Simple Indoor Herb Garden With Adjustable Grow Light




My Husband and I live in a small duplex with no space for a regular garden. We also live on the shady side of the duplex, so all of our windows get very little natural light. However, we figured out a way to make a simple indoor herb garden that fits in our kitchen window.

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

1. Fluorescent Light Fixture (18") - $10 from Home Depot
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.

Step 2: Contents of the Kit

The Windowsill Herb Garden comes with 4 pots, 4 packets of seeds (Chives, Cilantro, Parsley, and Oregano), 4 dried and compressed soil disks, a drip tray, and a wooden box to hold everything together.

You could easily put this kit together by buying individual pots and seed packets, but we priced it out and discovered that it was actually cheaper to buy the kit. However, if you can't find a kit at your local store, here's what you need:

4 pots with drain holes, a small bag of potting soil (or 4 dehydrated soil disks), a drip tray that all 4 pots will fit on (to protect your window sill from water damage), and 4 packets of seeds.

If you want to use the soil disks, you'll need to re-hydrate them. They expand a lot (4x or 5x their original size) so make sure you soak them in a large enough container. A Tupperware container similar to the size of the plastic pots will work just fine. You can't use the pots themselves because they have drain holes in the bottom and the disks need to be soaked in standing water.

We chose to use regular potting soil instead of the soil disks. It just seemed easier.

Step 3: Planting Your Seeds

To plant your seeds, fill your pots with soil and make small holes in the soil for your seeds. We used the end of a sharpie to make our 5 holes, but you could use your finger or just about anything. Just pay attention to how deep you make your holes. Some seeds require a 1/8" hole, others require 1/4" or more. Too deep and they may not sprout, too shallow and they may sprout too soon and have undeveloped roots. If the seed packet says 1/8", make them 1/8". Once you've got your holes ready, place 3 or 4 seeds in each hole and cover.

Once you're seeds are planted and covered, carefully apply water to the soil until it is thoroughly soaked. Just be extremely careful not to disturb the seeds you just planted. Allow the pots to drain in the sink before placing in your herb box (otherwise your drip tray may overflow and damage your windowsill).

Step 4: Arrange Your Pots and Place in the Windowsill

Swap out the original fluorescent tube with the grow light and attach the fixture to your window blinds. We used 3 velcro strips to attach the light fixture to the blinds, but you could also use Zip Ties or something similar.

Make sure you orient the fixture correctly so that the power cord can reach a nearby outlet.

Step 5: Adjust the Light Height and Angle to Maximize Light Exposure

One of the best things about this setup is the infinite and easy light adjustment possibilities.

If you have all seeds you'll want the light positioned an inch or so above the top of the soil. Once your herbs start to sprout continue to raise the light up so that it is always an inch or so above the tallest leaves. Don't allow the herbs to actually touch the bulb since it may get hot enough to damage them.

If you have a setup like ours where you've got one tall plant at one end and a short plant at the other, feel free to set the light at an angle. It may look a little funny, but it's providing the maximum amount of light to your plants, which is exactly what you want.

That's it! I'll update this project in a few weeks once the seeds sprout. Good luck and have fun!



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    14 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Love the cost! Great idea!


    4 years ago on Step 4

    Nice, I like it! Good instructable too! Nice work!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    What is the CFL grow light that you use there? The link to the Tabletop Herb Garden Kit is dead now too...


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is an awesome Idea! Thank you so much for sharing it!

    I had to make an account just so I could reply to this.. THANK YOU! I live with my mother and step dad currently while I'm finishing college and last year we tried to do a container garden on the lip of our front steps. It was all well and good but we always had issues with squirrels and it wasn't worth the price to buy enough chicken wire to keep them out. I've been looking for a way to do the small pots indoors for herbs to go along with the small mason jar sprout garden I have going and this is exactly what I needed. I don't have a window I can put them in but I have a grow light in my room already waiting, I just need to figure out the how. I'll be growing some herbs in my room now and I will be extra happy once I get to use all the basil, and oregano I want!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Impressed. I like the light attached to blinds to make movable. I always wanted such a planter but did not want to 'build' the light holder.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great guide :) Do you need a "grow light" won't the light it came with work? Do the plants need watering often with the excess heat created by the bulb, does the bulb suppy more light than the sun?

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Most florescent bulbs will work on their own. There are even people who do indoor gardening using compact florescent bulbs (the twisty, 'environmentally friendly' ones).

    Also, florescent lights do not generally generate a ton of heat.

    Finally, no, it doesn't not make more light than the sun. If you are really worried about not having enough light, maybe look into other lighting sources such as high pressure sodium bulbs and ballasts. Though, to be honest, if you place this rig on a windowsill, the light from the florescent bulbs and the light from the sun coming through the windows should be far more than enough light for a number of plants to flourish.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    so one or 2 CFL (normal cheap one) is alright?
    i am trying to grow Knotweed and some Tomato.


    9 years ago on Step 5

    Are the velcro strips directly touching the bulb? Its hard to see how you have them on there.

    1 reply

    Yes, the velcro touches the bulb - which brings up a few things I forgot to mention.

    1. Make sure your bulb doesn't get hot to the touch. If it does get hot don't allow anything to touch it (including the plants). Otherwise you might be risking a fire hazard. Our bulb barely got warm after several hours of use, so we weren't worried about strapping the velcro around the bulb.

    2. You'll notice that the cover that came with the light fixture is removed leaving the bulb exposed. We did this because we didn't know if the plastic cover would diffuse and/or block out some of the light spectrum that the plants need to grow. To prevent this from happening we omitted the cover altogether.

    If you end up building a similar setup, please post a picture of it. I'd like to see it!