Best herbs to grow in the fall
Posted by American Homes 4 Rent Team
9m read time
Nov 2, 2021
Planting a kitchen herb garden may seem like an activity best suited for spring. But many varieties actually thrive in cooler temperatures, making fall a great time to start growing. Plus, when you incorporate perennial herbs into your indoor garden, you’ll help them get a jump start for next season compared to waiting until after winter. Not sure how to get started? Check out these tips and explore our list of the best herbs to plant in fall.
How to create a fall herb garden
Before you start sourcing herb plants and seeds, have a plan for how to grow them.
Check your growing zone
There are many herbs that are fall and winter hardy, up to a certain temperature. Check your gardening zone online, which helps you quickly identify plants that are appropriate for your area. Lower zones have colder winter temperatures and shorter growing seasons, while higher zones are warmer with longer growing seasons. Many areas have shifted into warmer zones as temperatures rise due to global warming so double check even if you’re a seasoned gardener — you may be able to swing some new varieties.
Determine your average first frost date
Next, figure out your average first frost date. You can find this information with a quick internet search. When an herb comes with instructions to plant it a certain number of weeks before your first frost, you simply count back from that day. For instance, if your area’s average first frost is November 15 and the instructions say to plant seeds six weeks earlier, you know to plant around the beginning of October.
Find the sunniest spots
Most herbs require full sun, especially in the cool months when the days grow shorter. Identify what areas of your yard get the best light to locate your plant pots or container garden. Remember that some spots may seem sunny if leaves fall off a tree, but could get shady in the spring and summer months.
Determine how to grow your herbs
Choose how you want to grow your herbs. Most work well in raised beds and containers. You can even grow smaller herbs in an indoor herb garden. If you don’t have a spot that gets full sun for at least six hours, grow herbs in pots so you can move the containers around to follow the light throughout the day.
Annual herbs to plant in fall
Annual herbs only last for one growing season before going to seed and completely dying back. While the first frost of the year is often the death blow for annuals, some hardy herb varieties can survive and even thrive during a cold snap.
If you’re growing in an indoor herb garden, annual herbs work well because they usually don’t grow as large as perennials.
Here are three fall and winter herbs to experiment with in your garden this season.
Cilantro can be a polarizing herb: people either love it or hate it (interestingly, the way you perceive the taste of cilantro depends on your genetics). If you fall into the former category, early fall is the perfect time to sow a fresh batch. Not only do cilantro plants dislike the heat of summer, they’re also prone to quickly bolting, significantly reducing your harvest window.
Cool temperatures slow the growth of cilantro, giving you more time to pick from the plant. Its ideal temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can survive lows down to 10 degrees.
Plant in full sun.
Parsley is a versatile herb that’s called for in recipes from a variety of cuisines. Soak seeds the night before you plan to plant in order to speed up the germination process. The ideal fall time to get those seeds in soil is a few weeks before your first frost date. Alternatively, you can sow seeds in the middle of winter to have them crop up in the spring.
Rather than an annual, parsley is actually a biennial. It grows leaves the first year, then sets seed the second year. But you can simply grow it as an annual if you don't want to take up space just to save the seeds.
Like cilantro, parsley prefers full sun.
Chervil is also known as French parsley and has a slight licorice flavor to it. It’s hardy up to zone 3 and actually may not perform well in the warmest zones, particularly in summer months. Chervil doesn’t like to be transplanted, so it’s best to sow directly from seed. Get started in the late fall and you’ll have a full crop ready by early spring.
Alternatively, try succession growing this herb indoors in batches as a microgreen. You can harvest a tray of planted seeds within a few weeks. Rotate planting one tray per week to have a continual supply of chervil microgreens.
Chervil also requires full sun.
Perennial fall herbs to grow
Perennial plants survive for several years, often dying back in the winter and rebounding in the spring. They’ll also grow larger over time. Depending on the plant, they may even spread, allowing you to divide plants and spread them throughout your garden or give away to your neighbors.
Once established, perennial herbs are often hardier than annuals. Additionally, planting them in the fall gets their roots established so they’ll get a head start on spring growth.
Chives offer a mild onion flavor while also producing vibrant edible blooms that make an Instagram-worthy salad garnish. You’ll need to start seeds in early spring, but you can plant clumps of chives in the fall. That helps you get those beautiful blooms faster, especially since this plant loves cool weather.
Not only are chives easy to find at your local garden center, they’re also very shareable. Ask garden friends if they have any clumps to divide, then repay the favor once your own chives have grown in the years that follow.
Sage is one of the most popular fall spices and herbs because it pairs with so many popular cool weather foods, like sausage, turkey and winter squash. Sow seeds indoors during the winter months to get ready for spring planting.
Another option is to transplant plants when temperatures start to drop after the peak heat of summer. Once you establish one plant, take cuttings in the following spring to create even more sage plants. Check individual varieties for winter hardiness levels, but most sage plants can survive the cold months in zones 5 or warmer.
The scent of lavender is transporting and can make you feel like you’re strolling through Southern France. Fall is a great time to plant, but lavender does need several weeks to get established before the first frost hits. If you’re going to transplant in autumn, make sure it’s done at least two months before freeze. For some areas, this might mean a late summer planting instead.
If you already have lavender established, consider taking cuttings in the fall. Plant each one in a small pot and keep it in a frost-free spot, whether it’s on a kitchen window sill or in an insulated garage. You’ll have more (and free!) plants ready by early spring.
Mint is an aggressive grower and can be successfully transplanted during the fall months. Most varieties are winter hardy up to zone 3. A word of caution, however: keep this fast-grower in its own container, as it will quickly take over as much room as you give it and even choke out other plants growing nearby.
Frequent harvesting promotes new growth once established. If you don’t use fresh mint as you pick it, simply dry it and steep in water to enjoy as a warm herbal tea.
Successfully growing rosemary during fall and winter largely depends on the variety. If your area regularly receives hard frosts, be sure to find a specialty variety that can withstand those low temperatures. Otherwise, keep rosemary in pots that you can bring inside once freezing temperatures become the norm. Avoid bringing unwanted bugs into your home by spraying your rosemary plants with an organic insecticide a few times in the weeks leading up to your first frost.
Rosemary acts as a much more low maintenance plant in milder climates because you can simply plant it and watch it continue to grow each year. This tasty herb works well in both warm and cool weather dishes. But avoid over-picking throughout the year. Otherwise, you could accidentally kill the entire plant.
Bonus: 3 medicinal herbs to plant in fall
Herbal supplements are increasingly popular to use as immunity support and treating specific ailments. But those teas and pills can add up quickly, especially if you add a few into your daily supplement routine. Become your own supplier by starting your own medicinal herb garden. There are several medicinal herbs to plant in fall, giving you a healthy crop by the time spring rolls around. Here are some of our favorites.
Echinacea, also called coneflower, is widely used for immunity purposes and may contribute to reducing cold and flu symptoms. It’s known as an immune booster and can be used in a variety of forms, including teas, tinctures and pills. The entire plant is used in these herbal concoctions, including the roots.
Fall is the ideal time to sow echinacea seeds or plant transplants. You can choose a location that gets either full or partial sun. Echinacea grows in clumps, so as the plant spreads, you can divide it and share or plant in new pots or containers in your garden. When the plant dies back over winter, leave the cone heads as food for birds like cardinals, blue jays and goldfinches. Then cut back the plant in late winter and early spring as other food sources become available for your feathered friends.
Comfrey has been known to reduce inflammation and maintain healthy skin through external ointments. However, the leaves do contain toxins that make it dangerous to ingest or use on broken skin. Definitely do your research and consult a professional before using comfrey for any type of medicinal use.
But comfrey comes with another benefit — it makes a wonderful fertilizer thanks to the plant’s deep root system that’s able to extract more nutrients. Composted comfrey contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Comfrey can be planted in fall, spring or summer. This perennial’s growth cycle starts in the spring, so fall planting gives you that extra head start.
You may think of dandelion as an annoying weed, but this plant actually comes with a lot of nutritional and medicinal features. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. The plant's leaves can be used just like other greens in a salad or smoothie and the roots can be harvested to make tea.
Dandelions can be grown in sun or shade and are very cold hardy, usually up to zone 3. Prepare your seeds by leaving them in the refrigerator for a week before planting; this gives them a boost in the germination process. Dandelion seeds do need light to germinate, so lightly sprinkle them on top of the soil when you plant them. You can harvest the leaves as baby greens or wait until the plant is fully grown.
Fall doesn’t mean the end of the garden season; for many herbs, it’s just the beginning. Pop a few plants or seeds in some containers to start enjoying some herbs through early winter (or later if you live in a warmer climate). And you’ll definitely thank yourself later when your fall-planted herbs serve as a first sign of spring.
*This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider or licensed physician before beginning an exercise program or nutritional regimen.
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