GÄRTENMEISTER: Suggestions for indoor herb cultivation in winter

Every year I overwinter some of my herbs from my garden. I will soon put the chosen few in clean pots with drainage holes and fresh soil, insulate them on my veranda and then bring them into the house when the outside temperature threatens these saved treasures. This year I will overwinter my tricolor sage, parsley and rosemary. These plants look healthy and deserve a second chance. I have allowed my basil to produce flowers for the pollinators so that these plants can be put on the compost heap.

I also plan to grow some from seeds to keep my stash fresh. Basil comes to mind as it’s a favorite herb of mine. It has a fresh green color and its scent is reminiscent of family gatherings in the summer. Dill and other tall herbs can be grown indoors, but they tend to get too big for my small space.

To grow herbs indoors during a Minnesota winter, plants need as much light as possible. Full sun is great, six hours or more; Extra light is a great option for any herb that you plan to grow for more than a few weeks. Plants with thin, large leaves like basil may need water on a daily basis indoors in our dry winter homes. If you buy potted herbs for the winter, examine the plants carefully after purchase and then regularly for possible insect infestation. I have a good south exposure which gives the right light. Start seeds under fluorescent light to get off to a great start.

Always check your herb garden regularly for possible downy mildew or insects. Remove all leaves if powdery mildew is observed and isolate any infected plants and treat for insects as needed. Keep the foliage dry and water only at the base of the plant.

Good drainage is essential for herbs. Never leave them in the water. If you bought basil or any other herb in a small pot, prepare to move it to a larger container for a longer growing time. Fertilizer is not essential for herbs. Never let the plants wither between waterings.

To harvest your culinary herbs all winter, cut off branches and leaves as needed. Fresh herbs are full of vitamins. Parsley is an easy herb for indoor growing and contains vitamins A, K, and C. It is also a good source of the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. I overwinter my parsley for most of the years.

While repotting your herbs is work, try them out indoors and enjoy them for as long as possible this winter.

You can get these local gardening supplies every week during the gardening season, but year-round gardening information can be found by clicking Yard and Garden on the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.

Local master gardeners answer questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 leaving your name, number and question.

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