Here is the handout from the talk I gave on Fall and Winter Herb Gardening last Saturday at Harvest Day in Fair Oaks. Some people didn’t receive the handout so I promised it would show up on our website, so, here it is! It was a pleasure speaking for the group, we are a lucky gardening community to have so many great local resources.
Fall and Winter Herb Gardening Basics
Site Selection and Soil Preparation: Any well drained sunny site will work for herbs. Generally herbs are not particular about soil type so long as it drains well. Poor soils(low fertility) tend to produce highly aromatic foliage, while richer soils produce less aromatic, but more abundant foliage. All soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost, manure or peatmoss, dug in to a depth of at least 8 inches. Remove all weeds and debris from the surface.
Although most herbs grow in full sun many will adapt well to partial sun sites as well. Some shade tolerant herbs such as chervil, curly parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, and sweet woodruff will thrive in partial shade.
Planting the Garden: The usual planting time is in the spring after the danger of frost is past. This is particularly true of the annual herbs such as basil and parsley. But many popular herbs are hardy perennials and can be planted anytime during the growing season, especially in the fall in mild California climate. Develop a layout for the herb garden, keeping in mind the spreading habits of some herbs and the vertical growth of others. Set out herbs in the garden where they are to be planted according to your plan and begin planting. Starting with the first plant, make a hole in the garden soil large enough to accommodate the rootball, plus a bit more in diameter. Add slow release organic fertilizer, then plant the herb, with the stem no deeper into the soil than the existing depth. Plant the plant so water drains away from the main stem. Water thoroughly, fertilizing lightly with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion if you did not add a dry fertilizer.
Watering: Frequent, light spraying is not a good way to water. It is better to water, either with a sprinkler or with soaker hoses or drip, less frequently but thoroughly, so that the water penetrates deeply. Water should penetrate 8-12 inches to reach roots.
Harvesting: Annual herbs such as basil and parsley should be harvested frequently to maintain the bushiness of the plants and prevent them from flowering. Perennial culinary herbs have flowers that taste great, so be sure to eat the flowers as well as the foliage! Harvest leaves for drying by cutting small bunches, placing in rubber bands or lying flat on a screen and air drying in a dry shady location for 3 x96 7 days, until dry.
Essential Plants for Your Fall/Winter Kitchen Garden
Parsley x96 Biennial. Needs more water and more fertilizer. Very nutritious.
Cilantro/Vietnamese Coriander x96 Flavor used in many of the worldx92s cuisines. Cilantro is a cool weather annual, grow in spring and fall. Vietnamese coriander is a hardy herbaceous perennial to grow in partial shade.
Chives/Garlic Chives x96 Herbaceous perennial. Great for edible flowers. Great for containers, indoors, sun or part shade, very adaptable. Harvest low to maintain good growth.
Rosemary x96 (Rosmarinus officinalis). Sun/part shade. Evergreen. Spicy piny flavor, easy to grow. Important medicinal plant, delicious not just for entrees, but salads, soups, even desserts.
Thyme x96 English or French (T. vulgaris), Lemon (T. x citriodorus), Caraway (T. herba-barona). Sun/part shade perennial, tends to be short lived (2-4 years). Excellent plant for containers, windowsills. Average watering to fairly dry conditions.
Sage x96 (Salvia officinalis). Over 750 species, but only one is considered the best for culinary. Sun, needs dry conditions to thrive. Can be long lived perennial. Needs excellent drainage. Prune heavily in early spring to renew growth.
Lemon Verbena x96 (Aloysia triphylla ) x96 Deciduous. Sun/part shade. 3-6 feet, excellent for teas, medicinal, desserts. Important plant for fragrance gardens. Prune to 1 ft tall in early spring.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)/Marjoram (Origanum majorana). Sun. Herbaceous or evergreen. Oregano is a flavor, not a plant! Try the spicy Greek or Mexican oregano for spicy foods, Italian oregano for spaghetti and red sauces. Italian oregano is the best for winter growing, and Dwarf Greek oregano is a great selection for culinary groundcover.
Winter Savory (Satureja Montana)/Trailing Savory (Satureja reptans). Sun. Evergreen, growing to 8 inches. Leaves taste like spicy, complex pepper. Easy to grow in containers, as a short hedge, on the windowsill. Trailing savory is a fast growing evergreen groundcover that is durable, delicious and can be used year round.
Zataar – Several different herbs, or even a mixture of herbs and seeds, depending on what Middle Eastern cuisine you are talking about. We love Thymbra spicata, a short growing spicy flavored evergreen. Satureja thymbra is another evergreen choice, with a bit more mint flavor.
Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida) – Mexican tarragon is easy to grow, usually overwintering in our climate as an evergreen.