Growing herbs in the winter can be challenging, but if you go indoors you will have a much better chance of them surviving.
How do you grow herbs in the winter: To grow herbs in the winter you need to abide by what the plants need to grow – light, air, heat, food, and support. Out of all of those the heat is the one you don’t get outdoors, so you need to grow indoors in the winter.
How to grow herbs in the winter
Outdoors the winter temperatures will be too low to allow you to grow herbs, even the established ones will have shutdown and be conserving their energy for the spring.
So to have a chance of growing herbs in the winter you need to retreat indoors.
You need to give plants what they need to thrive.
- And support
So lets find out how to give the plants what they need to thrive in the winter.
Growing from seed
To grow from seed over the winter you will need to give the seeds the right conditions.
Using a heated propagator will improve your chances of seed germination.
Get a quality compost which is well draining and fill the seed pots loosely with the compost.
Water the compost so that it is damp but not saturated, if you do think it is too wet then leave it for a while till it has drained.
Depending on what you are growing, but taking the rule of thumb of plant the seed the depth of the seed.
So for micro seeds, like basil,marjoram, oregano, just sprinkle them on top and dust over with a light layer of compost. They only need to be down about 1/16″
For seeds like cilantro they need to be a little deeper, but not much.
Water the top with a fine rose to prevent disturbing the seeds too much.
Now what the seeds need is light – a good 14 hours of strong light.
And this may not be possible from the sunlight in the winter, so you may need to grab a grow light to assist them.
Set the grow light on a timer to come on every day for 14 hours and allow the seed time to germinate.
The same with the heater, if it can be arranged that the heater goes off but the temperature doesn’t dip too much overnight 68F min with day temperatures of 71F ( 18C night to 21C day)
And you will be rewarded with little seedlings.
Make sure there is enough light and heat so they don’t start to strain towards the light, if they start to become leggy you may need extra lighting or to reduce the heat slightly.
Growing on from bought stock
If you are lucky enough to find plant stock in the winter then this may make it easier to grow on.
You can transplant the seedlings or preferably the larger plants into pots as above for the seeds.
Tease out the roots as these don’t like growing into other composts until forced to.
So you could end up with the root mass dying in their tight bundle if you don’t just give it a helping hand.
You can always look in the supermarket for plants that look like they will do well and you enjoy cooking with.
How long before i can trim them
With lower daytime temperatures than in the summer plant growth will be slower.
So what would take a week in the summer may take two or three in the winter, even with the heating on.
What would be better is to give them their own space – where it can be controlled – as if it was summer.
With long warm days with plenty of food and they will reward you with loads of growth.
A small blackout tent where you can heat up the air temperature and keep the humidity up with air movement to prevent fungi or pests.
To be able to feed your plants with a very good nutritional diet.
And the ideal way to do this is with hydroponics.
Some may argue with the nutrients, saying that they are fertilizers – but the plants break down the soil into mineral salts.
All you are doing is saving the plants a job.
Growing with hydroponics
if you are growing the plants to look at you can still grow them with hydroponics.
Over the winter they will just grow slower….
The ideal way to grow them is within a controlled environment.
So a chamber which is like summer all year round.
Heated, lit, and with air exchanges.
These can be small or large, depending on what you can accommodate.
They start at 2ft sq by 3ft high ( 60cm square by 100cm high) and go upwards.
The main advantage of these are the fact that you can control the environment within the tent.
They also prevent interference from lighting or heating into the living space.
This small tent would be an ideal area to grow short plants with the tent on its side or taller plants with the tent stood upright.
It can be tucked way in a space you can get to but hardly ever use, this now becomes usable, useful space growing your herbs.
Is it difficult growing herbs this way
It doesn’t have to be.
You can use the compost route or you can go into hydroponics systems like flood and drain or deep water culture or even nutrient film techniques ( they all sound complicated but really aren’t)
Having a heating mat, lighting and a fan would be the minimum – along with some insulation for it to stand on to lower heat losses.
As long as you remember to water the plants – out of sight – out of mind.
So you may need to grab an app or setup a reminder to check on them for the first few weeks till it becomes routine.
After that if you are between crops you will miss checking on them.
Make sure you keep the area clean, as bugs can get in and this would be devastating, as you may lose the whole crop.
But being a small growing area it is relatively easy to clean out between cycles with a 5% chlorine bleach solution or a 20% vinegar solution.
Turn it inside out and wipe it down – leave it to dry and flip it the right way out…
Is it worth growing herbs in the winter
If you are starting them in the house then you maybe disappointed with the slow results.
If you go for the grow tent then you maybe surprised by the results.
Even placing the herbs in a south facing window in the winter there will not be enough light hours to have very good growth, combined with the cooling effect of the window overnight the plant will feel the cold.
Grown in the grow tent the plant will not know what season it is and be very happy to grow as well as you want it to.
You can grow it on and then change the lighting to force it into flower or producing fruit long before the right season is upon us.
You effectively have control over it’s environment.
And carried out correctly it will reward you with the freshest tasting herbs and maybe chili’s which taste of bell pepper and a little heat or extremely fiery heat.
But choose your plants wisely or you will be looking to get another tent to grow salad or a short term crop as i have had basil plants where i didn’t take all the leaves last for over 5 years…chili plants that are still going 12 years later….
All grown outside of a grow tent but in hydroponics units called aerogardens.
Which are another option to give your herbs all of the right conditions, but are not isolated from you.
Whichever way you go you now know that you can grow herbs in the winter by giving them the environment they need to grow.
I know that i will be expanding my indoor garden this year with a grow tent, maybe a small one to try out before increasing the size.
Let me know what and when you are starting to grow.
Thanks for reading
I have been growing plants hydroponically since 2009. For years before that i was reading books and looking at systems and saying ...no way...
But once i had taken the plunge with the tomatoes outside, then there was no stopping me.
I tried out most of the systems and started to refine them, getting the plants to grow more efficiently.
Now I am more interested in indoor hydroponics and the challenges it presents. Being able to control the environment, feeding the correct nutrients and giving the correct length and type of lighting....