Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Overwintering Herbs

The frosts are starting, so this weekend it was time to bring in the herbs for overwintering.  Not all of the herbs will make through the entire winter, but we will be able to extend the season by a few weeks for most of them and the ones that make it through all the way will go back out to the garden next spring.  The most important thing about this fall chore?  This winter we will have fresh herbs to cook with!

Total Time: 4 1/2 hours

You'll need a drip tray for the plants.  I found this great watering pan at the local ag store.  It's big enough to hold all of the herbs I want to save for the winter, no pots scattered all over the place.  The best part about it is that it does not have any seams, it's pressed out of a single piece of metal so there are no places for water to sit and create rust.  I think it will last a few years.

This 5-inch pot is a leftover from spring planting.

I'll be using 7 of them for my herbs.

A brush and some soap will take care of all of the old dirt and plant debris from the pot.  (Should have done this in spring right after planting!)

Scrub the inside of the pot.

Scrub the outside of the pot.

Use a scrub sponge to get those really stuck on bits off.

All clean!

Now I have to sanitize the pots to kill off any microbes or bacteria that have been living off of that old plant matter.  According to Iowa State Horticulture guidelines I should use a 1 part bleach to 9 parts water ratio.

Here's a big bowl to soak the pots in.

I put some water in first and then added the bleach to get my 9:1 ratio.

Since I'm working with bleach here, I put on some gloves.  I dipped each pot into the water mixture.

Then I stacked them loosely together and submerged them.

Since I didn't want to wait around while they soaked for at least 10 minutes, I filled the bleach cup with water and used it as a weight.

Time to get the herbs.  I have a trowel for digging, a claw in case some of the roots are really stuck, gloves and a plastic bag to hold the dug up herbs.

The garden has quite a few leaves filling up the beds and some of the herbs are looking really straggly, but we should be able to find enough for overwintering.

The rosemary is hiding in the middle of the brussels sprouts.

Genovese basil.



Purple basil.


Starting with the parsley.  I located the base of the plant.

I wasn't sure how big the roots would be, so I just gently stuck the trowel in a few inches away from the base of the parsley.  When I didn't feel anything hitting the trowel, I pushed it in the rest of the way at a slight angle going towards the base of the plant.

I used the trowel to pry up the parsley, taking my time and trying to be careful not to rip apart the root ball.

Once I got the parsley roots loose, I pulled the plant up out of the garden bed and shook a little of the dirt off.  I didn't shake it all off because I didn't want the roots to freak out.  Pulling all of the dirt off of the roots seems to me like pulling a teddy bear away from a kid - it's just not nice!

This is the parsley all dug up.  The root ball is about the size of a small baseball.  It has a few thicker roots on it as well as a nice amount of the soft hair-like ones.

The chives were next.  It dug up like a clump of grass.  Their roots are all really soft and are about the size of a  softball.

The sage had a really big root system.  It's got really woody stems with roots popping off of it.  I'll trim off the side stem and leave the main mass for potting up.

The basils roots were pretty shallow considering the heigh of the plant.  I picked basil that still had some light green stems because I think they will have a better chance for new growth once they are potted up.

The rosemary roots are nice and dense.  It looks like there are enough to hold the plant securely in the pot.  They are also about the size of a softball.

Tools for potting up:  drip tray, sanitized pots, trowel, freshly dug herbs (smells great!), a bag of organic potting soil.  I get large bags of organic potting soil from my local greenhouse and use it as a fertilizing boost for planting in the spring as well as for potting up in the fall.

Lay out the pots in the drip tray.

You want to make sure the dirt line for the plant stays the same as it was in the garden.  And don't forget to leave about a 1/2-inch for watering space.  For these pots, I'll fill the dirt up to the first horizontal line in the pot.

Toss a bit of dirt in the bottom of the pot for all of the hair-like roots to nestle in.

Put the plant in and fill the rest of the way with dirt.  Use your fingers or the trowel to shove the dirt in around the roots of the plant.  You don't want to have any air pockets here - just a solid block of dirt and roots in the pot.

Rosemary all potted up.

Purple basil, 





More basil.

All of the herbs are potted up.  I'll water them inside so it will be lighter to carry.

I use old coffee grounds as an insecticide.  I keep a jar of them in the fridge, so I always have some on hand.

First I have to rinse off the plants to get rid of any bugs, slugs or other creepy crawly things.

I sprinkle a few spoons of coffee grounds on top of the pot.

Everything potted up, rinsed, watered and coffeed!

For the next week, I'll just make sure the herbs have enough water and light as they adjust to being inside.  After they have settled a bit and I can see how they are doing, I'll give them all a good haircut.  If they are really stressed, leaves start dropping or turning yellow right away, I will cut them back sooner and add some organic fertilizer to their water.

Time to make dinner...

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