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Parsley, chives sprouting after thaw -- green thumb advice needed!

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I let a window box with parsley, basil and chives sit uncovered through a cold, snowy winter in Brooklyn. Lately, I've noticed the parsley and especially the chives have started to grow again. The basil is dead.

Should I let the parsley and chives keep growing without replacing them or doing anything to the dirt? If so, can I dig out the soil where the basil used to be and plant something new without damaging the rest?

The window gets about seven hours of full sunlight in the summer. It's in a southeast-facing window that's shaded part of the day by the building next door. Any advice on what to grow instead of basil this time? Last summer's crop didn't have a ton of flavor--I'm guessing the spot is less-than-ideally sunny to grow basil.

You can probably tell from these questions I'm an expert gardener (ha!) but I could use some advice. Thanks!

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  1. There is a Gardening board that might be a better place for this one, but short answer is that I'd let the parsley and chives carry on. I've got chives just sprouting in a pot that I planted probably 10 years ago and they come back every year.

    1. Yes, it's fine to let the parsley and chives just re-grow. They'd probably benefit from a little food or fertilizer of some kind. Herbs are generally pretty tough (I think of mine kind of like weeds), so it should be fine to work a little compost or new potting soil in around them. If you let the basil go to seed last season, as soon as it gets nice and warm, you'll probably see baby basil plants sprouting, too. I live in Houston, and my basil loves hot, sunny weather, and died back during our 3 weeks of freaky cold weather, so I'm guessing it's not warm enough for it yet in Brooklyn.

      1. If you let the basil go to seed it will sprout when the nightime temps stay above 50F or so. Basil hates cold weather.

        1. Chives are a perennial plant - they'll come back, and even spread a bit, every year. Definitely leave them.

          Parsley is a bi-annual plant. Yes, it's coming back (mine probably is too by now), and it'll be fine for about a month or two, then it will go to seed and be pretty much useless. What I do is leave one or two plants in the ground to winter over, and add a couple of new ones early in the spring, enjoy the established plants right away, and when they go to seed, replace them.

          But you're working with a window box, so you probably don't have the space for that - I'd replace the parsley.

          Last year, I found a "cinnamon basil" that we enjoyed very much - that might be worth checking out.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Krislady

            I've had oregano growing in the same tub for over 20 years and chives for the last few years. I find that the more I let my plants handle things on their own,the better they do.

            1. re: MellieMag

              Me too. I'm from the "If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It" School of Horticultural Science.

            2. re: Krislady

              Interesting. I don't have that problem with parsley, possibly because it self-seeds? Mine is taking over the raised bed and although it WILL produce some tall tough stalks in the dead of summer, they are easily cut away and I continue to harvest from the rest of the plant.

              As an aside, an intersting thing happened last fall. A herd of beautiful striped caterpillers descended on my parsley, and within the space of 2 days, ate every bit to the ground, and left like theives in the night. They did not touch the oregano, thyme, chives, bay, or tarragon in the same bed, nor did the compete with the tomato worms for tomato leaves. The parsley is none the worse the wear this spring. That parsley has been in the same bed for over 10 years and that's the first visit from the parsley caterpillers.

              1. re: danna

                danna those were your friends the black swallowtail caterpillars! I plant extra for them every year. If you pet their heads they'll send off a stink. I love them. Look close as they get bigger for cocoons.

                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                  they really were pretty, but I didn't pet them ;-) they did not fill me with loathing like the tomatos worms do. Good thing we don't have neighbors, because the obscenity-laced screaming while I smush the tomato worms (attemps to deter their comrades) would get the cops called. If I miss one day checking the vines for tomato worms I can loose 1/2 the productive growth on a plant.

            3. My in the ground parsley has come back from last year, but has (already) bolted.

              2 Replies
              1. re: CocoaNut

                I got to cook with my own fresh chives and oregano today! The chives had gone a bit wild so I 'chived' about everything I cooked today.

                1. re: MellieMag

                  Chives are always a good thing.