Extending Summers Harvest
Unless you live in warm winter climate, the end of summer
generally spells the end of the herb garden. Tender perennials like bay and rosemary
cant survive cold winters, and tropical-born basil will turn black at the first hard
freeze. Fortunately, the coming of fall doesnt have to mean giving up your favorite
herbs. With adequate light, the right temperatures, judicious watering and fertilizing,
you can have savory sage stuffing at Thanksgiving, fresh rosemary with your holiday lamb
-- even tasty thyme for a St. Paddys Day stew. All it takes is a little planning and
The most important consideration is location. For strong,
vigorous growth, herbs need between four and six hours of sunlight a day. Plants situated
in north-facing windows or drafts are likely doomed. If you cant provide the proper
amount of sunlight, artificial lighting will help. Since fluorescent lighting is low in
intensity, you will need to keep plants fairly close -- no further than eight inches away
from the tubes.
Weve all heard the tale that herbs thrive in poor soil. Not
so in-doors. Your plants need excellent drainage, especially when roots are confined to a
pot. A good compost-based commercial mix is fine, but youll want to add a bit of
perlite to insure the good drainage that comes with a lighter soil. Feed your herbs every
other week with a good liquid plant food. Most of all beware of having too heavy a hand
with the watering can. Water thoroughly only when the soil is dry to the touch.
Just like other indoor plants, herbs can fall prey to pests
including whiteflies, aphids, scale insects and spider mites. Inspect your plants with a
keen eye and take immediate action at the first sign of a problem. If your pots can be
easily moved, dip the foliage into a bucket of warm, soapy water.
Be sure to cover the pot with your hand or plastic wrap to keep
the soil from falling out. If soapy water baths havent done the trick after a couple
of weeks, ask your Growise garden expert to recommend an insecticidal soap.
Here are a few of the varieties Ive come to depend on for
good performance and great flavor:
Spicy Globe Basil
The compact growth and tiny flavorful leaves make it a perfect
choice for the windowsill.
Genoa Green Basil
Always loaded bright green leaves for making mouth-watering
Allium schoenoprasum is the chive with the oniony flavor. A.
tubersosum, sometimes called Chinese chives, has a mild garlic taste.
"Fernleaf" dill grows only 18" tall and is ideal
for indoor cultivation. It tends to dry out quickly so you may have to water more often.
Mentha spicata is known as either English Mint or
Kentucky Colonel Spearmint. By any name this herb is excellent for cooking and
True Greek Oregano (Origantum vulgare hirtum) creates a spreading
8 to 12" mound. Often called the pizza herb, this oregano adds zest to a
wide variety of Italian and Mexican dishes.
Rosemary officinalis. For a treat, sprinkle chopped leaves on
Dwarf Sage. This small-leaved herb is attractive and delicious in
recipes for stuffing as well as pork and duck.
The warm, spicy flavor of either English or
French thyme adds that special something to most any soup, stew or casserole.
When spring arrives, you can move your portable herbs outside, or
continue to cultivate your windowsill garden. If plants remain indoors, remember they will
dry out faster in warm weather and will want a misting to increase humidity on the hottest
days. Annuals like basil may have petered out and will need to be replaced. Indoors or
out, make sure your plants are healthy and vigorous so you can continue to enjoy all the
pleasures of the herb garden when winter winds blow again.