Autumn is the perfect time to sow culinary herbs to produce a winter crop because the soil is still warm and the pest and diseases that might have been present earlier in the year, such as carrot fly, have gone away. Autumn herbs will enable you to add fresh herb flavours to your winter meals, soups and salads.
Some herbs that can be sown now are coriander, winter purslane, parsley and chervil. The two methods at the end of this blog should give a good crop of leaves.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is a very useful herb for the kitchen combining well with many dishes from curries to salads. It is one plant that hates being transplanted because, if it feels threatened, it bolts and goes to seed.
Jekka's tip - Coriander is much hardier than people think. If you keep cutting it as a cut and come again crop you will be able to harvest it for most of the winter. It does die if the temperature is -8C for a week, but it will tolerate a couple of days of hard frost. When sowing in the spring wait until the soil starts to warm up and the night time temperature does not fall below 10C.
Winter Purslane (Claytonia perfoliata), also known as miner's lettuce, is a delicious salad herb. It has a crunchy texture and a wonderful flavour, it is also hugely high in vitamin C.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum French) is a very popular herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Parsley is a key ingredient in Bouquet Garni. The secret to growing Parsley successfully is to keep the temperature consistent during germination and to keep the substrate moist.
- Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is a wonderful, often forgotten, herb. Its leaves are very high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron and carotene. If you are unfamiliar with Chervil, it can be substituted for Parsley in many dishes and goes well in salads, soups or chicken and fish dishes.
Jekka's recipe for sowing herbs in winter
Below is a basic recipe for sowing winter herbs. Of the four, Coriander is the most sensitive to temperature whereas Chervil, Parsley and Winter Purslane will survive most winters. This recipe is based on Coriander, but can easily be adapted to suit them all.
- About 6-10 seeds of Coriander, Parsley or Chervil. Winter Purslane is very fine and will be quite difficult to count out, just sow finely.
- 1 pot (up to 13cm, (5in) diameter; check out Jekka's Kits).
- Standard seed soil-less substrate (compost) preferably peat-free.
- Perlite fine grade wetted) or vermiculite.
- Stick -in white label.
- Prepared site in the garden.
- 2 Stick in white labels.
For sowing indoors.
- Fill the pot with the compost, firm and water in well.
- Sow the seeds thinly on the top of the compost, cover with perlite, label with plant name and date.
- Place the pot in a warm light place, 18 °C (65°F) , not full sun.
- Keep watering to a minimum until germination has taken place, which takes 10-20 days.
- Once the seedlings start germinating, make sure the container gets as much light as possible. If you live in a frost free environment, when air temperature does not go below 7°C (45°F), place the container outside during the day, bringing in at night.
- Continue until the third leaf starts to appear, then the container can be left out all night. If you are keeping the pot on the windowsill, rotate daily so the plant does not start growing towards the light.
- Start picking the leaves once they are large enough, this will encourage the new growth to develop.
Alternatively, which is what we do here at the herb farm in Bristol, is to sow directly into a prepared site in the garden, early autumn is ideal as the soil is warm.
- Space the seeds 2.5 cm ( 1 in) apart in a drill 2.5 cm ( 1 in) deep, lightly cover with soil and water in well.
- Label either end of the seed row. Germination takes 10-20 days.
- Start picking as soon as the leaves are large enough.
Especially for Autumn, see Jekka's Grow at Home Autumn Herb Kit that contains all you need to start growing this autumn.
Want to know more?
Jekka's "How to Grow Herbs" videos, includes Jekka's video on how to sow herb seeds for an informative step-by-step guide to seed sowing.
Growing indoors? Check out Jekka's blog on indoor herb gardening for some advice.
For advice on growing and maintaining herbs, check out ‘Jekka’s Seasonal Tips’ blog series, which includes what to do in your herb garden in early spring, late spring, summer and autumn & winter. Together they form the basis of Jekka’s guide on how to grow herbs.
Herb plants are available and you can organise a collection from our herb farm in South Gloucestershire or at one of our Open Days or Herb Experiences (see our events calendar). Please see our 'Looking Good List' for availability and use our webform or email your list directly to us (firstname.lastname@example.org). We no longer offer a general mail order service for our plants but we do offer a limited selection of Jekka's Culinary Herb Boxes.