Gardening UK: How to grow and maintain herbs in winter – indoors and outdoors

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Gardening can be a tricky task in the winter, especially when it comes to maintaining herbs. Some herbs will survive cold winters while others may die after the first hard frost. Just because the temperatures are dropping and winter is closing in, it doesn’t mean you have to abandon all hopes of a successful herb garden.

Avoid overwatering and fertilising

Wet conditions are more likely to kill herbs than the cold weather, especially in the UK.

Any plants that are in a container should be moved under a shelter or put against a wall to avoid them being completed inundated with water.

To check if your potted herbs need a water, lift up each pot and see how heavy it is.

If it’s light and the compost is dry then it may need a light water.

If it’s heavy and the compost is soaked then lift it up and allow the excess water to drain out of it.

For plants in a herb garden, if it’s a dry winter give them a light water but only when the ground is not frozen.

According to Gardening Know How, gardeners shouldn’t fertilise herb gardens after August as it will encourage new growth which may not survive the winter.

Bring them indoors (or in a greenhouse)

Gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh revealed on Gardeners’ World how to lift plants from the garden and plant them in pots to put inside.

Herbs like mint and chives can be prolonged by digging them up and putting them in a place where they can be “encouraged to grow”.

Meanwhile, rosemary and bays are evergreens which can “live in the garden all year round”.

If a massive clump of chives from the garden doesn’t appeal to you then Alan recommends getting rid of a lot of the foliage by simply cutting off the top of the plant.

“By planting it inside, this will encourage lots more new growth to come from below.”

Gardeners can then divide the plant and its root up into pieces so you can have several pots of the same herb on different windows.

You can add the pieces to any pot with multipurpose compost.

The herb will need to be buried at the same depth as it was in the garden.

There also needs to be a gap between the edge of the pot and the plant so you can water it.

Chives, mint, oregano, lemon grass and other perennial herbs can be “lifted” from the garden and planted in pots in the winter.

Tender herbs like basil need to be in a position where the temperature doesn’t drop below 5C.

These plants also should not be watered in the evening so their roots aren’t wet at night.

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Give them a trim

Evergreen herbs like rosemary, thyme, lavender, bay and parsley should be trimmed into a dome shape with any flowers printed.

According to Gardener’s World, this will protect them from high winds or snow.

Avoid cutting them back too much as this could cut the stalks which may not heal.

Cover them

It may sound like a lot of work but this could save several of your herbs.

Horticultural fleece or hessian can protect bay and olive trees that are used to growing in warmer climates.

Place the fleece over the plant and its leaves and then put bubble wrap around the pot to protect the roots.

Some herbs could continue to grow if you cover the soil around them with hay or mulch.

However, if it’s too cold they won’t continue to grow.

Put them in water

Also known as placing “cuttings” in water, this is a good way to extend the life of a herb or start a new pot.

Basil and mint especially thrive by being put in water with herbs appearing in a matter of weeks.

Sage, oregano and thyme also work well.

The herbs will produce new roots and even grow new leaves.

If you are planning to grow a new plant, or just extend the life of harvested plants, this is a good tip in the winter.

Simply cut a stem off a plant and place the bottom of the stem in a small jar or cut filled with water.

Makes sure the leaves at the bottom are not submerged and place them on a window sill.

You can either harvest the herb or once the roots are long enough, place them in a pot and start again.

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