Regional Calendar of Herb Garden Care

Follow our directions for year-round care of your herb garden.


Spring
Start seeds early for a headstart next spring.

Cool Climates

  • About six weeks before the last frost in your area, start herb seeds indoors to get a head start on the outdoor growing season.
  • Prepare the garden beds for planting. Although herbs can survive in poor soil, they do better in good-quality soil that drains well. If you have heavy clay soil, amend it with sand, vermiculite, perlite, and lots of organic matter to make it lighter and improve drainage.
  • Begin weeding early in the season, before the weeds' roots get too developed and before they set seed.
  • Once the weather has warmed, set out new plants you have purchased this year. This is also the time to divide large plants and take cuttings to increase your supply of a favorite herb.

Click here to learn more about the hardiness zone of where you live.

Warm Climates

  • Start seeds of annual herbs indoors to get a head start on the growing season.
  • Prepare the soil for new plantings. Although herbs can survive in poor soil, they do better in good-quality soil that drains well. If you have heavy clay soil, add vermiculite, sand, perlite, and lots of organic matter to loosen the soil and improve drainage.
  • Sow seeds directly in the ground for herbs that grow better if they aren't transplanted.
  • Begin weeding early in the season, before the weeds' roots get too developed and before they set seed.
  • If you see signs of whiteflies or mealybugs (the latter deposit a white, fluffy substance on the leaves), remove them with a strong spray of water from a hose or with damp paper towels. If you have a major infestation, spray with an insecticidal soap.
Summer

Cool Climates

  • As you harvest herb leaves, pinch back the plants to shape them and promote bushier growth.
  • As the number of leaves available for harvest increases, take some to dry for winter use. Either tie bundles together and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated spot out of direct sun, or spread leaves out on screens stapled onto frames that are stacked to allow airflow. If you are drying only a few leaves, simply clean them and leave them loose on a paper towel.
  • Make herbal vinegars. Modify the proportions depending on how strong a flavor you want, but the basic ratio is one cup of fresh herb per quart of vinegar (white, cider, or red wine vinegar is fine). Cover the herb with vinegar in a glass container, seal, and store for two to four weeks until the vinegar is imbued with the herbal flavor.

Warm Climates

  • Water your garden when necessary. A slow, deep watering is more effective than frequent sprinkles. Slow irrigation allows water to get down to the roots, encouraging them to grow deeper, making the plant more drought tolerant.
  • Remove developing flower heads from plants such as basil, chervil, costmary, lemon balm, lemon verbena, oregano, rosemary, and tarragon. The leaves are more flavorful if the flowers aren't allowed to develop. Caraway, a biennial, will live an extra season if its flowers are removed.
  • Start drying herbs for cooking, indoor arrangements, or potpourris.
Fall

Cool Climates

  • Prepare tender perennials to be moved indoors by pruning their roots early in the season. Once new feeder roots have grown, lift them out of the ground, pot them, and put them in a protected spot, such as on a porch or under the eaves. Before the first frost, move them indoors to a bright, sunny window or put them under lights.
  • Sow seeds of cool-season herbs, such as chervil, coriander, and parsley. If your winters are extremely cold, grow these herbs in a cold frame or on a sunny windowsill.
  • To grow oregano, tarragon, and mint indoors for continual winter harvesting, divide mature plants and pot them now. Cut back the plants severely, water well, and bring them indoors, where they will continue to grow. To get chives to thrive indoors, give them at least a few weeks of dormancy in a cool area after potting them up.
  • Clean up the garden, removing dead plants, weeds, leaves, and other debris. Compost any organic material that isn't diseased.

Warm Climates

  • Sow seeds of cool-season herbs, such as chervil, coriander, and parsley, for your second winter crop.
  • Clean up the garden, removing dead plants, weeds, leaves, and other debris. Compost any organic waste that hasn't been infested with pests or disease. A fall cleaning will help prevent diseases and pests next year.
  • Continue to use or freeze herbs. For example, dig up large horseradish roots, peel them, and grind them in a food processor. Puree the ground root with a little water and vinegar. If you plant to use it right away, mix a portion with sour cream and sugar. Freeze the rest of the puree in ice cube trays for future use.
Winter

Cool Climates

  • Mulch your herb plants after the ground begins to freeze.
  • About six weeks before the warm spring weather arrives, take cuttings from the tender perennial herbs you have overwintered indoors. They will take three to six weeks to root and be ready to plant outside in spring.
  • Read catalogs and books about herbs to learn about new plant varieties you might like to try and to get new ideas for ways to use herbs in your home and garden.
  • Make potpourris, sachets, and wreaths with your dried herbs. Enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea.
  • Soak in an herbal bath. Try bay, lemon balm, lemongrass, mint, or thyme. Experiment with mixtures. Place 1 cup of dried herb leaves into a cheesecloth bag or nylon stocking, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Steep for 15 minutes, then add the water to your bath.

Warm Climates

  • Read catalogs and books about herbs to learn about new plant varieties you might like to try and to get new ideas for ways to use herbs in your home and garden.
  • Make potpourris, sachets, and wreaths with your dried herbs. Enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea made with dried herbs from your garden.
  • Soak in an herbal bath. Try bay, lemon balm, lemongrass, mint, or thyme. Experiment with different blends. Place 1 cup of dried herb leaves into a cheesecloth bag or nylon stocking. Cover with water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Steep for 15 minutes, then add the water to your bath.

herb-growing tips
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