The time has finally come where the nights are getting crisper and the threat of frost is upon most of us in zone 7. While the fall foliage is beautiful, it marks the end of many outdoor gardening tasks until spring thaws the ground again. Before you begin to panic and go harvesting your herbs for drying and freezing, consider transplanting them for indoor use to enjoy fresh flavors all winter long. While we definitely recommend preserving your herbs so as not to waste their taste, many of your plants can easily be transitioned indoors and kept happily throughout the cold winter months. Keeping your herbs indoors will ensure a wealth of fresh flavor and natural aroma for all of your hearty winter dishes, holiday meals and hot teas. Keeping your plants indoors will also promise to cheer you up through the winter doldrums and keep your home smelling green and clean without the toxic effects of synthetic air fresheners.
Plants like Rosemary, Bay, Lavender and Lemon Verbena will pot very easily and do well over the winter, as do most culinary herbs. For plants that go dormant during this time of year like Mints (they tend to get leggy), you may need to enhance the lighting in your home with grow lights to encourage the plants out of their natural cycle. Herbs need approximately 14 hours of light a day, and about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to maintain healthy growth. As you’re considering which herbs to bring in, make sure you also consider proper indoor locations for your plants. Southern facing windows will get the most amount of light daily, and as the days grow shorter moving into winter, make sure to accommodate for the waning sunlight by rotating your plants and substituting with alternative light sources.
A few weeks before your area gets its first hard freeze of the year, it’s best to transplant your desired herbs into pots for the winter. Choose only the healthiest plants, leaving any wilted, broken or feeble plants for the compost pile. Dig your plants carefully, and try to extract the entire root system. Once your plants are removed from the ground, pot them into new containers with new potting soil to prevent spreading any disease. Make sure to pot them in deep pots and leave them outside for a few days to acclimate to their new environments before bringing them inside.
Find The Right Spot
Once your plants have recovered and have been moved inside, make sure to not only choose a sunny location, but also consider the temperature and humidity in the area they are placed. For example, you wouldn’t want to place your plants on the mantle of your fireplace that you enjoy using, as they will dry out quickly, just as you don’t want to place them near a drafty door as they may get too cold. Monitor their needs for a while to see if they need more or less water and pay attention to their color and growth. Typically herbs don’t need a lot of water, and you can maintain this by sticking your finger about a half inch into the soil to test for moisture. As long as the temperature in the room does not go below 50 degrees your plants should be warm enough to keep growing.
For more information and some tips on growing herbs indoors, see our article Growing Herbs Indoors.
Carolina Wrens will nest just about anywhere...even in our empty watering can!
Carolina Wrens, though territorial about their range, are not picky about where they nest. Old boots, propane tanks, watering cans, mailboxes and pots…these are just some of the man made abodes that wrens have claimed as their “home sweet home”. Using everything from small sticks, moss and roots, to snakeskin, plastic bags, hair and paper, Wrens are resourceful home builders!
Wrens built this cozy nest in our marketing director, Caroline's, grandma's newspaper box!
The mating pair, which stays together for life, spend their time foraging for sturdy materials for the curved outer walls, and finish the inside up with softer nesting materials. Wrens may also build many mock nests throughout their territory, which are commonly called “cock’s nests”, choosing their favorite home for the nesting season once they are actually ready to mate. These domed nests are never used more than once and usually take about three days to construct. Once finished, the pair mate and the female lays a clutch of between three and seven small eggs that are cream colored with small brown speckles. To watch them in action, check out this great YouTube video of a pair of Carolina Wrens adding to their nest! Building a Carolina Wren Nest.
Our wrens chose the stylish pot on our office's front porch to nest in. They must not be bothered by the constant activity here since they've already laid eggs!
For a hilarious and heartwarming story with great pictures documenting the baby wrens, check out this website on the wren’s unusual nesting locations, and read about Karen Ouimet’s indoor wren experience!
Back by popular demand, we have Bay Trees! OK well, to be fair, they never actually left, they’re just really hard to find. You can thank their high popularity rating as a savory, flavor-filled culinary herb and their slow rate of growth for that. Because we love them so much, and we know you all do, too, we’ve ensured a large crop for our shipping season this Fall, for all of your delicious holiday meals. If you’ve never grown Bay before, don’t worry. Read on or check out Briscoe’s Tips for some great information on how to keep this robust herb happy and healthy, all year round!
Bay makes a wonderful potted herb and if given well drained soil, and plenty of sun, you could literally grow a tree full of delicious Bay leaves. At its maturity, a Bay can reach about fifteen feet high and approximately twenty feet wide, but actually responds well to staying pruned into a container-planted shrub. Though Bays are more akin to turtle than hares, in terms of their growth rate, giving them the appropriate amount of space dictates their size quite a bit. Make sure than you give your Potted Bay a large enough planter, because, keep in mind, it IS a tree! That being said, a pot about twelve inches in diameter will grow your plant to about five feet tall before you need to re-pot your Bay into a larger container.
Bays have a shallow root system, and prefer fertile, well drained but moist soil. If the situation allows, leave your Bay outside while it’s nice and sunny to allow it to get full, unfiltered light, making sure that it doesn’t completely dry out while in the sun. If the outdoors is not an option, give your little tree as much direct, clear sunlight as possible. You may need grow lights to keep this herb happy throughout more dreary, cold months. While indoors, also beware of placing your plant near heating vents or where it could catch a draft from an open door. They can be VERY temperature specific!
A native to the Mediterranean, Bay is also very useful outside of the kitchen and makes a highly beneficial medicinal herb. Bay contains healthful components that make it antiseptic, antioxidant and perhaps even an anti-cancerous herb. A wonderful source of vitamins A and C, folic acid, and B-Complex groups such as niacin, as well as many necessary minerals like potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. Combining these powerful, health boosting properties, Bay is useful in healthy digestion, strengthening the immune system, healing to heal wounds more quickly, and among other things, aid in regulating your body’s metabolism. So while you may be adding this deliciously aromatic herb to your favorite recipe for its great flavor, you’re actually helping your body in lots of different way to stay healthier!
Our Marketing Director, Caroline, discovered that when you’re repotting, it’s a good idea to wear protection…
As usual, I hate to see anything go to waste, so when one of our growers, Annie, asked if I’d like to have one of the succulent cacti they were clearing out of our greenhouse, I naturally accepted. Choosing the taller, more positive sounding, Euphorbia, I gingerly nestled it into the back of my car for the ride home. Fearing this desert plant’s unforgiving spines, I placed it on the mantle in my kitchen and affectionately named him “Senor Prickles”. He must not have liked his new moniker, as once I turned my back, he dove crown first to the floor, spilling his contents everywhere. Grabbing the broom and assessing the damage, I had to figure out how to get my needle-covered friend back into an adequate pot that would hold his top heavy weight. Realizing that I had no heavy duty gloves nearby, and my kitchen towels were too thin to blanket the sharp cacti nettles, I reached for my oven mitts and got to work. Between sweeping up the spilled soil and shooing my cats away from trying to eat the pot’s remains, I began to consider the importance of repotting indoor plants.
Repotting your plants not only gives them more room to grow and mature, but it gives them more space to dig in and anchor themselves for better support. As in the case of the “Senor”, repotting provided a much more stable base for his heavy top growth, keeping him from trying to commit suicide by flopping off of his high vantage point. After repotting my newest addition, I began to look around at my other indoor herbs and made plans for making them new homes as well.
Choosing a large, wide pot that I filled with moist potting soil, I transplanted my ‘Alaska Mix’ and ‘Empress of India’ Nasturtiums, and arranged them so that their tendrils would drape over the edges and off of the sunny table I placed them on. For my Calendula, I chose a similar method, but used a smaller pot to help them keep a more erect habit. Originally having been staked, their new environment kept them standing tall and a good pruning made them look much happier! My tiny ‘Grosso’ Lavender, who has been a trooper all winter but was beginning to look a little sad, was my biggest worry. Remembering that Lavenders love very well-drained, dry soil, I lined the bottom of the six inch pot I chose for it with a very dry, brittle mix of soil with bits of debris and small twigs included. Hoping the coarse nature of this soil would help aerate and allow for better drainage, I potted my ‘Grosso’ (also known as ‘Fat Spike’ Lavender) with some richer mix on top. After ten minutes of deadheading and trimming dead foliage away, my indoor garden was looking much stronger and I felt a great satisfaction at my spring progress.
A few tips to remember for when you decide to revamp your indoor plants:
*Good drainage is key! Make sure not to over water, but if you do get aqua overzealous, make sure your pots have good drainage holes and are placed upon plates or saucers to catch excess moisture. But never let them stand in full saucers!
*Proper Pot Size is more important than you think. Repot plants in containers that are one to two inches wider and deeper than their original planter to give them plenty of room to stretch and grow. Potting them in too big a container will allow for excess room for moisture to collect which could water log the roots or promote disease to grow.
*Be careful when removing your plant from its original container. Try to ease it out and relax the root ball some by rolling it around in your hand a little. This will allow the roots to release from their previous shape and stretch and fill the provided extra room.
*Water generously once you get your plant adjusted to its new container. They’re thirsty when first potted and this will also help the roots and soil settle.