Softwood cuttings can be started this month. Before you take the cuttings, closely examine the plants. Some may be too woody or brittle. Take cuttings only from stems that are slightly flexible. Make sure the shoots are firm and green at the base, but soft and pliable at the top.
Remove the cuttings with a sharp knife or pruners. The cuttings should be 4 to 6 inches long. Cut right below a node, where the leaf joins the stem.
Insert the cuttings into pots, planter, peat cups or trays filled with moist compost or a complete seed starter mix. Firm the soil gently around each cutting. Label the cuttings – name/date. Place the cuttings in the greenhouse, cold frame, or a sunny windowsill. Mist the cuttings daily to keep the soil moist and to create a humid environment around the cuttings.
In about 6 to 8 weeks you’ll notice new growth. You can then pot the herb cuttings into larger containers or planters. Overwinter the new herb plants in a sheltered place.
Now would be a good time to divide large clumps of soapwort, elecampane, tarragon, bergamot, fennel, lovage, thyme, tansy, and yarrow. Divide the clumps in 3 sections, spacing them out in other parts of the garden, or consider sharing them with herb loving friends.
Transplant summer grown parsley, sage, lavender, rosemary, and other herbs into the herb beds or large planters. Water well, and use a light mulch to help hold in moisture and get the plants off to a healthy start before winter sets in.
Prepare a new herb bed for next year. Till or turn over the area with a spade and rake it smooth. Scatter seed heads of dill for next spring. If left undisturbed, the dill seed will “self sow” and sprout next spring. You may also do the same with parsley, angelica and arugula. Don’t cover the seed. Mark the area with tags or labels so you’ll know what’s planted there.
Begin to bring in container grown herbs into cold frames, side porch, greenhouse. Check for insects, grubs, caterpillars. Remove any webs, as this indicates the presence of insects preparing to overwinter on the plants. Top dress each herb plant with a 2″ layer of fresh potting soil, spread this out evenly around the surface of the growing plants. Water the herbs. Don’t fertilize or add any plant foods. Wipe the containers/pots, with a damp rag and make sure the bottom of the planters are free from soil and insects before bringing them in.
Harvest lemon balm now. Cut the plants low to the ground or beds, and hang the stems to dry. Allow 2 to 3 weeks for the lemon balm to dry completely.
Sort through your herb seeds and make notes of what grew well and what did not. Order early from the spring herb catalogs.
Consider adding a new herb or two to the landscape in 2014.
Happy Herb Gardening.
~ Meadow Walker
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