Published on 09/16/96

Bring Your Fall Herb Garden Indoors

As summer fades to fall, don't let your garden just wither away. Bring a bit of sun inside.

"A lot of the herbs from summer gardens can be brought inside for the winter if you have a nice sunny space," said Wayne McLaurin, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

"All you have to do is put them in a sunny location outside until near frost. Then you can bring them inside," he said. "Just take them up out of the ground, put them in a good-size pot, put them in a sunny location and hope for the best."

It's crucial to dig a good root system to support the plant. Some herbs, such as like chives, may need to be trimmed back to overcome the shock of digging.

In his own experience, McLaurin has found basil to do fair inside. Chives do better than almost any other, and he's had success with rosemary.

"Thyme will do it, but you have to be careful to not overwater or get it too dry," he said.

"Be careful when bringing any plant inside," McLaurin warned. "Outside, many are in 100 percent humidity, which they like. When you bring them inside, 100 percent humidity is uncomfortable to you."

Too little humidity stresses houseplants and will dry them out.

Once you transplant your herbs to a pot and find a sunny spot inside for them, fertilize them as you would any other houseplant.

"Once every four to five weeks or so is enough," McLaurin said. "Don't fertilize too heavy because they won't grow a lot in the house."

When spring arrives, just move your herbs back outside.

"Many people prefer to containerize herbs and bring the container in and out," he said. "Use about a 12-inch-diameter pot for moving in and out."

If you use a smaller container, be much more judicious in watering.

"The larger container is good for the gardener of least resistance," McLaurin joked.

Remember that most herbs are Mediterranean in origin. They're used to dry, well-drained soil.

"When you bring them inside, consider drainage," McLaurin said. "They're very tender plants but with care most herbs can be overwintered."

He counts rosemary among the hardier herbs, which accounts for its easy transfer to inside growing.

"I also have a bay tree I've brought in and out for four or five years," he said.

"It's really nice to have them inside in the winter," McLaurin said. "You can even grow some of the mints, and they won't take over your floor! It's nice to pass by them and remember there will be a spring shortly."

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.