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How to Keep Fresh Herbs Alive over the Winter

The fragrances and flavors of herbs derive from oils that slow water loss and make them hardy enough to grow inside during the winter.


  • Step 1: Dig them up Dig up herbs before the first frost and plant them in fresh soil, allowing for a couple of inches around the root ball.
  • TIP: Check for insects which, if present, can be eradicated with a soap spray.
  • Step 2: Choose hardy plants Choose hardy plants to bring inside. Transplant them to containers that are deep enough for roots and that have drainage holes.
  • Step 3: Keep them outside Keep the potted herbs outdoors -- but out of direct sunlight -- for a week. This will condition them for less sunlight and acclimate them to the containers.
  • Step 4: Maintain light Maintain five hours of direct sunlight daily to keep the herbs fresh. Turn them on a windowsill for even light, or expose them to fluorescent lights hung six inches above the herbs for 14 hours per day.
  • TIP: Don't let the leaves touch the cold window glass during winter, which could inhibit survival.
  • Step 5: Group herbs Group your herbs closely to create humidity. Set your pots on a layer of gravel to ensure cool moisture without waterlogging the plants. Use liquid plant food at half strength to boost their health.
  • TIP: Winter-kept herbs only need to be watered once or twice a week, usually in the morning. Don't let the soil dry completely.
  • Step 6: Harvest a little each time Harvest your herbs in small quantities, leaving at least two growth points for new shoots to encourage density. Enjoy your fresh herbs all winter long.
  • FACT: Archeologists have discovered evidence that as early as 50,000 BCE, humans used the leaves of plants for flavoring meats.

You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Fresh soil
  • Containers
  • Even sunlight or fluorescent lighting
  • Water
  • Gravel
  • Liquid plant food
  • Soap spray (optional)

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