Potting herbs is an excellent way to maintain your supply of fresh herbs throughout the winter months. You can create a simple indoor herb garden on a windowsill, on a corner table or in your sunroom. Some of the more popular herbs for indoor gardens are basil, thyme, rosemary and sage. Potting herbs for winter use is an easy task whether you use seedlings or cuttings.
As long as your potted herbs receive sunlight, water and air, they will continue to thrive throughout the winter season.
Start your indoor herb garden in mid to late autumn. This will allow enough time for the herbs to grow so they’ll be available for use during the winter.
Whether you’re starting from your own cuttings or nursery seedlings, choose herbs that are no more than 6 inches in height. These smaller plants will acclimate to the size of their pots. They will not outgrow them before winter’s end.
Select pots that are 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Clay pots are porous, and work well to allow for drainage and air circulation. The pots should have drainage holes at the bottom. For mints or ginger, you need a wider, shallow pot to accommodate the spread of the root system. Each plant should have its own pot, so you will need as many pots as you have herbs.
Use potting soil that includes polymer crystals for water retention. Though herbs do not like wet feet, or remaining in wet soil for very long, the soil in pots dries out very quickly and unevenly. The polymer crystals aid in more efficient use of water and prevent the roots from drying out between watering.
Do not use your garden soil to pot the plants. Potting soil is less dense and allows for aeration within the confines of the pot.
To pot an herb, fill the pot about three quarters full. With your fingers, create a well in the middle approximately 2 to 3 inches deep, depending on the size of your plant. Gently hold the herb plant in the well so the top half of the plant is above the top of the planter. Some of the leaves will be below the soil line.
With the other hand, fill in the well and the remainder of the pot with soil, holding the herb in place while doing so. Fill with soil to 1/2-inch from the top of the pot. Repeat for each plant.
Place your potted herbs in a sunny location, one that provides four to six hours of sunlight a day. If you don’t have such a location within your home, you can use fluorescent lighting as a substitute. Herbs do require a lot of light and you may need to use a combination of natural and fluorescent.
Do not use saucers to catch the drained water. The standing water in the saucer creates a wet spot at the bottom of the pot and may cause root rot. Instead, set your potted plants in a container filled with pebbles.
You can use one large plastic or metal container or several smaller ones. The container should have sides approximately 1-inch high. Fill the container with decorative pebbles and set your plants on top of the pebbles. This allows the water to drain and eventually evaporate.
Water your potted herbs once every two to three weeks. Be careful not to over water. The soil should be dry, but not dried out. If the soil feels crumbly, you are not watering often enough. If the soil is clumpy, water less frequently.
As your plants grow, harvest the herb. Continuous harvesting will encourage growth. Potted herbs will not grow as quickly as garden herbs, but will grow throughout the winter season.
If you potted herbs with good potting soil and they receive sufficient light and water, you should notice significant growth within four weeks. You should be able to harvest anytime after that.
As your herbs grow, be sure they have plenty of air space. Do not crowd your potted plants. Air circulation is important to growth. Because the inside air in your home over winter can be dry, lightly mist your herbs in between watering to keep them from dehydrating.
Potted herbs can be used throughout the winter months and will continue to grow into the spring. You can transplant them into larger pots and place them outside once the danger of frost is past. They will provide cuttings for you in the fall to start your next indoor winter garden of potted herbs.