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Tips for growing fresh herbs in the winter

Sage and rosemary.
Sage and rosemary.

An easy way to have fresh herbs in the winter is to grow herbs in your kitchen. Fresh herbs will add color and fragrance throughout the holiday season. Most small herb plants can be grown in 6-inch or larger pots in a sunny window. With minimal care, herbs will produce throughout the year to meet your cooking and baking needs.

If you have an enclosed porch or sunroom, larger pots can be used. Some of the best herbs for growing indoors are basil, sweet marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and bay laurel.

You can pick herbs for culinary use when the plant has enough foliage for continued growth. Pick herbs just before the flowers open when the leaves contain the highest amount of aromatic essential oils. Kitchen herbs can be transplanted into your garden after the danger of frost has passed. Oregano, thyme, parsley, and sage will continue to grow throughout the winter if you provide frost protection. Mint and rosemary do not require frost protection; however, mint can be invasive if not contained.

If you have herbs growing in your garden, you can extend their season by using a cold frame or cloche. An easy DIY cold frame requires only two steps: surround your herbs with hay bales and cover with an old, but functioning, window. Open and close the window as needed to provide protection and ventilation. A cloche is simply a translucent covering that protects a single plant from frost. A homemade cloche can be fashioned from a plastic one-gallon container with removable lid. The cloche can be vented as needed by removing just the lid or the entire container.

Whether you are growing herbs indoors or in your garden, herbs can benefit from a side dressing of nitrogen fertilizer throughout the winter season. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s label directions when using fertilizers to avoid burning the roots or leaching excess material.

With a little effort and care, you can enjoy fresh herbs throughout the winter months!

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.

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