Harvest Herbs Before Frost
Before a hard freeze or frost comes to your area, harvest the stems of the annual or perennial herbs you want to use, freeze, or dry.
Clean up beds
Begin fall cleanup by gathering fallen leaves to add them to your compost pile. After the first frost, your annual herbs—such as the lovely, leafy basils—will be reduced to a slimy black mess. Pull out frost-damaged plants and add them to the compost, too. Avoid composting any leaves that show signs of disease. Empty out containers of annual herbs and compost the soil and foliage.
Move Plants Inside
Many herbs that excel outdoors can make the transition to houseplants. Although the indoor “climate” differs dramatically from the one outdoors, some herbs grow indoors with a little help. Leave annuals outdoors. For use in foods, it makes better sense to dry or freeze annual herbs. Herbs that transition to indoor conditions best include chives, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and mint.
Water Perennial Herbs
Many perennials expand their root growth during fall’s cooler weather, so watering throughout autumn is important to your herb plants’ health. Strong root systems help protect the plant through winter’s freeze-thaw cycles, which can heave weaker perennials from the soil.
Give perennial herbs an end-of-season nutrition boost by adding a thick layer of compost around the bases of the plants. After frost, cut back leafy herbs such as catmint and bee balm. Leave herbs with seed heads intact for winter interest or to feed overwintering birds. For example, poppy, yarrow, and calendula seeds are sold in commercial birdseed mixes, so why not leave them in the garden for a natural snack?
Use season extending row covers to protect hardy herbs such as parsley from frosts. Cover plants on cold nights and continue to use leafy herbs throughout fall and into winter.
In the autumn herb garden, growth slows, seedpods thicken, and the time comes to prepare the garden for the following year and completing the growing season. Here’s what needs to be done.