Fresh Herbs all Winter

With a little preparation, you can have delicious fresh herbs right through the cold winter months. Many herbs can be grown on a light windowsill in the home.

If you were lucky to have a surplus of herbs this summer, you may have frozen or dried a supply for winter. This cold wet summer left me with very little extra to preserve, so if like me you want some nice fresh herbs this winter, and don’t want to rely on the supermarket, you need to prepare now.

Herbs from seed

The tender or annual herbs such as basil, dill, coriander and sweet marjoram can be sown now, but also many of the perennial herbs like chives, parsley, oregano and thyme can also be sown at this time, and are easy to grow from seed.  Sow all herb seeds thinly in pots, as most herbs have small seeds, use multi-purpose compost and cover with a light layer of compost or alternatively use Vermiculite to cover the seeds, which is what I like to do. Keep your pots of seeds in a warm place to germinate. A windowsill or greenhouse should be warm enough, but you can use a propagator if you have one. When the seedlings start to come through, place in the best light you can. You don’t want the seedlings to become too tall and leggy. I would make further sowings in a few of weeks, of the tender herbs you use the most. For me that would be basil’s and coriander. I find that Greek bush basil’s, and Thai basil tends to give a longer harvest. Just pinch off what you need each time and they will continue to grow, bushing out even more. This pinching method is also the best way to harvest thyme, oregano and marjoram, it keeps them neat and bushy. Coriander, chives and dill will regrow if you leave about an inch of stem in the pot when you cut to use, I always use scissors to harvest these herbs.  Keep all your herbs in good light and keep moist but not wet.

Herbs from division

If you already grow perennial herbs in your garden, their growth will soon slow down and become dormant for the winter. The way to keep them going is to pot up small plants or clumps to bring inside.  Lift your chives and split into small clumps. Trim the tops, leaving about an inch of growth, then pot up into multi-purpose compost. These potted chives can be left in a greenhouse or coldframe till needed, then brought into the warmth of the house. In a few weeks you should have nice tender new shoots to use. Mint is another perennial herb that will die down in winter.

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If you scratch around your clump of mint, you should be able to find some nice thick roots just under the soil. These roots can be pulled up and cut into sections. Plant into pots of multi-purpose compost, covering the roots with an inch of compost. Again, the pots of mint roots can be kept in the greenhouse or coldframe till needed. Some of the perennial herbs like thyme, marjoram, oregano and parsley, growth slows right down but as the plants are evergreen, but they don’t die down completely. Look for small pieces of herb plant with roots that can be pulled away from the main plant. You may even find small seedlings around the parent plant. Pot up the plant pieces or seedlings into pots of multi-purpose compost and either bring into the house or greenhouse but keep in good light.

Herbs from bulbs or sets

Nice tender shoots can be produced in winter by using spare onion sets and small garlic cloves. I always have a few small garlic cloves that are quite fiddly to use in the kitchen. If potted up they will give mild green garlic flavoured shoots similar to garlic chives. Spare small onion sets can be used in the same way. Just push the cloves or sets into pots of multi-purpose compost, crowding them in to fill the pot. There is no need to cover them completely. When brought into the warmth they will start to grow and produce lots of tender green stems, these can be cut and uses in salads or as a garnish. Just cut off with scissors leaving about an inch of shoot to regrow. Keep just moist.


Seedlings shouldn’t need feeding, the compost will contain feed for about 6-8 weeks. Cloves and sets shouldn’t need feeding either. The perennial herb divisions can be given a weak liquid feed after a couple of months to keep them producing fresh shoots.


The biggest problem you may have is with aphids, make sure any herbs brought in from the garden or greenhouse are pest free. Check daily for pests and if you see a few aphids, they can be removed by gently rinsing off with water from the tap.

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So why not give fresh herbs a go in winter. Check out the seedparade shop for all the herb seeds you will need.


Helen Fowler
Born in Middlesbrough. Moved to live in rural North Yorkshire in late teens. Moved back to the town in my 30's to live near Stockton on Tees. Then after a divorce and a serious accident I moved back to rural North Yorkshire near Thirsk, where I live now. I am a passionate gardener, a keen amateur photograper, I love travel, music, anything artistic and I have a great love of nature and the natural world. I have gardened since my teens and I lived and worked on a farm for years. I have owned or have experience with most pets and domestic animals. I hope by sharing my own experiences and the personal knowledge I have gained over the years, to help and encourage others to gain the most from their gardening efforts.
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