What to do with Herbs in Winter

October 16, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Just like the plants in your flower garden, herbs can be annual or perennial plants.  Some of them will withstand a Wisconsin winter and grow again next year, while others will be killed by the lightest of frosts.

      Basil is probably the herb most sensitive to cool temperatures.  Low 30s will turn the leaves black and another degree or two colder changes the plant to slime.  Before frost hits, harvest the leaves and chop and freeze them in olive oil in ice cube trays.  Store the frozen cubes in plastic freezer bags for use all winter.

      Woody herbs like lavender, sage and thyme remain standing all winter until new growth emerges from the stems in spring.  Continue to harvest sage and thyme until they are under snow.  In spring, be very patient with the lavender as it may be mid to late May before new growth shows.

      Rosemary is a woody herb that can withstand very cold temperatures, down to about 20° F.  Wisconsin winters get colder than that, so if your rosemary isn’t already in a pot, pot it up and bring it indoors.  Keep it in your sunniest indoor spot and continue to use it all winter.  Move it back outdoors again in spring when temps are at least in the 40s to avoid shocking it with cold.  Even after spending the winter near your sunniest window, rosemary will be sensitive to outdoor sun.  Keep it in the shade a few days and gradually increase the amount of sun it gets.  By spring, the plant will likely be potbound.  Either transfer it to a larger pot, or use a knife to cut away as much as half of the root ball and fill in around it with fresh potting soil.

      Lemon verbena is another woody perennial herb that should be brought indoors.  Don’t be alarmed if the plant loses its leaves over winter.  New leaves will appear shortly after the old ones fall.

      Parsley is a biennial plant.  There’s a slight chance it might survive outdoors over winter, but early the next year it will flower and set seed and be worthless as far as culinary use is concerned.  Harvest the leaves and dry them or pot up the plant and bring it indoors to your sunniest spot to continue harvesting fresh leaves for at least part of the winter.  Curly parsley can be frozen.

      Lovage, comfrey, chives, garlic chives, oregano, marjoram, peppermint and spearmint are perennial herbs that die back to the ground in winter.  All can be dried for winter use.  Remove dead stems when they are killed by frost.  New growth will begin showing in early spring.              To prevent winterkill of both the woody and herbaceous perennial herbs, place a mulch of evergreen boughs or pine needles around them after the ground has frozen, sometime after Thanksgiving.  The mulch will prevent root damage from repeated thawing and re-freezing.

Gardening techniques and toolsHerbs


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by http://wordpress.org/ and http://www.hqpremiumthemes.com/