RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Watching your garden-fresh herb supply go from healthy bunches to picked-over, withering stalks can be one of the most depressing parts of autumn. Sure, you can preserve them by drying or freezing them, or by whipping up (and freezing) a healthy herb pesto. But sometimes, there's nothing like a few leaves of fresh basil or a sprig of mint to really liven up a pasta dish or cup of hot tea. The solution? Grow your herbs indoors for the winter!
Re-Pot Your Outdoor Herbs
In most cases, growing herbs indoors is as easy as digging up the roots of your garden herbs and putting them in a pot you can set on a sunny windowsill for the duration of the winter. You'll not only get fresh herbs in the cold season, but you'll also save money in the spring: Rather than buying a new herb seedling from a nursery, you can just replant your potted herbs back in the garden.
My rosemary thrives in pots that spend the summer outside and the winter in a sunny spare room that we don't heat.
Lemon verbena is way too tender to live through my Pennsylvania winters, but tends to grow too big each summer to bring inside in the winter. So I cut the stems back to a few inches tall (drying the leaves that have been cut off), pot up the roots, and keep it in a cool room until the weather is warm enough to plant back in the ground the following spring.
Stevia can also be cut back and brought inside.
And it isn't just tender herbs that are worth bringing in. Hardy perennial herbs may survive cold winters quite easily, but I don't always want to go shovel snow to get to my herb patch for a few sprigs.
The onion-family herbs, chives and garlic chives, sprout dozens of tiny bulbs, about a quarter to a half-inch in size, in the soil. It's easy to dig up a chunk of the soil that contains the tiny bulbs and pop the chunk into a small pot to put on the windowsill. You can use the soil straight out of the ground and fill in with regular potting soil once it's in the pot.
Thyme, oregano, mint, and sage often grow roots where a stem rests on the soil during the growing season—rather than growing straight up, some of the stems lean over, and the tiny portion that rests on the ground before the stem grows upward again sprouts new roots. Cut the stem that connects these new rooted stems to the main portion of the plant, dig up the new roots, and you have a new plant that can be potted and brought indoors.