Q: This past summer, I added a variety of herbs to my vegetable garden. Now, I am wondering what to do with them.
Will they survive the winter, or should I dig them up and compost them?
A: Ah, fresh herbs harvested from the garden — a few steps out your door, a snip from a plant and flavor galore in the kitchen! Before you begin digging up your wonderful culinary flavors, you’ll want to distinguish between the tender ones that will not survive winter and those that are more hardy perennials.
Once you know the difference, there are a few things you can do to prepare for winter.
Depending on winter weather, there are herbs that will overwinter in the garden, and some will even continue to grow and be a source of fresh herbs. Those are often perennials, meaning they live for two or more years and produce foliage, flowers and seeds each growing season. Common perennial herbs that will overwinter outside in the ground include:
• Chives (Allium shoenoprasum)
• Lavender (Lavandula vera)
• Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
• Peppermint (Mentha piperata)
• Sage (Salvia officinalis)
• Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
• Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Other herbs are more tender and will need protection in winter. However, that doesn’t mean they must be tossed. If planted outside, you can provide them protection by temporarily covering the plant with such items as cardboard boxes, a blanket or burlap laid over a tomato cage or frame made of PVC or wood.
They can also be dug up and put in containers so they can be quickly and easily moved to sheltered areas when the temperatures drop. Sheltered areas may include a covered patio or deck, front porch or garage.
However, you will want to make sure they get bright light and continue to be watered.
Tender herbs include:
• Horehound (Marribium vulgare)
• Sweet marjoram (Marjorana hortensis)
• Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
• Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
If you have the space, some herbs do well indoors in a bright, sunny location; they will grow slowly and be a source of freshness. To bring herbs indoors, dig them up from the garden, shake off most of the soil and pot them in quality potting soil in a deep container, one about 8 to 10 inches deep.
Make sure to continue to water, but be cautious of over-watering — do the “finger test” by sticking your finger into the potting soil and, if the top inch of soil is dry, it is time to water. Herbs for growing indoors include:
• Basil, sweet (Ocimum basilicum)
• Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citrates)
So, no need to compost all of your herbs. There are quite a few that will survive winter in the garden or in a protected sunny location.
And, if you would prefer to keep herbs handy, plant them in a pot and keep them indoors in a bright kitchen window.