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For the last couple of years, I've been nursing along a sort of kitchen window herb garden consisting of cilantro, parsley, basil and chives. What I've done is bought live herb plants at our local grocery store and re-potted them in individual pots to make it easier to move around and so on. The window is west-facing and gets very good light in the afternoon and our kitchen is obviously warm and relatively humid. It seemed to me an ideal location for herbs, but except for the chives have not really prospered.

But recently, aphids attacked my basil, which I moved to the front porch on the east side of the house. After that, the aphids attacked the parsley and the cilantro, which tells me that: a) the source of the aphids is somewhere close to the kitchen window, and b) aphids prefer basil over cilantro and parsley. The chives are growing like champions and seem to resist the aphid onslaught.

More importantly, the herbs I moved outside look better and healthier than they have in months. In particular, the basil has suddenly burst forth in leaf and I could imagine myself harvesting some without stripping it bare. It's a bit of a mystery to me.

Given that I'd rather have herbs growing in the kitchen where they might get used than on the porch, what could I do to improve the growing conditions inside?


Update: Based on winwead's answer, I observed the approximate time that direct sun ended in the kitchen and yesterday it was sometime before 6pm. Since full sun could not start before 1pm, that window has less than 5 hours of direct sun. (It's counter-intuitive since the kitchen seems so bright all day long. Most of that light, however, is indirect and reflected from the light stucco on the building across the alley.) Sun starts on the porch around 8am and gets good direct light until at least 1pm, if not longer. So that's a solid 5+ hours.

The lesson for me: it's better to measure than to guess. Also, I need to search for herbs and plants that thrive in less direct sun for my kitchen window.

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About how many hours per day of direct sunlight were your herbs getting in the west-facing kitchen window (and now on your east facing porch)? –  nicholas a. evans Jun 13 '11 at 18:18
    
@nicholas: I'm not really sure. I do know the light can't start being direct until true noon and lasts until just about sundown. So in the summer, that's about 5 hours if not a bit more. On the porch, they are getting more sun, though various trees do shade the area from time to time. –  Jon Ericson Jun 13 '11 at 18:24
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I agree with @winwaed. It's probably the additional sunlight that's perked them up. For some herbs and veggies, I can see a significant difference between the ones that get 7 hours and the ones that get 8. Green pepper basil is the only variety that I grow in less than 6 hours of direct sun. –  nicholas a. evans Jun 13 '11 at 18:49
    
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They are probably getting more light outside. That Sun does wonders! Is it possible to arrange them so they get more sun in the window, or a different window? If they grow better in the porch than the kitchen, then I think I would put them in the porch. It could be worse: You don't need to put your wellies on to go and pick some herbs!

For the aphids, they were probably on the other herbs when you moved the basil, and they weren't noticed. Once one plant has them inside, they seem to spread quickly. So I would treat the plants. Some recommend soap solutions. I use pyretheum which is effective and is meant to be safe for food and delicate plants (made from chrysanthenum extract). You still want to wash the herbs before use, of course.

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They do get more light outside. But as we are in Southern California, I figured more sun would not be of help. As you say, there are worse problems to have than to have to go down to the porch for fresh herbs. –  Jon Ericson Jun 13 '11 at 18:28
    
On the topic of aphids, is there some reason they would not be on the plants after I move them outside (knock on wood)? I was mostly moving them to stop the spread of aphids until I determined which pesticide or deterrent to use and miraculously, they just vanished. Maybe this would be a candidate for another question... –  Jon Ericson Jun 13 '11 at 18:31
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I saw that and was meaning to suggest a possible answer. Predators could be eating them? Lacewings, for example? –  winwaed Jun 13 '11 at 18:38
    
Ah. That reminds me: I found a tiny grasshopper (or something similar) hiding on the basil when I examined it the other day. That would explain things assuming it eats aphids. It suggests a tactic of moving herbs indoors when I anticipate using them and taking them outside when they run into trouble. –  Jon Ericson Jun 13 '11 at 18:55
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