Edible Gardening

Overwinter Lemongrass - Nick's Garden Center

Tips for Overwintering Herbs Indoors

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Overwintering is a common practice in protecting cherished herbs from freezing temperatures. The gardening practice involves shielding plants by either relocating them indoors or wrapping them. One can also overwinter their herbs by setting up a greenhouse in their garden.

While many ways to shield plants from freezing temperatures exist, overwintering herbs indoors is best. This overwintering practice uses spare space in your home to shield herbs. It is simple and less costly if you have just a few herbs to overwinter.

Steps to Overwinter Herbs Indoors

Indoor overwintering is more than just relocating herbs to a basement, garage, or spare room. Rather, the task involves providing a conducive environment so the herbs can thrive. Otherwise, the herbs could perish from issues like poor lighting.

The following best practices can maximize the chances of herbs surviving indoors during winter.

1.     Choose the right herbs.

Not all herbs can thrive indoors. For this reason, before getting any herb indoors, ensure it can adapt to the indoor climate. Top herbs that do well indoors include rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Other herb varieties like basil, cilantro, and dill will struggle indoors.

2.     Bring Your Herbs Indoors before the First Frost

Even the slightest frost can cause irreparable damage to the leaves and stems of herbs. For this reason, you should get the plants indoors before the first frost. You can use Denver’s local weather predictions to determine when frost is likely to begin falling.

3.     Inspect Your Plants for Pests and Diseases

As a rule of thumb, inspect your herbs for signs of disease and pests before overwintering them indoors. Look for signs of wilting, discoloration, and unusual spots to establish the possibility of disease. For pests, check for visible insects or eggs.

If you detect signs of disease or pests, treat the plant before bringing it indoors. Treating diseases and pests beforehand ensures you’re not introducing potential threats to your indoor gardening space.

4.     Repot Your Herbs Into Pots That are at Least One Size Larger Than Their Current Pots

When overwintering potted herbs, repot them into one size larger pots. The large pot will provide enough space for roots to grow and expand. As a result, the herbs will grow healthier. In addition to the large pot, use a well-draining potting mix instead of regular soil. Well-draining potting mix offers better aeration, reducing the risk of root rot.

5.     Place Your Herbs in a Sunny Spot

Like any plant, herbs need adequate sunlight for photosynthesis. As such, when overwintering indoors, place the plants in a place with enough sunlight. Such a place could be near windows, balconies, or a patio. As an alternative, you can use a grow light to mimic sunlight.

6.     Water Your Herbs Regularly

Herbs need adequate water to thrive indoors. The water supports nutrient uptake and optimal physiological function. Typically, you should water the herbs once the top two inches of soil dry out. Avoid overwatering since it can lead to root rot, wilting, and yellowing of leaves.

7.     Fertilize Your Herbs Every Few Weeks

Besides watering, fertilize the overwintered herbs after every few weeks. While any fertilizer could be appropriate, use a complete fertilizer. This fertilizer will nourish the herbs with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Some complete fertilizers contain additional nutrients like calcium, manganese, and boron.

8.     Harvest Your Herbs Regularly to Encourage New Growth

Regular harvesting stimulates the production of fresh foliage, promoting a bushier growth habit. Moreover, harvesting prevents your herbs from becoming overly tall. When harvesting, use sharp scissors or pruning shears to minimize damage.

Tips for Overwintering Herbs Indoors

Overwintering plants indoors demands constant attention and care. That’s the only way to ensure your herbs maintain robust growth, increased disease resistance, and enhanced productivity. Assuming it is your first time overwintering, use the following checklist to keep your plants in shape.

  1.     Mist your herbs regularly to increase humidity
  2.     Group similar plants together to create their microclimate
  3.     Be careful not to overwater your herbs. Overwatering can cause death for overwintered herbs
  4.     Fertilize your herbs regularly to help them stay healthy
  5.     Harvest your herbs to encourage new growth

 What herbs are easy to overwinter indoors?

  • Bay laurel
  • Chives
  • Lemongrass
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

  What herbs are difficult to overwinter indoors?

  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Pineapple sage
  • Parsley
  • Borage

Learn More About Overwintering Herbs Indoors From Nick’s Garden

Since each herb is different, you should get a customized overwintering plan to maximize chances of your herbs surviving winter. Over the past 30 years, Nick’s Garden Center has helped Denver residents do gardening with success. We can help you too to overwinter your herbs with efficiency.

Contact us for more personalized overwintering tips.

Hardy winter herbs

Herbs You Can Plant That Will Survive the Winter

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Many gardeners assume that winter is never a good time of year to plant herbs. However, despite the freezing temperatures, you can still get a supply of fresh herbs simply by planting winter-hardy plants.

Nick’s Garden Center explains what hardy herbs are and how they’re adapted for this season. We also introduce you to the best herbs that can withstand Denver’s cold winters.

Find the right variety for your garden.

Understanding Winter-hardy Herbs

Winter-hardy herbs are a variety of plants that can thrive in winter. The herbs have special adaptations that help them thrive in harsh conditions such as frost. In particular, the winter-hardy plants have the following characteristics:

  • Small leaves
  • Waxy coating
  • Thick bark
  • Deep roots

Planning Your Winter Herb Garden

Planning is an important first step in winter gardening. It helps you take steps to protect your herbs from frost damage, root rot and general stress. So how do you plan your herb garden in the winter? Here are three crucial steps to take into account:

  1. Assess your garden’s climate zone. Climate zone assessment provides information about typical winter weather conditions in your region. This knowledge will help you select appropriate herbs for your garden.
  2. Choose the right herbs for your specific region. Not every hardy herb can thrive in your area. Therefore, shop around for winter-hardy herbs that are adapted to Denver’s winter weather.
  3. Design a layout for your winter herb garden. Before planting, create a plan based on factors, such as sun exposure, growing habits, and garden size. Use this plan to determine the number of seedlings you will need.

Top Winter-Resistant Herbs

From perennial herbs and medicinal herbs to annuals, there is a wide range of hardy plants from which to choose. Below, the garden experts at Nick’s Garden Center present the best varieties of each category.

Perennial Herbs

Perennial herbs have a lifespan of more than two years. These herb varieties provide you with fresh herbs year after year without the need for regular replanting.

Some of the best perennial herbs that are ideal for winter in Denver are:

  • Rosemary. Rosemary is a versatile, aromatic herb used for culinary and ornamental purposes. With proper care, it can live 15 – 25 years.
  • Thyme. Thyme is a low-growing shrub with a leafy, hollow stem. It is a popular spice for soups, stews and vegetables.
  • Sage. Sage boasts velvety, gray-green leaves that beautify your garden. You can also use the herb as a spice for root vegetables.
  • Lavender. The plant has slender stems with silvery green foliage. It is famous for its calming and soothing properties.

Biennial Herbs

Biennial herbs usually have a life span of two years. They complete their vegetative growth in one year and flower and set seed the next. Like perennials, biennials save you the hassle of replanting each year.

Some of the best biennial herbs for winter in Denver are:

  • Parsley. Parsley is characterized by light green, feathery leaves. Gardeners use it as a culinary herb to flavor salads and sauces.
  • Chervil. Chervil has fern-like leaves with a bright green hue. It has an anise-like flavor that goes well with omelets and seafood.
  • Angelica. Angelica has a tall stem with lobed leaves and clusters of greenish-white flowers. The herb is prized for its medicinal properties.

Cold-tolerant Annual Herbs

These herbs germinate, flower, and seed within one year. Unlike perennial and biennial herbs, annual herbs allow you to switch up your herbs each season and enjoy a variety of aromas, flavors, or therapeutic benefits.

The annual herbs that do well in Denver winters are:

  • Cilantro/Coriander. Cilantro has bright green, parsley-like leaves that add beautiful character to your garden. Aside from its beauty, you can use the plant to flavor a variety of dishes.
  • Dill. Dill has pinnate leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers. It is famous as a culinary herb used for pickling and seasoning seafood.
  • Winter Savory. Winter savory is characterized by small, glossy green leaves and a compact growth habit. It has an aromatic, peppery flavor that is excellent for stuffings and meat dishes.

Medicinal Winter Herbs

Medicinal herbs are rich in bioactive compounds like alkaloids, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. These compounds are often anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, or immune-boosting.

Winter-hardy plants with potent medicinal value include:

  • Echinacea. Echinacea has bright, daisy-like flowers with striking dark green leaves. It is a powerful immune booster.
  • Lemon Balm. Lemon balm has heart-shaped leaves with a fresh, lemony scent. Its aroma helps you calm down.
  • Peppermint. Peppermint has dark green, serrated leaves and small purple flowers. It relieves stomach ailments.

Get Your Winter-Hardy Herbs at Nick’s Garden Center

Nick’s Garden Center has been supporting Denver gardeners since 1987. We supply a wide selection of plants, including annuals, perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs. Besides selling plants, we offer expert advice to help you make the right gardening choices.

Contact us to learn more about winter-hardy herbs.

Time to Refresh Tired Containers

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Time to Refresh Tired Containers

By Jodi Torpey

Many annual plants start to look a little ragged by August—just like the gardeners who tend them. So this is a perfect time to give annual flower containers a little pick-me-up so they’ll look good until it’s time to put the garden to bed.

Here are some top tips for refreshing your annual container display:

Remove annuals that are past their prime. Some plants just fall apart in summer heat and can’t be revived to their former glory. Use a trowel to carefully lift plants from the container and toss on the compost pile.

Fill in bare spots. If containers look a little lean, add some new plants. Late season annuals will carry the garden through the fall. Look for marigolds, cosmos, zinnia or fill in with cool-season vegetables.

Replace droopy plants with ornamental grasses. Annual and perennial ornamental grasses will add some height and interest to containers until the season ends.

Pinch back spent flowers to help plants continue blooming. If stems have gotten too tall and leggy, use hand pruners to snip them back about 1/3 to ½. Plants will grow back quickly.

Remember to water according to the plant’s needs. Sometimes plants can wilt from having soil that’s too dry, but they can also wilt if they’re overwatered. Use your finger as a gauge and water deeply when the soil has dried to your second knuckle.

Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer. Whether you use Miracle Gro or an organic fertilizer, dilute according to the label instructions and water to give plants a quick boost. If you have hanging baskets or containers, use a diluted solution every watering or keep up the fertilizing every few weeks through the season.

Pinch back culinary herbs. Herbs like basil, sage and mint respond well to pruning and fertilizing, too. Be sure to use the clippings to flavor salads, make iced teas or dry to use this winter.

Keep up with the harvest. If you planted containers of cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or eggplants, be sure to clip fruits as they ripen. Plants will keep producing as long as you keep picking.

Shop the sales. Late summer is a great time to plan for next year’s garden. Stop at Nick’s for sale items that you can easily store for winter, like containers, seeds and tools. Once spring hits next year, you’ll be glad you did.

Solving Tomato Problems

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Solving Tomato Problems

By Jodi Torpey

If you’ve struggled with your tomato crop this season, raise your hand.

It’s been a tough tomato-growing year because of the long months of cool, wet weather. Tomatoes are tropical plants and they grow best with warm temperatures during the day that carry over into night.

This season tomato crops may mature later than usual, so let’s hope for a few more months of warm weather into fall. Until then, here are some common tomato problems you might see in your vegetable garden and what to do about them:

Leaf problems:

Leaves are curled with purple veins? The plant may be infested with psyllids, tiny insects that feed on the plants, causing leaves to yellow and curl. In extreme cases, psyllids can stop the plant from growing and producing fruit. Look for the pests on the underside of leaves and wash off with a blast of water from the hose or apply insecticidal soap as a control.

Missing leaves? Look for tomato hornworms, the large green caterpillars with white markings and a horn on one end. Hornworms are hard to spot, so look for large areas where leaves are missing. Pick off the pests or use a trowel to knock them into a bucket of soapy water.

Irregularly shaped watery spots on leaves? If the spots are on the younger leaves growing at the top of the plant, the likely problem is late blight. This is a fungus that infects tomato plants in the late part of summer when the weather starts to cool. Avoid late blight at planting time by spacing tomatoes as far apart as possible for good air flow, water only at soil level and removed diseased plants from the garden right away.

Fruit problems

Tan or dark soggy spots? This is blossom-end rot that can ruin tomatoes. It’s not a disease but a problem with low calcium in the soil and inconsistent soil moisture (see picture below). To prevent, keep soil evenly moist to help the plant take up calcium, especially when the weather is dry. A thick layer of organic mulch (like straw or dry shredded leaves) will help regulate soil moisture.

Cracks? Cracks usually form in tomatoes along the side starting at the stem. Cracking is usually caused by rapid growth because of wet weather followed quickly by dry weather and hot temperatures. Use a soaker hose for consistent moisture and apply more mulch.

Holes in fruit? One big hole could signal a squirrel enjoyed a bite of tomato; smaller holes may have been caused by a fruitworm that may or may not remain in the fruit. If you see only one tomato affected, remove it from the plant; if there are holes in many of the tomatoes, you may need to apply Bt. Keep in mind that worms already inside tomatoes won’t be affected.

Even if the tomato crop doesn’t measure up this season, there’s always next year!

Edible Flowers

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The Edible Flower Garden

Many of us are working on planning our gardens right now, and we’re also eating at home a lot (except for meals that we’re ording-in to support local small businesses!). We thought it would be fun to share some plants with edible flowers that you can grow at home to add flare to your cooked-at-home meals.

Any time we’re consuming flowers and plants that are not our obvious fruits and veggies, we want to be very sure we’ve identified the correct plant, so always check and double check before adding these things to your plate. After we’ve properly identified our plant, and confirmed no pesticides have been used on them, it’s time to give them a quick rinse and get creative!

Here are a few of our favorite edible flowers…

  1. Nasturtium is one of the most useful plants you can have in your garden. They are easy to grow, make a big statement with brightly colored flowers, round leaves that resemble lily pads, and trailing vines. Plus, every part of the above-ground plant is edible – leaves, flowers, and seed pods! They are also great for natural pest control. Plant these next to squash, especially, to keep the squash beetles at bay. Nasturtium flowers and leaves make a gorgeous showing in salads and add a peppery flavor.

  2. Pansies and violets are a popular flower for adding to cakes and baked goods. They can be dried or candied to add a decorative flair to your desserts, but they also look beautiful placed directly onto your dessert with no modifications. Pansies also look lovely in a salad, and can add color and decoration to home made spring rolls as well – just place the pansy face-down on the rice paper before you add filling, and when you roll it up, the pansy will be visible inside the roll.

  3. Snapdragon may not have as noticeable a flavor as other flowers, but they make a great addition to ice cubes. Place the flower in your ice cube tray and fill with water, then freeze. Any portion of the flower within the water will retain its shape and color, but any part left out might turn brown, so try to submerge the entire flower.

  4. Rose is a long-time favorite consumable flower. Roses come in many different types of scent, and therefore many different flavors. For a sweeter rose, try the Sugar Moon variety. Rose petals can be used dried or fresh. They can also be dried and used as incense or potpourri, or added fresh from the stem to water for a relaxing bath.

  5. Begonia is one of the most surprising edible flowers. Tuberous Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) have a taste similar to sour citrus candy! This author keeps begonias on her patio all summer long and snacks on them! Just pluck the petal off of the flower and nibble away for a delicious treat that’s sugar-free.

Looking for ideas on how to use these flowers? Check out our Pinterest board called “Projects and Recipes”!