You can buy tabletop herb gardens complete with a grow light, but their cost (often $100 or more) can be excessive. For example, here's a link to a very nice Tabletop Herb Garden Kit, but it costs over $100. Our goal was to avoid buying expensive fresh herbs from the produce isle, so why would we want to spend $100+ to do that? Our little Herb Garden cost us about $25, but would be even less expensive if you already owned a suitable florescent light that you could re-purpose for the project.
We needed to supplement the amount of natural light provided by our north facing kitchen window. To do this we purchased an inexpensive 18" fluorescent light fixture (fitted with an 18" grow light) and attached it to the bottom of the window blinds. By attaching the light to the blinds we could easily raise and lower the light, as well as set the light at an angle if necessary to maximize the amount of light reaching the herbs.
When choosing your window, be sure to pick a window that is neither too hot or two cold for your herbs. For example, a south facing window in Arizona might get too much light and heat for your herbs scorching them in the hot sun, while a poorly insulated (i.e. single pane) window in North Dakota during a chilly winter might expose your herbs to air that is too cold to allow your herbs to sprout. In other words, your kitchen window may or may not be the best window for this project. You'll want a nice cosy warm (but not hot) environment for your herbs to sprout.
Step 1: Materials Needed
2. Grow Light (bulb) - $8 from Home Depot
3. Windowsill Herb Garden Kit - $10 from Home Depot
4. Velcro strips or Zip Ties to attach the light to your window blinds (not pictured)
5. (Optional) 1/2 quart Starter Herbs (use these if you prefer not to grow your herbs from seed).
Pick a light fixture that is a suitable size for your window. We have a 24" kitchen window, so an 18" light was just the right size.
You'll need to replace the bulb with a proper grow light. A regular fluorescent doesn't provide the complete spectrum of light your herbs will need to grow big and strong. Make sure you find the right size (in both length and diameter) for your fixture. If your fixture takes an 18" T5 bulb, an 18" T13 bulb won't fit. Ask a sales associate for help to make sure you get the right replacement grow light for your fixture.
The windowsill herb kit is optional. You could also purchase 4 or 5 small pots. Just make sure that the pots have a hole in the bottom for proper drainage. You'll also want to purchase a drip tray to protect your windowsill from water damage (the kit comes with a plastic tray already). We found that the kit (which includes seeds) was cheaper than buying 4 pots, a drip tray, and seeds separately. The seed packets themselves range from $1 to $1.50 each.
You'll need a way to attach the light to the window blinds. We used 3 velcro strips. But zip ties would work just as well.
You can also purchase pre-grown starter herbs in 1/2 quart pots. This speeds up the process by several weeks. If you're impatient, this might be the right option for you. Our kit came with Chives, Parsley, Cilantro, and Oregano, but we decided to also purchase 1/2 quart pots of Cilantro and Rosemary. Our kit didn't come with Rosemary, and we wanted to get a head start on the Cilantro, so that's why we went with the 1/2 quart pots for those herbs.