It's easy to rush out to your herb garden in the summer and pick fresh herbs to spice up your favorite dishes, but those herbs tend to be scarce in the winter. It's a shame because many winter dishes pair so well with fresh herbs, and the light, summery flavor can bring some warmth into drabby winter days. Whether you're considering bringing in your garden during fall, or are already in the thick of winter, you can follow these tips to keep an herb garden going inside during the chilly months.
Tips for Growing Herbs Inside
Pick Hardy Herbs - Not all plants can thrive indoors, some need more warmth and sunlight than a kitchen sill can provide. However, there is an array of fantastic herbs that will do just fine inside over winter. Perennial herbs, such as chives, oregano, and thyme do well in pots during the winter months.
Acclimate Herbs - If you are potting herbs from your garden, it's important to acclimate them to their new home before bringing them inside full time. Before the first big freeze, pot herbs in 6-inch deep containers with drainage holes. Leave the pots outside in a semi-shaded area so that the plants can get used to their new home and less sunlight. After a few weeks, bring them inside
South-Facing Sunlight - Finding a place for your herbs inside that gets enough sunlight will be your biggest challenge. Ideally, you want to place by a south-facing window that gets at least five hours of sunlight a day. Make sure the plant leaves don't actually touch the window, however, as that can damage the leaves and stunt your herb's growth. You may need to use a fluorescent light to supplement your herbs if natural light is insufficient.
Humidity - Herbs like humidity. Group them together inside to increase their humidity and mist particularly picky plants like rosemary using a squirt bottle twice a week. If you bring your plants in from outside, make sure they didn't bring any critters with them. Keep them separate from your other houseplants for the first few days to make sure no creepy crawlers followed them inside.
Harvesting - Because indoor conditions can restrict your herb's growth, harvest with caution. Make sure you only harvest a little at a time, but do it regularly, so the plant can grow and stay healthy. You never want to harvest more than one-third of a plant at a time, especially with slow-growing herbs like rosemary. Other herbs, like oregano, flourish from frequent trimmings. Make sure you always leave two to three inches of growth at the base of the plant, above the soil. Don't trim your herbs any shorter.
Soil and Fertilizer - Whether you bring your plants in from the garden or home from the nursery, use potting mix and plant food to keep them vital indoors. Many herbs respond well to soil that is part potting mix and part sharp sand. Cactus potting mix also works well. Don't over-feed plants with faux-food. Start with half-strength liquid plant food and monitor your plant before altering the dose. Fertilizer can also be used to give your herbs a boost. Feed them liquid seaweed or use compost in late winter as daylight increases.
Best Herbs to Pot During Winter
Chives: Chives do well indoors and pair great with just about any dish. Make sure you keep soil moist by watering chives at least twice a week. Oregano: This herb is very stable inside and goes well with any Italian dish. Oregano is susceptible to root rot, so don't overwater it. About once a week should be fine. Rosemary: Rosemary can survive in a pot for many years, if cared for properly. It likes to be on the dry side, so let the top of the soil dry out before watering the herb, then water thoroughly. Thyme: This powerful herb goes great with almost all meats and crockpots really bring out the flavor, making thyme a perfect winter herb. You can condition the plant to be drought resistant by allowing the top of the soil to dry out and then watering thoroughly. Parsley: Parsley adds a splash of summer to your winter dishes, making it perfect with chicken, fish, and vegetables. Water twice a week and cut stems at the base so they can keep growing.
Enjoy your herb garden all year long by bringing in some hardy potted herbs. With light, water, and a little TLC, your herbs can become a staple in your kitchen, no matter what season it is.