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Oct 17, 2012 09:32 AM

Winterizing My Herbs


I need advice on winterizing my herbs. I live in northeastern PA, in zone 5b. My herbs are currently on a raised outside deck in 2 gallon pots. I cannot bring them inside for the winter because there is probably not enough sun exposure inside our house. The herbs that I would like to winterize are parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and mint.

I was told that I could cut the herbs down to about 1 inch, cover the pots with mulch, place the pots as close to the house as possible, and these herbs would probably "regrow" next spring. Is this sound advice? What advice would you give to me regarding this siyuation? I will try to do what I can to save these beautiful plants over the winter!

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Valentine :)

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  1. Rosemary will not survive winters in zone 5b, so I suggest you bring that one in. Keep it cool and well watered. Parsley is a biennial and will go to seed next spring.

    Here in Central NY, now in zone 6, in an urban backyard, I have wintered sage and chives in a really dinky window box without issues. Thyme usually doesn't survive, although it did last winter. Oregano has survived in a bigger planter. I'm trying mint for the first time this year.

    9 Replies
    1. re: sr44

      Thanks for the advice, sr44. My rosemary plant is pretty spectacular, even now, so I do not want to lose it! I am wondering what all my options are with my herbs. I need to decide soon before the first frost comes. I do not own a grow light, and I would not even know where to get one nor which one to get, etc. I am hoping that I will gain some much needed knowledge from this board!

      I could put the herbs in our garage, but there would not be enough sun exposure... How much sunlight does a dormant herb plant need? How much water???

      1. re: Valentine529

        in low light water minimally

        Rosemary often roots well in water.Try 3 or 4 vases,several stems to get you through the winter and you may have another plant if needed in the spring.

        1. re: lcool

          Thank you for the advice, lcool! I will try this! :)

        2. re: Valentine529

          Because rosemary is evergreen, it doesn't go completely dormant. By the time it gets to be "pretty spectacular", it's about big enough to use, so I would bring that one in and do the best you can. Water when needed--if the soil is wet, don't. If problems arise, you can always put it back out to freeze and start over next year. Taking a couple of cuttings now is also a good idea.

          It's not clear from my first response that the sage and chives were outside and survived.

          1. re: sr44

            Oh. no. sr44... Your response was very clear! I was just thinking out loud in my respose, if you can understand! I guess that I am not sure, yet, what is the best thing to do for my herbs.

            Thank you for your advice! I really appreciate that you are sharing your knowledge with me! :)

            1. re: Valentine529

              Whatever you do, there's always next year to do something different. Good luck.

              1. re: sr44

                You are absolutely right! I shouldn't get so attached to my plants! Sometimes, I feel like I care about them almost as much as my pets!!! LOL

                1. re: Valentine529

                  What, they aren't pets? I'm going to have to think about that.

                  Another source of advice is your county extension office and/or master gardeners. They would be knowledgeable about your specific location.

        3. re: sr44

          I'm going to suggest that you keep it very dry when you bring it in. Only water when it gets critically dry, and then only give it a tiny bit of water. Those things will rot indoors if overwatered, and the cool temps will underscore the limited need for water.

        4. Years ago, an herb lady told me that some herbs are supposed to go thru a winter's dormancy. That would be sage, thyme, oregano, chives and mint. Sage is so hardy that the leaves stay on the plant for a long time. Here in NH zone 5, we've had some 21 deg nights/frosts but the herbs close to the house all look great. I'll probably be able to pick sage for Thanksgiving stuffing.

          I haven't tried it but once someone explained that you could pot up some chives, let them freeze, but after a period of time, bring them in so they would start growing early. You might find some specific instructions if you do some google research.

          I've had best luck with rosemary keeping it in a cool bathroom (old house, 2nd floor is pretty cool) and north light. The extra humidity from showers helps. A friend had tremendous success by placing a humidifier right next to her rosemary plant.

          I've had parsley in a pot start growing again in the spring but as mentioned by the other poster, it's a biennial and will put out a seed stalk the second year. I would put your potted herbs on the ground, rather than keeping them on the deck during the winter. I suspect their bottoms might freeze and thaw more if they are on a deck.

          1. I've overwintered chives, parsley and rosemary on a south-facing window sill (not too much light since there are trees outside). In fact the chives usually last several years that way. Parsley is a biennial, so after using it all winter, I usually plant a couple of new pots every spring.

            1. I'm in northeastern NY state and also have a spectacular rosemary plant. I've had it for quite a few years now. It lives in an east-facing window in my dining room in the winter (it's outdoor summer home is on the same side of the house). My sage has lasted a few years, too, but it lives in the garage for the winter. I have gotten my thyme and oregano through most of the winter in the garage, but it never comes back very well in the spring and I usually have to buy new plants. All of my herbs in pots go through an adaptation period in the late fall-early winter (beginning right before the first frost) where they ride around in a little red wagon. THey spend nights in the garage and days in the driveway. Only when it starts getting really cold do I bring them to their winter diningroom or garage homes. Also, I have a sh*t load of chives that have been in my garden since before I bought the house 15 years ago. They've survived some nasty winters and keep coming back stronger than ever. Every few years I yank a bunch out or they'll take over my whole raised bed vegetable garden.