In Chicago, February is too early to start gardening outside, but herbs may be started indoors during the winter. Sow seeds of annual herbs, such as basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley. One seed packet goes a long way—sow only a few seeds at a time indoors and save the rest for planting in the garden later this spring.
In the produce section of many stores, you’ll find pots of perennial herbs, such as sage, mint, oregano, and thyme. Don’t overlook pots of lemongrass and bay-leaf plants, which can be grown indoors.
You can transplant or sow seeds of most warm-weather herbs like basil and cilantro outdoors after May 15, the average last spring frost date in the Chicago area. In the meantime, grow herbs on a south- or west-facing sunny windowsill or under a kitchen cabinet fitted with an LED or other light bulb. If you’re growing them under lights, they should get 10 to 12 hours of light.
Snipping leaves and stems from the top of the plants will keep them stocky and will encourage more growth.
Here are 10 favorites. Bon appétit!
Nina Koziol is a garden writer and horticulturist who lives and gardens in Palos Park, Illinois.