight hours of sunlight each day is recommended for most herbs. (If you don’t have a bright window in which to grow your herbs, you can use grow lights.) Ideal temperatures during the day for most herbs range from 65 to 70 degrees. At night the room should be cooler, to mimic outdoor temperatures. Basil prefers warmer temperatures.

Start your herbs from seed or purchase started plants from your local garden center. Water herbs as you would any houseplant. Some, like rosemary and sage, do not like to be too wet; make sure the pot has drainage holes. Let the soil dry out between waterings—stick your finger an inch into the soil and if dry, it is time to water. Place your herb pot in a saucer filled with small pebbles and ½ inch of water to keep humidity up. Fertilize indoor herbs sparingly with a water-soluble fertilizer suitable for houseplants.

Pests such as fungus gnats, whiteflies, or aphids may show up on your herb plants—For a safe remedy, use insecticidal soap which does not have a strong, objectionable odor. If your herbs have mealybugs or scale, the best thing to do might be to discard the whole plant.

Of course, you will want to choose the herbs that you cook with most often to grow indoors.   With fresh herbs so close at hand, it might be fun to experiment with new uses for them in your cooking. Some of the more popular herbs to grow indoors include rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage and basil. Perennial chives is easy to grow both inside and outside, so, in the winter, I dig under the snow for chives when I need some.

Pot up herbs in pretty containers for a gift for a gourmet cook.   Or plant a windowsill garden with useful and beautiful herb plants and use them all winter to make your meals more flavorful. Enjoy your kitchen filled with the fragrance of herbs!