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Vermont Garden Journal: How To Grow Indoor Herbs This Winter

Growing herbs indoors not only provides ingredients for cooking, but also emotional and psychological relief from Winter's gloom.

The frosts have come and the gardens are almost finished, but that doesn't mean you have to give up the taste of fresh herbs all winter. Many herbs can be grown indoors throughout the winter. These provide not only fresh ingredients for cooking, but emotional and psychological relief from the cold temperatures, short days, gray skies and eventual snow and ice. Here's what to grow and how.

First, check out the potential growing spots. In our climate, a South facing window in winter is best. However, because of the short, cloudy days, you may need supplemental light. That means grow light kits. I have friends that have used desktop-sized hydroponic systems, such as Aerogrow. These feature grow lights and plant plugs. For bigger operations, look for a tiered, grow light set up that features full spectrum LED lights.

But what plants to grow? You can bring in outdoor perennial herbs such as oregano, thyme and mint. Cut back the foliage to fit the area and watch for any hitchhiking insects. They should start regrowing with the warm, indoor temperatures. Other herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley and cilantro, grow quickly from seed into usable herb plants. Some, such as basil and cilantro, may not last too long indoors, but will give those special meals a boost of freshness. Sow successive plantings of these herbs for a supply throughout the winter. Others, such as parsley and chives, should last into spring.

Keep the herbs growing in a warm room, avoiding cold drafts from windows and doors. Leave the grow lights on 14 hours a day using a timer. Keep the soil most, but not wet. Herbs growing in a cool windows may become leggy during the dark months from November through January. Cut back stems and use as needed. By February, the new growth will be stockier.

Now for this week's tip: bring in hoses now and drain the water from them before storing in winter. Frozen water expands and can create cracks in the hose.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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