Should I stay or should I go?
Darlin” you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
The Clash, 1981
It’s that time of the year-decision time! Not only is November a time for state and national elections, around here, it’s a time to put the garden to bed and decide which plants will take their chances outdoors or move inside for the winter.
I love my plants! They bloom and grow throughout the spring and summer. It always makes me sad to see them wither and die as the growing season wanes. But, space is limited and choices must be made. With a bit of ingenuity and know-how, you can keep your favorite plants alive and well through out the winter season.
A number of perennial herbs when properly mulched and protected can survive our harsh Kansas winters. For the past couple of weekends, my hardworking husband has been taking care of these tasks. Potted perennials can be buried in their containers in a protected area like a raised bed and mulched. Come Spring, they can be easily removed and relocated to any area we choose.
Many of my tropical outdoor plants cannot survive this method and needed to be brought indoors.
My genius husband is the “King” of repurposing. A combination of flurescent lighting, a timer, a heated garage and voila’ you have a place for your favorites to wile away the winter months.
The upside is on warm fall days, the garage door can be left open for the added benefits of extra sunshine and fresh air. The downside is not to forget to turn off the airconditioning/heating system when you raise up the door. (Oops, that would be me!)
Most of us who love gardening dread the lack of fresh herbs and vegetables through the winter. The good news is-you don’t have too! There are many herbs that are suited for indoor container living. Here are a few of my favorites and a few tips to ensure their survival.
1. Basil-easily the most favorite summertime herb. Basil can be finicky but grows well in pot. It is best grown from seed and can be sown throughout the year. I sow basil seeds as soon as I see the mature plants reaching their peak so that I always have a fresh supply. It likes warmth and prefers a southern exposure. The best varieties for indoor cultivation are Spicy Globe and African Blue(similar to Thai basil) But, as you can see, my Sweet Basil variety is thriving for the second year in and out of doors.
2. Bay- a periennial tree that lives well in containers. It is very slow growing and leaves should not be harvested until it branches, usually about the third year. Bay needs lots of room, so don’t over crowd it. This is my second winter season with this little bay tree. It was doing quite well out doors until a deer or rabbit ate the top off during the summer. Now we are back to first year growth and hope it makes it to next year. BTW, fresh bay leaves should be dried before using in culinary endeavors.
3. Rosemary- You can start Rosemary in a pot from a cutting of your plant. There are two common varieties of Rosemary, one a bushy-like plant best left out of doors. It can survive harsh temps if properly mulched. The other a more up-right variety is well-suited for container living. It needs 6-8 hours of light and prefers to be on the dry side.
4. Lemongrass- Love my lemon grass and easily one of the best suited for indoor life. You do not even need soil. Just buy a fresh stalk and thin out the top for use and place the stalk in a couple of inches of water and watch it grow! Try and pick a hardy stalk for best results.
5. Thyme- pretty finicky to grow indoors. It needs a lot of light. I generally harvest all my Thyme in late fall and dry for winter use. With proper mulching, it will return again in the Spring.
6. Oregano. Another herb, I choose to dry and use. But, I have heard it is easily started from a cutting of the outdoor plant. It does need 6-8 hours of light and prefers a southern exposure.
7. Parsley. I have grown parsley and cilantro in pots successfully in the winter. You can start from seed or dig up a clump to transplant for indoor living. It does however prefer full sun and will remain a bit sickly and yellow if not.
Remember to water the base of your herb plants, not the leaves, especially in the case of basil. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Don’t make the common mistake of killing your plants with kindness(again, I am guilty!) Herbs planted together in containers although pretty are not always practical. Faster-growing invasive plants can easily choke out their slower maturing cousins keeping the plants small. Leaves must be harvested frequently.
Don’t give up on fresh herbs throughout the winter months. With a little time and care, they are only a pot away. Especially, with my personal “Mr. Green Jeans” on their side.
I’ll leave you with a little blast from the past! Happy Gardening and Bee-the-Change!