Before it’s too late

Plants rooting in water. Photo credit:

This is the fifth post by RCR Committee member Faeterri Silver. 

If you haven’t harvested everything in your garden yet or if friends or neighbours have plants still growing that they’re willing to share, then there are some easy ways to propagate those plants for winter harvests or even to replant again next Spring. Some of my favourites to try this with are tomatoes, basil, mint, and oregano. All of these are a breeze to root in water. I have also had luck with rosemary and tarragon.  I have even heard of cuttings from hot pepper plants working.

First cut a few sprigs of green growth just above a leaf node about 4-5 inches long at a 45° angle. Remove lower leaves so that they will not rot when submerged in water. Place the stem in water making sure at least one leafless node is covered in water, in a sunny location. Add more water when necessary as it evaporates. Putting just one cutting in a bottle will tend to discourage rotting. Usually roots, sometimes hairy, will appear within a few weeks, sometimes sooner. Plants with a woody stem, like thyme and sage, root better in damp perlite, peat, or coir with a plastic bag over them in a warm area. We are cloning so make sure you cut from disease free plants.

After rooting, transplant new plants into potting soil. I have been able to harvest fresh herbs throughout the winter by doing this. Tomatoes I replant into bigger pots as needed and then put outside next spring. If they get too leggy, I will take a new cutting. By using this method I tend to get tomatoes earlier in the summer than if I were to start a plant from seed.

Also if you haven’t started winter lettuce and spinach, now is the time to do so. If you have parsley or celery in your garden, you can transplant them into pots to bring indoors. I keep my celery in the cooler basement; the darkness helps to blanch the celery. I know I have said this before, but I just love having fresh food throughout winter, especially green foods.

Tomato cuttings rooting in water. Photo credit:


5 comments to Before it’s too late

  • Sarah

    This would also be a nice idea if you have a friend that is a new gardener and want to share some plants with them. Or maybe give an indoor herb box as a gift.

  • I am new to growing herbs indoors and living in St. John’s.

    i would like to know if there is a particular soil (bagged) that I should use to grow herbs in?

    I had bought some herbs already started but they died off quickly. I bought some more, thinking that the soil was dead or not sufficient enough to sustain growth, I had purchased some potting soil and transplanted them. They didn’t seem to like that much, all the foliage fell off. they are not quite dead yet.

    Any assistance would be appreciated. Thank you

  • Sarah

    Herb roots can still be alive even if the leaves are dead, so you can certainly try to revive the herbs you have.

    Herbs like containers at least 6″ diameter and 6″ deep with drainage holes in the bottom. Plants right by windows don’t always get enough sun and warmth here (people don’t either, ha!) so you could try looking for a warmer, sunnier spot in your place or put the herbs under a lamp.

    Did the pots have good drainage? Herbs don’t like sitting with wet roots. If you have a dish underneath the pots, drain that off a few minutes after watering if excess water runs through.

    Also, if your potting soil doesn’t have any fertilizer in it, you may want to mix some compost in before planting or use a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion on them every few weeks. Soil in containers does lose its nutrients pretty fast.

  • Sarah

    Sorry, in answer about what bagged soil, a potting or container soil like you bought is usually good. You can get one with slow release fertilizer in it if you don’t plan to add compost or use a liquid fertilizer regularly. Ones with vermiculite or perlite in them are good because those little puffs open up air space and help with drainage.

    Finding gardening supplies in winter in St. John’s can be really tricky! Once the spring comes all the stores will start stocking a lot more.

  • Thank you for your replies. my pots have drainage at the bottom, but just straight potting soil in them. After more research, it seems I need to put small stones or even marbles in the bottom before the soil. the pots sit in those clear plastic potting trays from Canadian Tire.

    Fish Emulsion got it, I will pick some up.

    Reading the soil in the bag it says: (I think that is the fertilizer) it is made by “Schultz” and called “Premium Potting Soil Plus”

    Now having said that, I had read somewhere that using fertilizer that it produces a leafy but a less potent herb.


Leave a Reply