Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 73: Not Killing the Herbs


The Task: To successfully (hopefully!) overwinter some herbs so that I can stop buying new ones every year.

The Confession:  My husband is the aspiring green thumb in the family. He does all the real gardening. I am responsible for the flower gardens (a.k.a overgrown weed beds), the culinary herbs, and the occasional houseplant that is given to us and inevitably dies from neglect.  I like to blame it on the fact that I am perpetually pregnant, tired and distracted...

The Why:  Okay...so here's the thing. So much of the problem in our crazy, hyper consumptive, would-need-five-planets-if-everyone-lived-like-a-North-American culture is that we don't have any, um....skills.

I mean, I'm a pretty domestic type gal.  I know how to make bread and raise chickens and sew. But I don't know how to darn socks or spin wool or make candles or not kill a rosemary plant over the winter.  I just buy a new rosemary plant in the spring. And sometimes half way through the summer....

But part of this challenge is to become producers as much as we are consumers.  And to raise our children to have skills so that they can consume less in a consumer world. 

The How: I was listening to a gardening show on the radio in the van the other day. (As in, Luke was listening and I was trying not to die of boredom) and the host mentioned herbs.  I immediately became interested, because I had just been thinking the other day that I should stop, you know, killing the herbs.  The radio show host told me three things I didn't know:
  1. Put the herbs in clay pots.  I can do that!  Clay pots are cute!
  2. Put them in a sunny window.  Not on a table near the sunny window, but actually on the window sill.  So I can't just move them around my kitchen to wherever I think they look nice that day and hope for the best?  Good to know.
  3. And finally, don't water them until they are dry.  In the past my instinct has been to water them pretty much every time I remembered they existed, which, as they started to look dead was more and more often.  Now I know I've been over watering!
The Verdict: So far so good. I haven't committed plant murder yet, although it's still too early to tell.  I'm determined to make it through the winter with a live rosemary plant ready to go back in the soil come spring.  Wish me luck?

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20 comments:

  1. let me warn you---overwintering rosemary is rough. Same for basil and parsley, etc etc. I'm zone 5b/6a (usa) and there is a variety of rosemary-"Arp" that is allegedly hardy to a zone 5 (usa). I don't know what zone you are, but you might be further ahead to get an "Arp" and plant it on the south side of your house and offer it protection over the winter. It really is hard to overwinter herbs in the house in our climate.

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    1. I've heard that it's difficult, but I also know people who do it. So it's worth a try, right? :)

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  2. totally worth a try! And they should help when you get to Jan or Feb and just need to see something green and alive around to keep you from going completely insane, hopping in your minivan and driving for the California coast. At least, I find plants helpful that way.

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  3. I have been holding off planting herbs in Sicily until we're back for the fall/winter in a couple weeks, but of course I worry it's too late now and I've missed my chance weather-wise. Oh well, at least I know I have good pots, a sunny window, and... well, now I know not to water them till they're dry!

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  4. ok, this may sound like a ridiculous question, but i've been wondering where you can buy herbs to grow a little indoor herb garden. can you just buy them in the spring when they sell little seedlings of other plants in garden centers, or should you grow the from seeds. we don't have a lot of good sunlight coming in through the windows. i've been trying to keep a little daisy plant alive that my husband bought me, but whether it is just too cold near the window (our home is drafty, and i haven't yet figured out how to insulate without closing the windows up forever!) or just not sunny enough. hopefully your plant survives the winter!

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    1. Hi Lisa! It's not a ridiculous question....it probably depends a little bit on where you live. We buy herbs at garden centers in the spring, but you can also sometimes buy little potted herbs at the grocery store sometimes too. Growing them from seed, I've heard, is tricky and takes a long time.

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  5. Schnikey! This is me to a T. Herb-killer extraordinaire. My problem is that I come home with the seedling/plant/whatever and vow I will pot it, and I never do. And it dies. And I get mad at myself every time I have to buy thyme or basil or rosemary at the store for $1.50 that I will use a small amount of and let the rest rot in my fridge. (Because I always vow I will chop and freeze them in ice cubes, and I never do.)

    I am useless.

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  6. Our rosemary overwinters (as do the various types of thyme we have) but we are in 7a. Couple of suggestions:

    if you put the clay pots on the windowsill, rotate them a quarter turn every so often. This way, the whole plant gets enough sun, not just the side closest to the window

    if you have very long (as in six inches to a foot or more) wands of rosemary, strip the leaves off bottom, cut the stalks at an angle, and put them wands into cold water. You can leave this on the counter and it will stay fresh for a while; will also stay fresh in the fridge. You can take the stripped leaves and put them in some olive oil with a clove of garlic, and drizzle it on potatoes, etc.

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    1. put THE wands. Good God, not "put THEM wands". Sister Mary Agatha is turning over in her grave. :)

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  7. I've overwintered the same rosemary plant for 3 years in a row now. It loves my south facing kitchen window.

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    1. 3 years in a row! Way to go Janine :)

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  8. Here in SC we can overwinter rosemary, mint, thyme, lavender, sage....I have them in large pots and I move them up right next to the foundation of the house. I killed my lavender this summer by forgetting to water it. Very sad!

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  9. A tip for basil: don't water until the leaves are actually drooping, then water generously. They say it improves the flavour as well! I need to remember to nip off the flower buds, my basil plants keep dying after flowering.
    I brought on some rosemary and lavender from seed earlier in the year, hoping to plant them out in the summer, but they didn't grow big enough so they'll have to stay indoors over winter- we're over run by plants!

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  10. Keeping rosemary on a sunny and warm windowsill in your kitchen or living room through winter season is one of the most safe ways to kill it. :(

    The best way to find a comfy place for your herbs is to consider where they come from. Rosemary, thyme, sage, laurel, lavender and many others naturally grow in mediterranian or even desert climate on really meager soil. They like hot and dry summers and mild, cool winters. 20°C room temperature is not cool! If you can't keep them on your porch because it gets too cold outside, look for the coolest room in your house. A bedroom is ok, a basement, shed or garage is much better. They can easily handle below 0°C as long as they get enough daylight and a little water every once in a while. Mix regular potting or garden soil with sand and gravel. Your clay pots should have a hole so any excess water can flow into a plate or bowl you put under it.

    Basil on the other hand comes from India. It likes the sun and warmth and @Peigi is right about watering it. Part of the problem with the basil you get to buy is that the single plants are put to close together. They will last a lot longer if you take them out of their small pot, divide them carefully and give them more space.

    Good luck to you and your herbs!

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  11. GOOD LUCK! i feel for you, i am hopeless with plants too but i was given a thyme plant a week ago and i'm determined to keep it going and not commit 'plant murder' lol

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  12. Hmm, interesting, I have a pot of overgrown and somewhat sad looking thyme on the balcony, wonder if it's too late to save it.
    Good luck! :)
    Ieva

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  13. We did this last winter too! It was my first try and a big success! I took a small rosemary plant from my garden and placed it in front of a south facing door wall. It did great and we used is so many times during the winter. I moved it back into the garden in the spring and just re-potted (it's huge now) to bring it back indoors this winter. Mine definitely dried out between waterings. I didn't realize that was a good thing! This is probably because I'm a sketchy waterer at best and because the plant is right by a heater vent. Good luck with your experiment!!

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  14. We are in Atlanta (not sure what zone) and have a massive rosemary plant we put in several years ago. Put it somewhere in full sun and where it won't get soggy (so not in a low area) and see how it does. Ours has survived ice and snow and fairly cold temps (down to 5 degrees maybe?) with no assistance from us other than watering it when we first planted it. Good luck!

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  15. If that photo is of your actual herb pots, PLEASE put a saucer or plastic lid under them to protect your window sill. And, good luck with your herbs. I have never had luck overwintering, so I just start with seed every spring.

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