merrycat
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:45 pm
Location: Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)

Overwintering Herbs Indoors?

Most of my plants have done pretty ... meh.. this year, and are starting to die as the colder weather comes in. But I do have one pot, with lemon thyme, regular time, and spicy oregano that's thriving and overflowing all over the place. If I bring them indoors for the winter will they keep thriving? Or do little herbs have a limited lifespan?

I don't know if it makes a difference, but they have been trying to flower for the last couple of months too. I snip off all the blooms and, when I look a while later, they're covered in little purple flowers again. If possible I'd like to keep them going as long as possible, especially the lemon thyme, because it's so delicious with sauteed, garlicky, lemony chicken.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Overwintering Herbs Indoors?

Some herbs, like basil, are annuals and have a built in lifespan and are done at the end of the season. Oregano and thyme are perennials. Where I recently moved from in zone 6 in Ohio, they over-winter in the ground. They go dormant in the winter, and start growing again in early spring.

Where you are, they aren't likely to survive winter outdoors, especially not in a container. But yes, you can bring your container of perennial herbs in for the winter, if you have a good spot for it. You need to do a reverse hardening off. A couple weeks before you might expect frost, move your container from its (presumably) full sun location to a shadier spot to help it adapt to life indoors. Then bring it in and put it in front of your brightest, sunniest south facing window. If you don't have a space like that, then it will probably need supplemental lighting, which would be a dedicated lamp shining directly on it from just a few inches away.

Understand that bringing them in isn't really so that you can use them all winter. Mainly it is to keep them alive so that they will have a head start next year and get even bigger. They are not going to grow a whole lot indoors in winter. Don't fertilize them (starting now!) and don't give them as much water as they have been getting - plants that are not growing much are not taking up much water. So watering amount that was appropriate, will now be over-watering and could lead to root rot.

The fact that they keep blooming suggests to me that you aren't cutting them back enough. You don't want to just "snip the blooms off," you want to keep cutting the plant well back, cutting off a third of the stem. Before you bring it in, cut it back hard, maybe half of the length of the stems. Oregano and thyme that aren't cut back regularly will turn hard and woody at the bottom and will not produce from the woody areas. If it has already gotten woody at the bottom, don't cut into that. It will not grow back from any woody stem you cut in to.
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merrycat
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Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:45 pm
Location: Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)

Re: Overwintering Herbs Indoors?

Thanks for the response! You're right, I haven't been pruning them much, just a little as I needed it for cooking. There are some woody stems now. I'll give it a good pruning tonight and put it in a shady spot

We do have windows that face full south, so I'll put it there over winter

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