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Planting Herbs for the Winter

If you’ve decided that you want to grow something for the kitchen, you may be thinking that you’ve left it too late this year. But you can still plant up herbs now, and add some home-grown taste to your meals well into winter.

There are plenty of herbs available, whether from garden centres, nurseries or specialist suppliers. Some compost suppliers also supply plants such as herbs (click here to see our range), as well as compost or topsoil for growing them. Suitable herbs include shrubs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme, annuals including basil and parsley, and perennials such as mint and marjoram.

Rosemary and sage will grow outdoors throughout the year, and don’t need terribly good soil. Some varieties of sage are more tender than others, and may struggle in cold winters, but generally, these are reliable outdoor plants, and can be harvested all year round. Grow them in containers or in a herb bed on your patio, close to the kitchen door so you can nip out and pick some when you need them. They are quite vigorous plants, so don’t plant more than one per container.

Tender annuals such as basil and parsley are best grown indoors at this time of year. You can either sow seeds now, keeping them covered with a plastic bag to keep them warm and moist until they germinate, or you can buy small plants and keep them on a windowsill. They don’t want to be in full sun, but still like plenty of light and warmth. They won’t grow all winter, and will probably get a bit scraggy in a few months, but then you can sow more in early spring for next year.

Thyme plants can be quite tender. Although you can grow them outside, especially in a sheltered spot, you will probably do better keeping them in pots on your windowsill, and moving them outdoors for the summer. 

You can even plant up a container of several small plants and keep it on a windowsill. An outside window box is ideal, as it will be sheltered and kept warm, even in winter, by the warmth from the building. If you’re worried that it’s too cold for some of the plants, bring your window box indoors for the coldest months, and keep it on a cool windowsill indoors. Remember to turn it regularly to keep your plants growing evenly.

Perennials such as mint and marjoram or oregano die back in autumn, and regrow in spring, so there’s not much point in keeping them indoors over winter. They are tough plants, and will survive winter cold. Plant them in separate containers in relatively poor compost, as both are vigorous plants, and will take over a herb bed if left to their own devices.