Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Fall Herb Care

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Hey All – thought you would like this great article on herbs written by Rita Lynn for our October View.  To read the full edition, please click here: http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/pdfs/The%20View%20Volume%204%20Issue%2010.pdf

(You can also sign up online to receive our monthly e-newsletter at http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/newsletter.asp )


(left to right: basil, dill and parsley)

Looking over my yard, I see lots of healthy herbs that will not survive the winter.  It seems a shame to let all their savory goodness go to waste with the frost.  Sources tell me, unfortunately, many are past their prime with regard to using them now.  Most herbs are best harvested for fresh use before flowering, preferably no less than a month before the first frost.  That’s when their flavorful and aromatic oils are at their peak, and that time has obviously passed.

There are exceptions to this rule.  Annual herbs such as basil can be harvested until frost, assuming that they have been cut back so as to prevent blooming.   When herbs such as dill are grown for their seeds, the seeds should be harvested as the seed pods change in color from green to brown.  In cases such as lavender, we can enjoy cutting and drying any flowers that have bloomed.  And herbs such as parsley can be harvested until they are killed by a hard frost.

We don’t have to abandon our herbs until spring, however.  We can enjoy fresh herbs throughout the winter if we bring the plants inside before their foliage is damaged by frost.  (Exceptions to this are mint, chives, and tarragon.  A light frost induces a rest period in these plants, resulting in firm and fresh new growth.)  A potting mix of two parts sterilized potting soil and one part coarse sand or perlite, “sweetened” with ground limestone or a teaspoon of lime per 5-inch pot, is recommended.  The potted herbs will need a sunny window – south- or west-facing – and might also enjoy the additional light of a grow lamp.  Most importantly, pots need to provide good drainage.

Then there is one final outdoor chore for the herb garden this fall.  Any herbs that are hardy enough to survive our winters, such as chives, mints, and some varieties of sage, may benefit from winter protection in the garden.  Four inches of mulch can protect them from heaving during spring thaws.  The mulch should be applied after the ground has frozen and should not be removed until the plants show signs of growth in the spring.  Then we can wait with our favorite recipes to use the first fresh growth of the new season.



“Growing Herbs in the Home Garden,” http://www.wvu.edu/~agesten/hortcult/herbs/ne208hrb.htm


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 28, 2011 at 6:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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