Rosemary in the Northeast
- Published: Saturday, 17 October 2015 12:46
- Written by David DeCiero
About 5 years ago, I was getting frustrated with buying new rosemary every single year. I had tried two strategies for the rosemary. One was to keep it inside in a pot. Invariably, it would slowly turn brown and die. Alternatively, I would plant it outside in the spring, watch it grow all summer and then have it killed by our 6a winters. I had to find a way to keep the rosemary alive all year round so I could have fresh rosemary in the winter as well as save myself the expense of buying a new plant every spring.
The rosemary always grew well outside and not so well in the pot, so I knew that I wanted to have the rosemary grow outside for the summer. This meant having to dig it up and bring it inside during the winter. IN order to do this, I make a small large cut with my spade around the perimeter of the rosemary bush. I always end up cutting some roots, but it isn’t a huge worry. I’m trying to keep the soil as small as possible. I then place it into an appropriate sized pot (usually plastic) and put it in my basement under timed fluorescent lights. The trick with rosemary in a pot is to water it very sparingly. The small root ball helps accomplish this by giving the water nowhere to hide form the roots. Even then, I only water when I dig my finger in about 2 inches and it is dry as a bone. (I find it is very similar to citrus in this regard). This technique allows it to go through the entire winter without any adverse effects.
In the spring, after the danger of heavy frost has passed (usually in early-mid May here in 6a), I take the rosemary outside and carve out the hole it was previously in a little wider and deeper. I then put a small amount of compost in the bottom of the hole and replant the rosemary. It goes through a small transplant shock period of about 4-6 weeks where it grows very little. I just keep watering it deeply so that it can get reestablished. By early July it is actively growing again and sending out new shoots. The process starts all over again in October.
Utilizing this set of techniques, I have been able to keep my rosemary alive for 4 years now. It has also progressively become larger, leading me to have a lot of rosemary for all my cooking adventures.