Cold weather may be on its way, but that doesn’t mean saying goodbye to fresh sage or parsley
Houzz Contributor. Horticulturist, freelance writer and Certified Arborist who loves… More
Temperatures may be dropping, but there are ways to keep our herb gardens going until spring. Cold-hardy herbs, such as chives, mint, parsley, sage and thyme, can often survive chilly temperatures while continuing to produce flavourful foliage, as long as they’re provided with some protection or grown indoors. Even herbs such as rosemary that are more cold-sensitive can make it through the winter with additional protection.
Let’s explore different ways we can prolong the herb harvest and enjoy the fresh taste of our favourite herbs throughout the cold of winter.
1 Place in a cold frame or under a cloche
Covering herbs helps trap the heat that rises from the soil, elevating the temperature inside by several degrees. This can extend the growing season in both autumn and spring.
Cold frames are topped with glass panes that slope downwards and are positioned to face south. This ensures maximum sunlight reaches the plants inside, creating an environment that’s several degrees warmer than outside.
Cloches, like the one shielding a plant in the centre of this raised bed, are a smaller and more portable way to protect plants from the cold. Traditional ones are bell-shaped and made from glass.
Cloches can be expensive, but you can make your own by cutting the bottom off a large plastic container, such as a water bottle. Place each one over individual herb plants and nestle the bottom inch or two of the cloche into the soil to anchor it.
2 Cover in a thick layer of coarse mulch
Many herbs can grow through the winter under the insulation provided by straw, shredded bark or other coarse mulch. If the winter isn’t too cold, some herbs, such as parsley, will continue to produce new growth. If this is the case, pull back the mulch and cut the herbs you need, then cover them back up. In general, though, plants won’t grow very much and you should be careful not to over-harvest.
Don’t worry if a layer of snow falls, as it will provide additional insulation for the herbs below. Once spring arrives, you can fork the mulch into the soil.
3 Pot up and move into a greenhouse
If you’re growing herbs in the ground, you can transfer them to pots and move them to a protected spot.
Select the herbs you want to keep growing over winter, such as chives, oregano, sage and thyme. Cut them back to 2.5cm tall and, using a sharp shovel, divide them at their base, making sure to include the roots so each one will fit into the container. Use well-draining planting mix in the containers and plant each herb in a separate pot.
They should grow back and you’ll be able to harvest their flavourful leaves until you transplant them back into the garden once spring arrives.
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4 Grow on a sunny windowsill
Herbs can be grown from seed or cuttings and make a great addition to a sunny kitchen window that gets at least six hours of sunlight. If you’re using artificial lighting, 14 hours is usually sufficient. The temperature should range between 15.6 and 21.1ºC for best results. You can transplant herbs from the garden or begin from scratch by sowing seeds.
The rewards of growing herbs indoors throughout the winter are great when the fresh flavour of summer is within arm’s reach. Chives, oregano, parsley and thyme are just a few of the easiest herbs to grow on a sunny windowsill. Use a well-draining planting mix in your container. Water deeply when the top 2-3cm of soil is almost completely dry.
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5 Extend the life of fresh herbs by putting them in water
Herbs such as basil and mint grow quickly when placed in a container of water for a few weeks. Other herbs that work well are sage, oregano and thyme. When placed in water, they begin to produce roots and will grow new leaves. This is a useful way to prolong the harvest, whether you bring in cuttings from the garden or buy fresh herbs in a shop.
The process is easy: simply put the stems, ends cut off, in a small jar or cup filled with water. Be sure to remove any lower leaves so they won’t be submerged. Place on a sunny windowsill.
The leaves produced indoors will be thinner and slightly less flavourful than those grown outdoors, but they’ll still add welcome flavour to your favourite dishes. Refill the water as needed and enjoy the prolonged harvest for several weeks to come.
Do you keep your herbs growing over the winter months? Share your tips with other Houzzers in the Comments below.