Herb Gardening to-do List by Season

Late Winter through Early Spring

Start plants. Start herb seeds indoors 6- to 8 weeks before your last expected frost. Also take cuttings from indoor herb plants to propagate new outdoor garden plants. Start herbs outdoors when nighttime temperatures exceed 55°F.

Prune. Prune woody herbs such as lavender by removing leggy old growth to promote new stem growth and better form.

Weed. At the beginning of the growing season, pull out weeds while their roots are still shallow.

Build soil. Add compost or other organic material to your garden beds.

Rejuvenate beds. Divide and transplant herbs that have outgrown their original sites. Add, remove, or move plants to refresh the design and appearance of your plantings.

Fall

Plant bulbs and seeds. Plant bulbs of herbs such as garlic and saffron and seeds of caraway, dill, parsley, and sweet cicely, which will overwinter and begin growing in spring. In warm areas, plant seeds of cool-season herbs such as chervil, cilantro, and parsley in a cold frame for winter production.

Divide. Divide and replant hardy perennials, or note which ones should be divided and moved in spring.

Clean up. Rake leaves and pull weeds. Remove spent annuals; save their seeds for the next growing season. Leave some stalks and seeds of herbs such as chervil, echi-nacea, fennel, lavender, marjoram, rose, and sweet cicely to feed hungry birds during the dormant season.

Prepare for the dormant season. Pot (if necessary) and move any nonhardy herbs indoors for the winter.

Spring through Late Summer

Plant. After the weather stabilizes in spring, plant purchased herbs and transplant seedlings to the garden. Create container plantings. Continue to sow herbs that quickly go to seed (such as borage, cilantro, dill, and fennel) every few weeks to ensure a continuous supply throughout the growing season.

Mulch. Cover beds with a layer of fresh organic mulch, such as compost, bark, or shredded leaves.

Water. In arid climates and during dry periods, water herbs occasionally and deeply.

Weed. Continue to dig up weeds as they appear. Also, monitor invasive herbs, such as mints, to prevent them from spreading beyond their containers.

Deadhead. Remove spent flowers and seed heads of perennial herbs such as anise hyssop and catnip to encourage new flower production.

Harvest. Pinch back rapidly growing herbs. Harvest according to herb type.

Preserve. Dry herb foliage and flowers for later use. Prepare herbal vinegars, oils, infusions, and tinctures.

Winter

Care for indoor herbs. To keep herbs alive indoors, be sure your plants receive adequate light, water, and nutrients. Monitor for pest and disease problems.

Propagate cuttings. Take cuttings from indoor herbs and start them for the next growing season.

Plan for the new growing season. Choose small or large projects for the next year: planting or moving a tree; rerouting paths; or adding new garden beds.

Make herb products. Use previously harvested herbs to make herbal products and crafts such as potpourris, wreaths, and sachets.

Read and learn. Now is the perfect time to read about new varieties and growing techniques. If some plantings failed to perform well last season, look for solutions. Also consider joining a garden club or taking a class.

DIY projects. Build a potting bench, compost bin, coldframe, or enclosures for raised beds.