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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Winterizing Your Herbs

Preparing Herbs for WinterHardly a meal passes during late spring through to early fall that our dishes are not infused with fresh herbs from the garden or the herb boxes. For those of us who enjoy eating and cooking with herbs, winter is especially hard with the garden covered in moist leaves and even shallow blankets of snow. If we prepare, though, and think about what needs to be done for our herbs before the cold weather settles in, our cooking doesn’t have to suffer.

Tender perennials are probably the most needy herb plants. These plants are not frost hardy at all and must be brought in before the first sign of frost.

A few herbs that fall under this category include: Lemongrass, scented geraniums, bay laurel, and the more tender varieties of lavender. Deciduous plants, like lemon verbena, will shed their leaves around Christmastime, but won’t die, so don’t be alarmed. Instead, put the plant in a well-lit window and try not to fret over the pot full of sticks. By early March you should see signs of new growth.

Some herbs, however, do quite well outdoors in the early winter. Thyme and sage can both be harvested in normal outdoor garden conditions well into January, provided you don’t live in Alaska or a frozen tundra! Rosemary, on the other hand, will prove to be a challenge. Rosemary can stand up to anything until the temperature reaches 20 degrees. After that, it will die quickly.

Some people have luck bringing rosemary inside. More often than not, though, these plants tend to die. Picking rosemary before a hard frost and allowing it to dry for winter use may be the best idea.

Chives actually need stagnation in the winter. Dig them up now and put them in pots, but leave them outside until the new year. Then bring them inside. They should begin to grow in less than a week.

Most herbs grow so quickly and are so hardy you can actually give them a good clipping and replant them in an indoor sill garden or in pots that enjoy the natural light. Be sure to put them in separate pots facing south, and water them only when dry.

A more traditional method of using herbs well into the winter involves drying them. This can strip them of some flavor, though, and make them difficult to cook with. They are reduced to little more than a shaking powder to enhance food after it is cooked.

Whatever methods you decide on, a little planning and effort can extend the herb harvest and provide fresh herbs all winter long.


1 Tad Palladino { 05.13.13 at 10:49 pm }

Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

2 anotherkindofdrew { 10.14.10 at 9:49 am }

@Rich – You first need to find the type of garlic that will grow best in your region. To do so, scout out a local gardening store or find a seed company that specializes in the Northeast. You are going to require a very hardy type of garlic. The date of planting garlic in the fall should allow enough time for good root growth but not enough time for leaves to emerge from the soil. Those leaves would just get winter killed unless they had plenty of consistent snow cover. In most areas of the Northeast, the best time to plant is October. To prevent winter injury and heaving of cloves from the soil, plantings should be planted 3 to 4 inches deep, oriented with the root end down.

3 RICH { 10.14.10 at 8:46 am }

i live in nj i would like to know how to grow garlic and when


4 E.R. Chase Jr. { 10.04.10 at 5:23 pm }

I have grown peppermint in my garden and they grow very well.

Sincerly yours, E.R. Chase Jr.

5 Frutero { 09.24.10 at 8:07 am }

Here, in Upper Florida, getting herbs through July, August, and early September can be the worst part. I have had some luck with sinking a mini-pond in the shade of a well-grown callery pear and putting the heat-tender plants either around the pond or on benches under the tree. Some, like the more usual kinds of lavenders, won’t oversummer at all, though I have a canary lavender that likes exposure to full sun and wind on a stone bench. Most winters, a blankie on cold nights will suffice, but last winter, I had to bring plants in for days at a time. They weren’t happy, so I am planning to get Gro-lights for my Florida room. Will keep you apprised as to what works.

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