How to Bring Herbs Indoors

October 19, 2015

Fresh herbs all winter? Yes, please!

Fall is upon us, and plants are beginning to go dormant in our gardens, including our precious herbs that have flavored our meals oh so wonderfully all summer long. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could continue to enjoy their glorious flavors and aromas during the cold months ahead? If you have any herbs that are still standing strong, now is the time to bring them indoors before the first frost hits!

 

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When fall comes, it’s time to bring herbs indoors.

How to bring herbs indoors

Are your herbs in pots? Once plants get comfortable where they are, they don’t like to be disturbed. Prepare your outdoor herbs for the transition that is about to happen by moving them to a less sunny spot for a couple of days. For the following week, to better help your herbs acclimate to the amount of light they will be experiencing indoors, bring the herbs indoors for a couple hours each day. After that week is finished, move them indoors permanently for the winter.

Are your herbs in the ground? Carefully dig them up, avoiding damage to the roots. Place them in a container that is larger than the size of their root ball with rich, organic potting soil . Don’t use a clay or terracotta pot if your house tends to have a dry heat due to the furnace running in winter, as this will cause your plants will dry out quickly. Make sure to place them in nutrient rich soil that drains well.

Where to put the herbs

Your herbs will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. If you live in an area with limited sunlight during the winter, like the Pacific Northwest, installing a few fluorescent lights above the herbs is a great idea. Leave these lights on for about 15 hours a day. Running a fan in the room once a day or cracking a window creates much needed air circulation which helps to prevent diseases and mold on your plants.

 

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Bees love chives when they’re in bloom (Allium schoenoprasum)

How to start herbs from cuttings indoors

If you have a favorite herb in your garden that you just can’t get enough of, try rooting some cuttings from it to create more plants! This process takes commitment and can be a little tricky, so taking the greatest number of cuttings possible from one plant helps ensure that you have the healthiest plants possible when you’re finished. If Mother Nature smiles upon you and you end up with more plants than you know what to do with, they make great gifts for your gardening friends! The first thing you should do is make sure the plant you plan to take cuttings from is well watered the day before you plan to take the cuttings. Prepare a seed-starting flat by filling it with organic rooting soil, which can be found at any garden store, and wet the soil. Using shears, cut off a somewhat stiff stem of new growth from the parent plant. Bring the cutting indoors and trim a bit more off the stem at an angle using a sharp, clean knife. A smooth cut damages the stem less, giving the cutting a better chance at rooting and growing into a new healthy plant. Strip the bottom 2/3 of the cutting down to the stem, poke a hole slightly larger than the stem in the soil, and place the cutting in the soil.

This delicate little cutting is now trying its absolute best to survive, and it’s up to you to provide the right environment for growing. The soil needs to remain moist, the air needs to be about 70°F and humid, and indirect light from a north facing window or fluorescent bulb is perfect since it won’t overheat the cuttings. A small plastic tent will help maintain these conditions as long as it doesn’t touch the plant. In about 3-5 weeks the plants will be ready to move to a larger container. The roots need to be developed to the point where if you gently pull on the stem, the entire cell of soil easily comes up with it. Fill a container with rich, organic potting soil, place your new plant into a depression, and lightly pack the soil in around it. Mix some soluble organic fertilizer in with some water (about half as much as the package recommends) and thoroughly wet the soil. Your little herb should be well on its way to growing into a large healthy plant!

Lemon Thyme (Thymus citronella) easily fits into tiny nooks in the garden

Lemon Thyme (Thymus citronella) easily fits into tiny nooks in the garden

What are some of your favorite herbs to grow? What has done well (and not so well) in your garden?

~Deanna

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