Growing Herbs in Winter
by Jamie Gunther, Master Gardener
Looking out the window is a beautiful sight if you like snow. It may be difficult to remember how the world outside appeared during greener times but even though now is not the right time to plant herbs in the garden area, it is a perfect time to plant some types of herb indoors.
First, a couple of tips to think about before digging in. Make sure your herbs will be exposed to enough sunlight by placing them in a south facing window. If a south facing window isn’t possible, consider some grow lights or a combination of cool and warm bulbs set on timers to recreate a sunny day instead. Also, it is a good idea to make sure that the seedlings are planted to the proper depth in a well-drained soilless mix. Cover with plastic after planting to create a humid environment but be sure to remove the plastic after the seedlings emerge to allow for air movement and allow them room to grow. Be sure to keep moisture and temperature at the required levels to encourage seed germination as well. Be aware that temperatures near windows may vary.
After seeds germinate and seedlings emerge, be sure to keep the soil moist but allow for drainage and move containers apart to discourage fungal growth. Once the seedlings reach six inches, you can begin to harvest the leaves but be sure to leave some if you would like the plant to continue to grow. Also, keep in mind that if plants get leggy, they can be pinched back to just above a leaf to encourage a bushier growth.
Following is a list of herbs that do well grown indoors:
- Basil – Fast germinator that may appear in as little as four days.
- Bay – This plant will do well in an east or west facing window and likes lots of air circulation.
- Oregano – Needs patience. Oregano may take weeks to germinate.
- Parsley – It will grow faster in south facing window and slower in an east or west facing one.
- Chives – Can germinate in about ten days.
- Cilantro – Germinates in about seven to ten days. Cilantro doesn’t like being transplanted so in the spring keep it in the container it was planted in.
- Dill – Germinates in one to two weeks’ time.
- Sage – Slow to germinate and could take up to three weeks.
- Thyme – Two to three weeks’ germination time. The seeds are very small so overplanting is common.
A white blanket of snow outside the window can be a beautiful sight to behold but adding some green indoors can be a great visual enhancement and has the benefit of the addition of delicious home grown herbs to recipes all year round.
Michigan State University Extension