How To Over Winter
Herbs add soul to warming winter
cuisine and with a little bit of care you can keep a fresh supply
growing through frosty winters.
While itís goodbye to summer
favourites like basil, mint and chillies there are many other
herbs that can happily survive through winter if they are cared
Robust culinary herbs like thyme,
oregano, marjoram, parsley, chervil, and even sage, are hardy
enough to survive our dry, cold and even frosty winters
provided you find a sunny, sheltered spot for them.
In winter, herbs need at least
four hours of sun a day, and they should be kept out of cold
winds, especially if the soil becomes too wet. The best way to
ensure this is to pot up a few of your favourite herbs and move
them as the sun moves.
Sage is probably the least hardy
of the herbs but leaves can still be harvested up until the end of
July even though they get smaller and smaller. Sage is also the
most sensitive to over watering so the potting soil should drain
well. In spring they will sprout again and throw up lovely spikes
of mauve flowers.
Sage, parsley and thyme also have
medicinal properties for treating winter ailments like coughs,
colds, and sore throats. By adding hyssop, which has expectorant
properties for relieving bronchitis, and yarrow for lowering
fevers, it is also possible to have home-grown winter remedies on
If there is not an area in the
garden that receives consistent winter sun, then containers are
the best option. Choose containers that are at least 20cm in
diameter (larger is better) have drainage holes and are deep
enough for the herbís roots to develop. Use a normal commercial
potting soil that drains well.
Generally potted herbs only need
to be watered one or twice a week in winter, preferably in the
morning. Check the soil moisture levels daily because the soil
should not dry out completely. Herbs donít like wet feet so donít
put saucers underneath the pots.
Another option, especially for
apartment dwellers, is to grow herbs on a windowsill that receives
Ideally herbs are meant to be
grown in full sun, in well-drained soil. However, that doesnít
mean you canít grow them on your windowsill. You just need to
adjust your expectations.
Donít expect them to act like
perennials. Treat them like any other flowering pot plant that you
buy for the house and discard when it has finished flowering.
The same applies to herbs. Use
them and when they start looking sickly, turf them out and buy a
new pot. It doesnít mean you have failed as a gardener.
The reason why such herbs have a
limited lifespan is that the windowsill pots are actually too
small for sustainable growth and they are probably not getting
enough light. It is also possible that the air may be too hot or
steamy and that the temperature changes are too extreme.
Try grouping the herbs close
together so that the transpiration from the massed leaves creates
some humidity. Itís also an idea to stand the pots on a layer of
gravel as this helps retain moisture and keeps them cool without
the plants becoming waterlogged.
Their life can also be extended
by feeding with a liquid plant food at half the strength. Also,
donít over water. Once a week should be enough.
Keep the soil feeling slightly
damp, but not sodden or bone dry. Check that they arenít sitting
in a saucer of water. This causes the roots to rot and the plant
to die very quickly.
When harvesting collect small
quantities at a time and always leave two growth points on the
twig for re-shooting. Instead of cutting
at random rather use the opportunity to pinch out or prune the
plant to encourage bushiness
Once picked handle the herbs as
little as possible because the subtle nuances of flavour are lost
if handled or allowed to wilt.
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