November has arrived and with it has come cooler days and much cooler nights. The trees and flowers have made their show and now things are starting to turn brown and die, and folks are starting to look toward the upcoming holidays and putting gardening aside for a while. But even in the winter months, gardening is still a possibility and if you like fresh herbs, there are lots of ways you add some color to bleak winter days and still eat fresh from the garden.


November has arrived and with it has come cooler days and much cooler nights. The trees and flowers have made their show and now things are starting to turn brown and die, and folks are starting to look toward the upcoming holidays and putting gardening aside for a while. But even in the winter months, gardening is still a possibility and if you like fresh herbs, there are lots of ways you add some color to bleak winter days and still eat fresh from the garden. 



Herbs for winter months



Most are surprised to find that they can grow herbs in the winter. Parsley and cilantro for example, are great for colder climates and can be grown outdoors. Members of the carrot family, these two herbs require cooler temperatures as they are prone to bolting when daytime temperatures are warm. In addition to being an excellent (and easy) winter gardening option, they are also not under attack from the swallowtail caterpillars that feast on them during warmer conditions. 



While ground temperatures are still warm enough, direct sow seeds of parsley and cilantro. Because they have taproots, they are less conducive to transplanting as they begin to mature. In fact, transplant shock may cause them to bolt early, which is why some gardeners have trouble with these herbs. Parsley is notorious for being slow to germinate, but you can use method known as leeching to speed up seed germination by up to three weeks! Soak seeds in warm water for 12 hours, and simply wash seeds every 2 hours for the next day. Once complete, direct sow parsley seeds into the ground or in a container. 



Dill is also a great choice for cool-season herb plantings. Grown in full sun and started from direct seeding, dill is great in salads and with root vegetables like potatoes and beets If you like tea in the cooler months, consider planting chamomile as the flowers can be used in teas, and the leaves used as potpourri. One of my personal favorites is rosemary. Grown as a perennial and with evergreen leaves, rosemary should be grown in full sun areas that do not receive a lot of moisture.



Growing herbs successfully



Herbs are great because of the ease in which they can be grown, but also because they take up very little space. In fact, herbs grown in containers will continue to thrive throughout the winter months if placed in warm sunny areas of your home. And the added bonus of fragrant herbs throughout the winter has been shown to significantly reduce winter depression. 



Harvest herbs early in the morning, when oil fragrances are at their peak. If you are growing herbs for foliage, it is best to harvest before plants flower. If and when plants start to flower, simply pinch off the leaf buds. This will encourage more leaf growth throughout the season. In general, soil should be well-drained and contain a pH of 6-7, a typical range for most other fruits and vegetables. If you have some extra garden soil left over you can plant herbs in containers on your windowsill outdoors or inside. 



Managing pests



Believe it or not, we still have to deal with pest issues in the winter months. But it is true that insect and disease issues can be a problem. If grown indoors, herbs can be susceptible to infestation from aphids. They will be a little easier to maintain and can be controlled with simple hand removal. Diseases are usually not as problematic in winter months, especially if plants are grown outdoors. Most of the disease issues occur when herbs are grown inside, and the result is usually from overwatering so water only as needed.



One of the best parts of living in this region is that even our winter months still afford the opportunity to grown plants year-round. Growing herbs in the winter is a great way to ensure that you have a continuous harvest of fresh seasonings for all of the cooking that will be done this holiday season. 



Learn more



For more information on growing cool season herbs, visit ces.ncsu.edu, where you can post your questions via the ĎAsk an Expertí link, or contact your local extension office. If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1235. In New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660. In Brunswick County call 910-253-2610.



 



Sam Marshall is the horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Brunswick County. Contact him at wsmarsh2@ncsu.edu.