Less Noise, More Green: What to do with herbs over winter

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What to do with herbs over winter

Here in Rhode Island we are in danger of our first frost this week and my attention has turned to the herbs I have growing in the garden and what to do with them over the winter.

I grow a mixture of annual and perennial herbs, mostly for cooking. The annuals are to be found in the vegetable beds, where they act as companion plants. The perennials are all in containers to keep their growth under control. Many perennial herbs can become invasive if left to grow unchecked.


Sweet Basil

Basil still growing strong at the end of October? How did this happen? We’re enjoying fresh basil with the last of the cherry tomatoes. What a treat. I have made several batches of pesto to freeze and will puree some straight with water to freeze in ice cube trays. This is a quick easy way to add flavor to winter soups and stews. This annual will be gone with the first killing frost, so the clock is ticking.

Dill Seed

My dill has been on its last legs for a while, which is how it should be. I have been collecting the seeds for seasoning this fall and winter and for pickles, next summer. I will pull the plants with in the next week.

Curly Parsley

This herb will die if left outside in freezing weather, but, if you can pot the plant and keep it in a sunny spot inside, you can enjoy fresh parsley throughout the cold months. 

German Chamomile

German Chamomile has until the first frost. The small daisy like flowers are used to make chamomile tea and are easily harvested by snipping of the heads, then storing them in a warm, ventilated spot until dry.  The heads will keep for a year. Use 1 tsp. of dried flowers per cup of water when making tea.


Garlic Chives

I have both regular and garlic chives growing this year. This plant will go dormant over winter so I cut it back now and let it remain outside. It will be one of the first plants to come back to life in the Spring.


Rosemary is not a hardy enough perennial to survive a Rhode island winter, so my pot will also winter inside. I also cut some and dry it for culinary use.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm
I grow this to dry the leaves for use in tea. A perennial through zone 5, I will cut it back, mulch around the plant and leave outside.


Technically a perennial through zone 5, I will bring this inside, also. For drying, I harvest the stems before they flower and hang up in bunches.


I have both regular and chocolate mint this year. Like the chives, this plant must be cut back and mulched before leaving outside for the winter. Hang the cuttings upside down to dry the leaves.


This plant winters well outside in zones 4-8. Take cuttings and hang for dried leaves.


Cut down, mulch and leave outside for the winter. Dry the cuttings.

In the spring, as these perennials come back to life, the trick is to repot them into larger containers, or split the plant to ensure continues healthy growth. Herbs are very low maintenance plants and with a little attention in the fall and spring can provide seasonings all year round.

See you in the garden, 



  1. Your posting just reminded me that we should start thinking about the herbs in our garden too... some of which we need to take indoors. I do appreciate your knowledge and your sharing us what you do with them:)

    1. Thank you for your comment! I tend to forget about the herbs each year as they are pretty self sufficient, but it's nice to not have to start from scratch each spring with new plants!

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