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Virginia Cooperative Extension

Herb Supplement - A Guide to Growing and Using Herbs
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Fall in the Herb Garden

A Time for Harvesting
Welcome HERB gardeners! This quarterly supplement to the monthly post, Between the Rows - A Guide to Vegetable Gardening, provides additional information on growing and using garden herbs. VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future issues. Missed out on past issues? You can get them all here.
Herb Supplement
Fall To Do List
  • Aggressively prune back some herb plants (basil, sage, organ, marjoram, thyme, parsley) to try to get a bit of last regrowth before the first freeze 
  • Harvest late season herbs and peppers
  • Freeze peppers and lemongrass to use later
  • Harvest and dry culinary herbs, such as sage, lavender, bay, rosemary, and Vietnamese coriander, as eel as other types of herbs for teas (mints and camomile)
  • Keep a close watch on saffron crocus flowers to harvest blooms at their peak (and to remove the burnt-orange stigmas)
  • Plant garlic, onion, and shallots (mid-late October)
  • Harvest horseradish once soil temperatures cool in late-Fall or Winter (or early Spring)
  • Plant seed outdoors for some cold-tolerant herbs (such as arugula, mints, cilantro, dill) under protective cover for a late season continued harvest or for next Spring
  • Divide and propagate herbs for next year either by separating runner herbs or through stem and root cuttings 
  • Cleanup and put herb garden to bed
  • Mulch mint containers and other overwintering hardier herbs (sage, tarragon, rosemary, bay); protect plants by keeping them out of windy, open areas 
  • Bring indoors perennial herbs that need extra protection overwinter and allow to go dormant (and avoid over-watering)
  • Collect and store seed from spent plants to sow next year
  • Grow some herbs indoors for Winter use, such as oregano, parsley, dill, and chives
  • Collect pruned branches, such as rosemary and lavender, for use in making an herbal wreath or other seasonal projects, such as potpourri or herb jellies
Plant, Pest or Other Garden Questions?

Contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk

Knowledgeable Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteers are available to answer questions Monday-Friday from 9am to noon.
General information covered in Between the Rows vegetable garden posts on putting the garden to bed for the Winter are similar to those for an herb garden. (See September's post and previous end-of-year posts.)

Continue to dry and freeze herbs for use overwinter. The Summer herb post has information and links to drying and freezing herbs. Many recipes for pickled chow-chow make use of fresh horseradish, bay leaf, and other herbs. You can also use dried herbs to make herb-infused vinegar and/or oils for use as a salad dressing or for flavoring in other food recipes.

  • Vinegar or oil herb-infusions. Fill a sterilized jar about one-fifth filled with dried herbseither singly or in combinationfinely chopped and ground, or powdered. Do not use fresh herbs, as these tend to spoil. Fill the jar, covering the herbs, with vinegar (usually raw apple cider vinegar) or your favorite oil (such as olive oil or other tree nut oil, such as almond oil or hemp oil). Cover tightly and allow to extract for up to two weeks in a cool, dark place, checking daily. After two weeks, strain out the solids using a cheesecloth into a new sterile jar and let sit over night to settle any additional solids. Restrain and pour into a container and use within six months for infused vinegar. Infused oils may need to be refrigerated, depending on the type of oil used.

Fall maintenance chores in the herb garden include: harvesting and storing herbs for use overwinter; pruning back and removing spent/diseased plant material; preparing herbs to maximize their winter survival (including bringing some tender herbs to overwinter or allow to go dormant indoors); and preparing new planting beds for next year. Now is also a good time to review this year’s successes and failures. Other general garden chores include end‐of‐season tool maintenance.

Some herbs can be grown in containers and brought inside in winter (e.g., Bush basil, sage, winter savory, parsley, chives and some oregano and thyme varieties) but will need sunlight from a South- or West-facing window. Make sure not to over-water! Let the soil fully dry out before watering deeply.

To learn more about growing and using herbs, see the Herb Society of America's website. For more direct and local educational activities, contact members or attend events hosted by the Potomac Unit society chapter.

Fun Ways to Use Herbs

Herbal Tea
Make using fresh herbs during the season, but dry and crush for use overwinter—chamomile, holy basil, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemongrass, mints (spearmint and peppermint), nettle leaf, passionflower leaf, rosemary, sages, thyme, and violet flower/leaf. Add other fresh root herbs such as ginger or turmeric, spices, and fresh citrus peel. Burdock and dandelion root are also used for making teas. Stevia leaves may be used as an alternative plant-based sweetener. Some common herbal tea combinations include:
  • mint, sage, rosemary
  • thyme, honey (cinnamon optional)
  • lemon verbena, turmeric, ginger, and lemon rind
  • lavender and lemon balm
  • holy basil and chamomile
Herbs de Provence 
Mix equal parts dried thyme, basil, rosemary, fennel, and culinary lavender. Sprinkle over dishes or rub into meat or chicken (with olive oil, pepper, and salt) before cooking.

(Non-basil) Pesto
There are many alternatives to Italian basil pesto using a range of f
resh leafy herbs—any variety of sage, mint, lemon balm, nettle, shiso/perilla, or other types of leafy herbs in the garden but also edible weeds. Using a standard pesto recipe (olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese) or a modified recipe using alternative oils and tree nuts or seed (e.g., sesame oil with crushed pumpkin seeds or pistachios, or other oil/seed variations).

Fire Cider (adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s free recipe)
½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
½ cup fresh chopped onions
¼ cup chopped garlic
¼ cup grated ginger
Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper ‘to taste’ (whole or powdered)
Optional ingredients: turmeric, cinnamon, Echinacea.

Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least 3-4 inches. Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid. Place jar in a warm place and shake daily to help maceration process. After 3-4 weeks, strain out herbs and reserve liquid. Add honey ‘to taste’ (warm honey so it mixes in well). Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. Refrigerate. Take a few tablespoons daily as a tonic.
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