By Jennifer Poindexter
Wouldn’t it be great to have an herb in your garden which produced all year long? If you think so, consider growing winter savory. In most climates, it will produce a harvest every month of the year. But besides just using winter savory for culinary purposes, it’s also wonderful as a home remedy for mild stomach ailments and the common cold, too.
Winter savory can be a hidden gem in your garden. Here’s what you must know to successfully grow it:
Growing Conditions for Winter Savory
Winter savory is a perennial herb which grows in planting zones five and higher. Since it’s a perennial, when planting, it’s a good idea to place the herb in a perennial bed or another area where it can grow without being disturbed.
This is an evergreen plant that will grow to be a foot tall and a foot wide. It makes an excellent border plant for your garden and is also a great companion for beans and roses.
Winter savory should be grown where it receives full sun and is surrounded by well-draining soil. Provide these few basic needs, and you should have no trouble raising winter savory.
How to Plant Winter Savory
There are a variety of ways to grow winter savory and keep it returning for years to come. The first method for growing this herb is starting the seedlings indoors.
Begin the seed-starting process six weeks before the last expected frost date. Place nutrient-rich soil in a grow tray. Add two seeds per cell of the tray in case some seeds fail to germinate. Germination takes approximately 14 days.
Don’t cover the seeds with soil because they require light to germinate properly. Keep the soil moist while the seeds are sprouting.
As the seedlings develop, keep an eye on the leaves. When each plant has four leaves, you’ll know it’s time to move the seedlings outdoors.
Be sure to harden them off before transplant. This can help deter the plants from going into shock. The soil should be warm and workable as well. When transplanting, place the seedlings a foot apart in each row.
The next method for growing winter savory is by direct sowing the seeds into your garden. Wait until all threat of frost has passed and sow the seeds a foot apart from each other.
You can also sow two to three seeds next to each other as an insurance policy for failed germination. After the seeds sprout, thin them out to where there’s a foot of space between each seedling.
When placing the seeds in the garden, leave them uncovered to make sure they receive the necessary light for germination.
Another option for growing winter savory is via cuttings. If you have an established winter savory plant, remove pieces of new growth from the herb.
Make sure the bottom set of leaves are removed to expose the stem of the cutting. Place it in a pot with moist sand. While the cutting sits in the pot, it should form roots.
Once the roots are developed, transplant the seedling into a container or the provided space in your garden.
The final way you can plant winter savory in your garden is by division. If you have larger, well-established plants, they should be divided when they become too large or begin to look unhealthy.
Dig the plant up from the earth and check for roots which may be bound together. If the plant has bound roots, remove approximately 1/3 of them to make the mass easier to work with.
Divide the remaining root ball into quarters. Each root ball should have a piece of healthy root and a portion of the plant with green leaves to be viable.
Once the viable sections are created, transplant the root portion into the allotted garden space. The plant should become established with time and begin producing like the mature plant it came from.
As you can tell, winter savory is an easy herb to get along with. It can be grown using a variety of methods, and once started, there should never be a shortage of it in the garden.
Caring for Winter Savory
Winter savory is in your garden and seems to be growing well. How do you keep things moving in this direction?
It’s quite simple. Provide winter savory with basic care, and the plant should continue to thrive. Water is one of the main ingredients to caring for winter savory properly.
The plants should be watered regularly, using the deep watering method. Don’t water a little every day. Instead, water for longer periods fewer days of the week.
This is to make sure the plant is watered all the way down to the roots. If you’re wondering if the plant needs more water, try the knuckle test.
Stick your finger into the soil next to the plant. If the dirt is damp to your first knuckle, the plant doesn’t need more water.
If the plant is dry to the first knuckle, it’s time for another deep watering session.
Pruning is another big-ticket item on winter savory’s “care list.” Pruning the herb will encourage new growth, but it also prevents the plant from becoming old and woody in appearance.
The herb should be pruned by removing 1/3 of the plant in early spring.
It’s also important to note that you should propagate new winter savory plants on occasion because plants grown in the ground should be replaced every four years. If you grow winter savory in a container, it should be replaced every two years.
When caring for a plant, we frequently think of all the things we should do. In this case, it’s time to focus on something you shouldn’t do. Winter savory should never be fertilized.
This may sound odd, but winter savory doesn’t need it. In fact, if you fertilize the herb, it can disrupt the flavor of your harvest.
Be sure the soil is full of nutrients and add compost around the plant each spring. Otherwise, don’t add anything to it. The herb is happy as is.
By providing basic care to winter savory plants, they should prosper in your garden for the foreseeable future.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Winter Savory
Don’t you love growing low-maintenance plants? Winter savory falls into this category. When raising this herb, you’ll be thrilled to know it isn’t prone to any diseases and only is known to have a problem with a couple of pests.
The pests you should be aware of when growing this herb are leaf hoppers and spider mites. They will suck the sap from your plants leaving them discolored and damaged.
Though leaf hoppers come in a variety of colors, you’ll notice them because when they are startled, the pests begin to hop and fly about.
To get rid of these pests, spray your plants with insecticidal soap or sprinkle them with diatomaceous earth. You can also put row covers over your plants to protect them.
Spider mites are sneaky little creatures. Many times, you won’t even realize you have them until you see webs forming between your plants. Use insecticidal soap if you fear they’re infested with this pest.
Another option is to spray the plants with water. This will dislodge any webs the spider mites may have built. It should remove the insects as well.
If you can avoid these two pests, your winter savory should be safe in its designated grow space.
How to Harvest Winter Savory
Harvesting winter savory is a breeze. For starters, there is no set time you must harvest the herb. It can be picked year-round. The important part of harvesting is to make sure you don’t pick over half of one stalk at a time. This is to ensure regrowth can still occur.
If you want tender, young herbs they should be picked in the spring. This is the time when the plant is waking up from dormancy and is beginning to produce new growth.
However, you can still harvest over the winter months while the plant is dormant. The harvest will consist of older leaves because the plant doesn’t produce new growth over winter. This is a drawback for some people.
The herb can be used fresh or dry. If using the herb fresh, it can be stored in your refrigerator for up to ten days. You can also store the harvest in a container of water on your counter.
Place it out of direct sunlight until you’re ready to use it. This helps maintain the integrity of the harvest.
Herbs don’t have to be complicated. There are many choices that can add beauty and variety to your grow space.
Winter savory is one of these options. It requires little care but provides a harvest year-round making it a wonderful addition for most gardens.