6 Best Indoor Herb Gardens For Year-Round Growing
Investing in an indoor herb garden is a great way to ensure you always have fresh flavors in your kitchen. They eliminate the need for store-bought herbs (which often come in plastic packaging) and give your home a bright spot of green. Plus, when you end up with more basil than you've ever seen in your life, they encourage you to tap into your culinary creativity.
We've researched the best indoor herb gardens on the market, and in this article, we'll review our top six picks for any space and budget. You can also find our review of the best indoor grow lights to help you get started.
Our Picks for the Best Indoor Herb Gardens
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - AeroGarden Harvest 360
- Best for Small Spaces - Click and Grow Smart Garden
- Best for Kids - Back to the Roots Water Garden
- Best Soil-Based Kit - Garden Republic Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit
- Best Garden Box - Windowsill Herb Planter Box
- Best Aesthetic - Make Lemonade Indoor LED Planter
Types of Indoor Herb Gardens
When choosing the best indoor herb garden for you, you'll want to consider things like counter space and price point. You'll also need to decide how much effort you want to put into ensuring your seeds grow. There are two main types of indoor herb gardens to choose from — water-based or soil-based. Here's a rundown of what you get with either option:
Hydroponic Indoor Herb Gardens
With a water-based growing system, also called a hydroponic garden, plants grow roots in water rather than soil.
The biggest benefit to having a hydroponic system is that there's less maintenance required. You don't have to worry about overwatering or underwatering (in fact, you don't have to remember to water your plants at all, although you will occasionally need to fill your system's reservoir). There's also virtually no weed or pest control, and many have bright lights built-in, which eliminates the need for a sunny windowsill.
Additionally, plants grow more quickly in a hydroponic environment. According to a professor at Oregon State University, "lettuce grown hydroponically is ready to harvest in 30 days rather than the 60-day cycle it takes when grown in soil."
The downside to a hydroponic indoor herb garden is that upfront costs can be significantly more than those of soil-based gardens. Although many of the water-based systems on the market include everything you need to grow plants successfully — light, nutrients, seed pods, built-in aeration — they can cost well over $100, depending on the size of the garden.
Soil-Based Indoor Herb Gardens
If you are lucky enough to have a green thumb, you can grow herbs indoors using a traditional soil-based system. All you need to get started is a container (preferably one with drainage holes, but even a Mason jar can work in a pinch), soil with a bit of fertilizer and the seeds of any herb you want to grow. All of these items can be picked up at your local garden center for cheap.
However, there's more to indoor gardening with a soil-based system than a hydroponic setup. You should make sure your herbs are getting enough hours of sun, are watered as often as they need to be and don't have any pests or weeds sprouting.
Some herbs prefer different types of soil-based environments than others. For example, Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and bay laurel can tolerate fairly dry soil, so they can go longer between waterings than an herb like basil, which needs to be kept moist. Many popular herbs also need a lot of light, so try placing them near a south-facing window if possible, and prefer temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
6 Best Indoor Herb Gardens
Based on our market research and firsthand use, these are the six best indoor herb gardens available:
aerogarden.comBest Overall: AeroGarden Harvest 360 Indoor Hydroponic Garden
For an all-around easy-to-use indoor herb garden, we recommend the AeroGarden Harvest 360. The countertop hydroponic garden allows you to grow up to six herbs at a time with little effort — all you have to do is set the LED grow light on a timer, fill up your water reservoir and add plant food. As your herbs grow, the AeroGarden will notify you when you need to top off your reservoir or add more food.
The base of the AeroGarden has a pump that allows water to drip onto the top of the seed pods, which helps speed up the germination process. The grow light can be expanded up to 12 inches, so you can adjust it as your plants flourish. It comes with six guaranteed-to-grow herb seed pods (Genovese basil, Thai basil, mint, dill, curly parsley and thyme), as well as a bottle of plant nutrients.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 1,300 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow six plants at once; No soil; No natural light required; Low maintenance; Comes with six seed pods; Replacement seed pods available
With a basin about the size of a loaf of bread, the Click and Grow Smart Garden is a great option if you don't have enough counter space for an AeroGarden 360. This low-profile hydroponic setup allows you to grow three herbs at once and comes with a plastic insert that allows you to raise the LED light as your plants grow taller.
All Smart Gardens come with a starter pack of three basil plant pods, but a variety of replacement seed pods are available for around $10 per three-pack. These include herbs like rosemary and garden sage, fruits like strawberries and mini tomatoes, and even flowers such as red pansies and petunias.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 1,200 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow three plants at once; No soil; No natural light required; Low maintenance; Comes with three basil seed pods; Replacement seed pods available
Your little ones will love the Back to the Roots Water Garden, which enlists the help of a betta fish to keep your plants' roots clean. The indoor herb garden has three seed locations and can be set up as an aquaponic or hydroponic system (aka fish or no fish) depending on how big you want your herbs to grow. For example, if you want to cultivate smaller herbs like microgreens, having a beta fish in your water reservoir is a great idea.
The Water Garden comes with everything you need to start cultivating: microgreen seeds, grow stones, fish food and a coupon for $3 off a betta fish at your local Petco. It also includes access to free STEM curriculum on aquaponic and hydroponic ecosystems, so you can educate your kids about the new habitat in their home. However, it doesn't have any built-in light source, so you'll need to keep it in a sunny spot or purchase a grow light separately.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with just under 1,000 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow three plants at once; No soil; Low maintenance; Self-cleaning; Good for microgreens; Comes with STEM education materials; Certified B Corp
If you want to get your hands dirty, the Garden Republic Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit comes with everything you need to grow fresh herbs in soil. The kit includes burlap grow bags with a waterproof lining, shears, potting soil discs, four types of herb seeds (basil, parsley, thyme, cilantro), bamboo plant markers to remember which seeds you planted in which bags and a wooden box to contain everything.
The only thing this kit doesn't come with is a light source, so you will need to purchase a grow light separately or keep it in a place that receives plenty of natural sunlight. You'll also need to remember to water your herbs regularly so they can thrive in your indoor environment.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,300 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow four plants at once; Organic, non-GMO seeds; Soil-based; Comes with four types of seeds
The Windowsill Herb Planter Box from Amazing Creations is a great jumping-off point for beginner gardeners. It uses a built-in water reservoir and a series of thick strands to automatically hydrate your plants' roots. Just get some soil, find a sunny spot, plant whatever seeds you like and keep an eye on them — the reservoir may need refilling if the soil gets too dry.
The Windowsill Herb Planter Box comes in a set of three, and you can plant multiple herbs in each box. We recommend grouping your herbs by what type of environment they like — moist, dryer, more or less sunlight, etc. Each herb's preferences should be listed on its seed packet.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with just under 500 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow multiple plants at once; Come in a set of three; Self-watering; Soil-based
To add a sleek, modern touch to a tiny space, check out the Make Lemonade Indoor LED Planter. This countertop indoor herb garden has a built-in LED grow light, making it great for smaller kitchens and homes that don't get much natural light.
You can fill the planter's base with either soil or water depending on whether you prefer a hydroponic or soil-based setup. It comes with three pods and a lid that can suspend your growing plants in water. The seeds themselves (and soil, if you choose to go that route) are not included, so you'll need to purchase those separately.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with under 200 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Can grow multiple plants at once; No natural light required; Soil-based or hydroponic
Discover Your Green Thumb With an Indoor Herb Garden
Even notorious plant-killers can manage growing fresh herbs at home with an indoor herb garden. Many hydroponic systems simply require you to plug in a grow light and refill a water reservoir every couple of weeks. Or, you can opt for a soil-based setup if you're able to give your plants a little more TLC. Either way, an indoor herb garden is a great way to add sustainable spice to your kitchen.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
This Earth Month, Starbucks is experimenting with a circular economy.
From March 30 to May 31st, customers at five Seattle Starbucks will be able to order their drink in a reusable cup that they can then deposit themselves at a contactless kiosk or have picked up for them by area recycling service Ridwell.
"Promoting reusability is an important part of Starbucks goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030," Starbucks Chief Sustainability Officer Michael Kobori said in the program announcement. "We understand the interdependency of human and planetary health, and we believe it is our responsibility to reduce single-use cup waste. We will lead the transition to a circular economy."
Borrow A Cup
Lauren Pinney / Edelman / Starbucks
The Borrow A Cup pilot works like this.
Step 1: Customers will order their drink in a reusable cup and pay a refundable $1 deposit.
Step 2: When they are done, customers will return the cups to a contactless kiosk in the store's lobby or drive-thru. They can then scan the Starbucks App for a $1 credit and 10 Bonus Stars.
Step 3: The cups will be collected and professionally cleaned by GO Box and returned to circulation within 48 hours.
Starbucks said each reusable cup would prevent as many as 30 disposable cups from being wasted.
The new pilot is not the first time the company has experimented with ways to reuse cups, a Starbucks spokesperson told EcoWatch in an email. The company has offered a discount for customers bringing their own containers since the 1980s and has long sold its own reusable thermoses and mugs at its stores. However, the idea of offering cups that can be returned to the store later is rather new. In 2019, it launched a month-long reusable cup trial at London's Gatwick airport and another test in the Bay Area. To prepare for the current trial, it ran single-store tests in the Seattle area during the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021.
"Those tests were intended to explore operations and logistics for our partners, and used our standard reusable traveler cup, usually available at the cash register," Starbucks explained. "This pilot will explore the scalability of the concept and equipment."
Starbucks did not say exactly how, when, or where the project would be expanded if it succeeds.
"We are optimistic about this program and we look forward to customer feedback as we explore scalable options to reduce single-use cup waste," the company spokesperson said.
Lauren Pinney / Edelman / Starbucks
One unique feature of the Seattle pilot is the partnership with Ridwell. Ridwell is an innovative Seattle-area company that grew out of a father and his six-year-old son's search for a place to safely dispose of batteries, according to the company website. Once they found their answer, they offered to take their neighbor's batteries, too.
The company's mission ignited from this initial spark. Ridwell picks up hard to reuse or recycle items from Seattle homes and finds a way to keep them out of landfills. This made partnering with Starbucks a natural fit. During the trial, the company will pick up the reusable cups from customers' homes.
"Our mission is to make it easy to waste less – just as easy (and hopefully more delightful!) than throwing things away. Offering our members the ability to return their reusable Starbucks cups without leaving their homes or needing to remember to bring them back to the store is a fantastic example of simplifying potential friction in reuse and circular programs at scale," a Ridwell spokesperson told EcoWatch in an email.
Ridwell said it would like to engage in more partnerships like this if the Starbucks trial succeeds.
"We are excited about expanding partnerships that enable a more earth-friendly way for our members to consume the things they enjoy (like a coffee!)," the spokesperson said.
A Tale of Two Markets
Lauren Pinney / Edelman / Starbucks
Environmental campaigners said that the Starbucks pilot is a step in the right direction.
"Greenpeace supports the model that Starbucks is exploring, through which customers essentially rent a reusable container for a deposit that is returned to them when they bring the container back," Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar told EcoWatch in an email. "That container is then washed and cleaned and reused many times, as with other dishes in restaurants we frequent. Not only can this model help our environment and health, it can create new jobs and save businesses money in the long run."
However, Greenpeace argued that Starbucks could be moving faster with implementing this model across the U.S., something that seems to be supported by Starbucks' actions abroad.
The day before Starbucks announced the Seattle pilot, it also said that it would phase out all single-use cups from its South Korea stores by 2025. This will begin with a launch of reusable cups in certain stores in the city of Jeju this summer that will then expand to additional locations over the next four years.
"If Starbucks can eliminate all single-use cups in South Korea by 2025 and shift entirely to reuse, it can do more than implement a trial program here with a goal of reducing waste by 50% by 2030," Hocevar said. "Starbucks' goal should be to eliminate all of its disposable coffee cups as quickly as possible and scale up these reusable programs across all of its markets."
Starbucks, for its part, said that local conditions determined how quickly it could roll out new ideas in different places.
"In some cases, market level conditions allow us to move quickly than others, which in turn allows us to share those learnings in other markets," the company said.
But Greenpeace noted there is another key difference between the U.S. and South Korea. The latter passed a law in 2018 banning disposable cups at sit-down restaurants, and the Environment Minister further revised rules in February to cut down on plastic and other disposable items.
"It definitely appears as though South Korea's recent actions against single-use plastics, particularly for dine-in options, has influenced Starbucks to act with greater urgency there," Hocevar told EcoWatch. "This is part of the reason we need to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act [in the U.S.] and develop a global plastics treaty to move toward reuse urgently."
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As California enters its second consecutive dry year and braces for what could be another devastating wildfire season, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency on Wednesday, in just two counties. The declaration targets Mendocino and Sonoma counties, known for their wineries and grape growing, and where conditions are desperately dry.
Standing in the dry bottom of Lake Mendocino, Newsom said, "Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment, certainly historic for this particular lake, Mendocino," according to AP News. The lake is at about 40 percent of its normal capacity. Lake Sonoma, another local reservoir, is only about 62 percent full.
Here in Lake Mendocino, we should be 40 ft. underwater but it’s dry. This is climate change. Today, we declared a… https://t.co/ISsasLAihB— Office of the Governor of California (@Office of the Governor of California)1619034124.0
According to the California Department of Water Resources, this is the state's fourth-driest year on record, especially in the northern parts of the state. At the beginning of the month, state officials announced that snow accumulation in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Cascades was about 40 percent below average levels, The Guardian reported.
Newsom's declaration has already faced criticism from state officials and farmers in the Central Valley, who say the governor's approach isn't sufficient to address the drought that impacts almost all parts of the state.
"(T)he Central Valley can't afford to be overlooked," state Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) said in a statement, according to The Mercury News. "We need a statewide emergency declaration immediately in order to deliver more water to farmers and growers in the Valley."
To others, the governor's regional approach "sounds like a good idea," Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, told The Mercury News, who added that the governor should not declare a widespread drought too early, to avoid "crying wolf."
Currently, California is in a similar situation to what it experienced six years ago when former Gov. Jerry Brown declared a water emergency. But state officials say today's current drought will be unlike anything seen before, requiring innovative measures, according to CalMatters.
Although the governor has yet to declare a state-wide emergency, officials have been warning Californians of the drought. In March, the California's State Water Resources Control Board, for example, "sent early warnings to 40,000 water rights holders urging them to start conserving," AP News reported.
"If you're in a different part of the state, you probably need to know that this will one day happen to you," Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said of the drought declaration, according to AP News.
In early April, a group of state legislators sent a letter to Newsom urging him to declare a drought emergency, CalMatters reported. "This is the slowest, most foreseeable train wreck imaginable," said Sen. Borgeas, who helped write the letter.
Newsom's reluctance to declare a state-wide emergency may have something to do with his looming recall campaign, set for later this year, according to political strategist Dan Schnur, The Mercury News reported.
"It's hard to think of another explanation about why he'd be tiptoeing around such a critically important issue," Schnur told The Mercury News. "He's clearly very sensitive about pushing voters too hard on water usage in the aftermath of the pandemic restrictions."
Regardless of whether the declaration covers their county, some local water districts are already taking matters into their own hands. In Marin County, for example, adjacent to Sonoma, water officials voted Tuesday to require residents to reduce water use by measures such as not washing vehicles at home or filling backyard pools, AP News reported.
As the state continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and a sluggish economy, scarce resources and the threat of another wildfire season will only ignite further tensions. Acknowledging that water is a "politically fractious issue" in the state, Gov. Newsom urged people not to resort to "old binaries" like urban vs. rural, The Mercury News reported.
"This is California," he said. "We are Californians."
- California Faces 'Critically Dry Year' - EcoWatch ›
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Much of the conversation surrounding the ecological benefits of tropical rainforests focuses on South America's Amazon. However, the forests of Central Africa are just as important. While the Amazon is the largest contiguous rainforest in the world, Central Africa's rainforests are the world's second largest, Nature reported. They store more carbon per hectare than the Amazon and host a higher concentration of large trees than any other continent.
They are also under threat. A new study published in Nature on Wednesday maps the different forest types present in Central Africa and pinpoints which are most vulnerable to the climate crisis and human activity.
"Africa is forecasted to experience large and rapid climate change and population growth during the twenty-first century, which threatens the world's second largest rainforest," the study authors wrote. "Protecting and sustainably managing these African forests requires an increased understanding of their compositional heterogeneity, the environmental drivers of forest composition and their vulnerability to ongoing changes."
To accomplish this goal, a France-based research team examined data concerning six million trees from more than 180,000 field plots in Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, AFP reported.
The team mapped the forests based on where different plants thrived.
"The forest area of Central Africa is far from being a homogeneous green carpet. It is home to a wide variety of forests with different characteristics, including their own particular carbon storage capacity," Maxime Réjou-Méchain, study lead author and French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) ecologist, said in an IRD press release. "This diversity can be explained by the different types of climate (humidity, temperature, evapotranspiration rate, amount of rainfall) and soils, as well as by the history of the African flora and the degree of human activity that has disturbed the forests for thousands of years, such as shifting agriculture."
The researchers identified 10 types of forest, according to Nature. These include Atlantic coastal evergreens in Gabon and semi-deciduous forests at the northern edge of the Central African study area. The researchers then compared their map with projections for how the region's climate is likely to change by 2085.
Because the various forest types have evolved over time to thrive in different climate niches, the rise in global temperatures might mean that some trees will be less able to adapt to a changing climate.
"[T]he forest margins in the north and south of the region, the Atlantic forests and most of those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is home to more than half of Central Africa's forests, are among the most vulnerable," Professor Bonaventure Sonké, study coauthor and University of Yaoundé 1 botanist, told IRD.
However, the research also presents a guide to conserving the particular biodiversity of these forests.
"These results must now be used and applied to develop land use plans that preserve forest characteristics while maintaining connections between protected zones through sustainably managed timber production forests," Sylvie Gourlet-Fleury, study coauthor and CIRAD forest ecologist, said in the press release.
While human activity threatens the forests, they are also key resources for the people who live in and near them.
"[R]ainforests in Central Africa and the ecosystem services they provide are intertwined with people's livelihoods and food security," Marion Pfeifer from Newcastle University's School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Deo Shirima from Tanzania's Sokoine University of Agriculture wrote in Nature. "Developing sustainable management plans that recognize the diversity of the ways in which people interact with and depend on these forests will be a huge challenge. It will require concerted cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral efforts that move beyond national boundaries."
The Race to Save the World is releasing on Virtual Cinema this Earth Day. Instead of focusing on paralyzing facts and numbers this inspiring feature takes a unique approach by following passionate activists, ages 15-72, who are in the trenches fighting for a livable future. These brave climate warriors put their lives on the line to push for change, regardless of the personal cost.
Emmy award-winning filmmaker Joe Gantz brings an urgent and intimate portrait of the protests, arrests, courtroom drama and family turmoil these activists endure as they single-mindedly focus their attention on the goal of creating a more sustainable world for future generations. "The Race To Save The World" is an inspiring and energizing call-to-action to quit waiting on the sidelines and make our voices heard.
Watch the exclusive Earth Day preview above.
For more on "The Race to Save the World" read Olivia Rosane's article "3 New Films to Watch This Earth Week."
Where to Entire Film Watch: Virtual Cinema
Forty leaders from the world's top greenhouse gas-polluting nations where hosted by the Biden administration on Thursday for an all-virtual summit to discuss the global climate emergency and the pathways — including individual emission reduction goals — that governments must take to stave off the worst impacts of global warming and runaway destruction of the planet's natural systems.
Just ahead of the gathering, President Joe Biden announced new U.S. commitments to meeting the goals set forth in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and said that the nation will now aim to reduce annual carbon output by 52% compared to 2005 levels.
"Our clean energy plan will create millions of good-paying union jobs, ensure our economic competitiveness, and improve the health and security of communities across America," Biden said in a declaration released ahead of the summit. "By making those investments and putting millions of Americans to work, the United States will be able to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030."
While the most ambitious target ever set forth by an American president — and a total reversal from the destructive policies of his predecessor Donald J. Trump — climate scientists and advocacy groups have been outspoken to say that even Biden's stated goals are simply "not enough" to meet U.S. obligations or keep the world from less than 1.5ºC of warming this century.
Watch the summit above.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.