There is no need to go short of fresh herbs in winter with these savvy suggestions.
Both Thyme “Silver Posy’ or Lemon thyme are attractive low growing plants that can be used in a sunny border in front of pansies, violas or petunias. They are also easy to grow in pots, provided the potting soil drains freely.
Parsley, origanum and marjoram work equally well in pots or in full sun in the garden. The closer the herbs are to the kitchen the better and in winter the patio or a sunny doorway is usually the best spot. A large container planted up with a combination of origanum or marjoram, thyme, rosemary and parsley or garlic chives is not only an attractive feature but is easily accessible.
Frost hardy lavender and rosemary need very little special treatment but sage is more of a challenge because it tends to stand still and dislikes the cold. It is worth the special treatment because it is a good culinary herb for winter dishes and an infusion of the leaves makes an excellent gargle for sore throats.
The right kind of sunny, protected environment can be provided by planting the sage in a hanging basket on a sheltered patio or in a north facing window box or pot. Sage doesn’t like wet feet so the hanging basket is probably the better option because of the more efficient drainage.
A very attractive hanging basket can be produced by planting three different sages together; the silvery leaf Salvia officinalis, variegated sage which has gold and green foliage and Tricolour sage green, purple and cream leaves.
Although sweet basil doesn’t survive winter the hardier perennial pink basil will come through winter if it is protected. The leaves are tougher than sweet basil but can be used in cooking if added during cooking and not at the end.
Don’t forget about the herbs that flourish in winter such as the mustard-flavoured Oriental vegetables (Mizuna, Tatsoi, Pak choi, Giant Red Mustard), Calendula officinalis (anti-fungal and antibacterial properties) rocket and coriander. Calendula flowers are edible and the petals can be used to garnish salads.
Growing tips for winter
– When planting herbs for winter growth, prepare the soil well with plenty of compost for good drainage because most herbs don’t like cold, wet feet.
– Feed herbs regularly, but with potassium rich plant food that strengthens the leaves rather than nitrogen based products that promote soft growth. By strengthening the leaves the plant can better tolerate the cold and is less susceptible to disease. Potassium is indicated by the K in the NPK composition of a fertiliser so any combination with a high K value would be suitable.
– Water once a week or less, depending on the type of soil and temperature and mulch to protect the roots from the cold.
– Protect the more tender herbs with light weight frost cover at night.