Some herbs are too tender to leave outdoors for winter and should
be potted up and brought in. Others you want to enjoy all winter
on your windowsill so you can snip for your favorite recipes.
I've found there are very different requirements depending on
whether you're just keeping them alive during dormancy
or you want actively growing plants to use. And growing indoors
when the light is as low as it is during winter is quite different
from growing outdoors.
to winter indoors for use are: rosemary,
verbena, scented geraniums, lemongrass,
thyme, bay, chives,
lemon balm, winter savory, sweet
marjoram, oregano, parsley,
mints, and sage.
Beware the mints-the runners will take over the house just like
they do outside (remove them or you'll have no leaves), and don't
bother with St. John's wort or French tarragon-they don't like
it inside or in pots at all, for that matter.
I plant herbs with the same light, soil, and water requirements
together-thyme, marjoram, rosemary and sage, for instance.
tender herbs like rosemary should be brought in as a whole plant
or you'll forfeit what's left outdoors. Cut back tender
perennials like lemon verbena, scented geraniums, rosemary,
lavenders (if they are not hardy in
your area) and lemongrass in midsummer and again before bringing
them in. A special note on chives: Let the tops die back and the
roots freeze before you dig them up and bring in.
such as basil, dill, cilantro, and sweet marjoram (a tender perennial
that should be treated as an annual) really cannot be dug up to
bring indoors. Don't fret! You can still grow them indoors, just
start them from seed, or buy them as plants in the fall specifically
to grow indoors.
herbs like lemon verbena are actually deciduous shrubs and will
lose their leaves when they go into dormancy. Don't panic. Keep
the plants in a cool place, 40ºF is best, and don't water. In
spring, they'll literally burst out into leaf. Scented geraniums
don't lose their leaves, but they stop growing if you keep them
this way. They should be kept on the dry side and watch them diligently
for aphids. Aphids love them indoors!
pick the herbs according to what you like to use for cooking,
and choose attractive pots. You will be living with these herbs
as houseplants all winter.
up the entire clump of perennial
herbs, and divide the amount you want to bring in from the rest.
Be careful not to disturb the roots. Pop the outdoor crop back
into the ground and pot up the indoor herbs. These will winter
inside and be transplanted out again once the spring comes. Let
them sit in a shady spot for about 2 weeks before bringing in
to help them adjust to the transition.