Wintering Herbs Indoors

Save your favorite herbs by bringing them indoors for winter care, and enjoy fresh flavor throughout the season.


| October/November 2006



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Preparing to bring plants indoors for winter should mirror the hardening-off steps we perform in the spring.

Autumn. The harvest of herbs is winding down, and the frenzy of trying to stay ahead of the weeds has abated. It’s easy at this time of year to kick back, relax and forget about gardening until the new seed and nursery catalogs start arriving in January. Herb gardeners who live where winters are frost-free can get away with this, and so can those in more rugged climates who only grow annuals, such as dill, or tough perennials, such as garden sage. However that leaves a lot of gardeners unaccounted for, including those who grow rosemary, tender lavenders or other plants that will die at temperatures below 15 degrees, as well as those who have a yen for fresh herbs all winter. Those people (and I’m one of them) need to make some decisions now.

What Not To Bring In

Perhaps you love all the herbs in your garden equally, and you’d like to bring them all indoors. I suggest you don’t, even if you have a huge house with dozens of south-facing windows.

First of all, forget about the annuals, such as summer savory, chervil, cilantro, borage and dill. Their lives are about over; if you want them indoors in winter, you can start new plants from seed. I include basil in this group because it’s usually grown as an annual, even though it’s technically a short-lived tender perennial.

Don’t bother bringing in tough perennial culinary herbs whose dried leaves have good flavor — I’m thinking of sage, oregano and thyme — unless you think you can’t get along without the fresh leaves. Consider the size of the plant, too, and how many smaller plants you could put in their place in front of the window.

Don’t bring in huge tender plants if you don’t have room for them, no matter how badly you need them for next year’s herb garden. (There’s a way around this dilemma, discussed below for pineapple sage.) And if space is limited, abandon tender perennials that are easy to start from seed. Marjoram is a good example — unless you absolutely must have it for midwinter salads.

sue
7/18/2014 8:21:45 PM

I really appreciated all your wintering tips! I was wondering what I could do to keep my potted herbs til next year? I would rather not lose them and too many. To bring inside, can I winter them in a dark shed, cold frame, or just leave outside? Thanks






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