If you’ve mastered growing basic herbs like basil, sage, rosemary, and thyme, it might be ready to tackle another new herb – savory.
There are two main types of savory, winter and summer, but both are relatively uncommon in most peoples’ backyard herb beds. There’s no good reason for this, either, since savory is incredibly easy to grow.
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Add it to your herb garden collection, and you’ll have a comprehensive herb cabinet that will equip you with the ability to make all kinds of delectable dishes!
Here are some tips on how to plant and grow winter savory – and how to harvest it at the end of the season!
Winter vs. Summer Savory
Winter savory, or Satureja montana, is a herbaceous perennial that is hardy to USDA zone 6. Summer savory, on the other hand, is generally grown as an annual.
While there are a few small differences between summer and winter savory, they are, for the most part, similar in terms of their care and growing conditions.
Both can be used in a variety of recipes, although winter savory is generally described as having a more pungent flavor than summer savory. Savory helps provide and enhance flavor in your dishes without requiring the use of salt and pepper.
You can use savory fresh in a variety of recipes or you can also use it dried (the leaves are frequently added to potpourri, vinegar, butters, and tea).
A small semi-evergreen bush, winter savory produces woody stems and dark green leaves. Once established, there is little that you will need to do to care for it. It’s native to the Meditrrneanregion and grows low to the ground, going dormant during the winter months.
Varieties of Winter Savory
For the most part, there is only one main variety of winter savory. However, you may want to consider Satureja montana ‘Nana,’ a dwarf cultivar, or Satureja montana ‘Prostate White,’ which produces ornamental white flowers. This later cultivar is a bit smaller than the traditional winter savory plant too.
How to Grow Winter Savory from Seed
Winter savory can be grown from seed or as a transplant.
However, since it likes warm weather, most gardeners recommend sowing seeds inside, then transplanting the started seedlings to the garden once the soil warms. This will give you a necessary jumpstart on your growing season.
Plus, winter savory can be hard to find in stores. Often, purchasing seeds and starting your own plants is much easier than trying to find plants near you.
Sow seeds thinly in flats. You should do this about four to six weeks before the last frost. Sow directly on the top fo the soil. You do not need to cover the seeds with additional soil because they need to remain exposed to the light for germination. You will likely notice seeds in just 10 to 14 days.
While your seeds are emerging, it’s important to keep them nice and moist (though not sodden). Once the seedlings each possess three to four sets of healthy leaves, they can be transplanted to the garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed.
Make sure you harden off your seedlings before transplanting to reduce the risk of transplant shock!
How to Transplant Winter Savory
Transplant your winter savory to a spot where it will have room to spread. Usually, this plant grows to about 6-12 inches in height and 8-12 inches wide.
It thrives in full sun and needs at least six hours each day. The soil should be well-draining, with an ideal pH around 6.7.
Prepare the soil before planting by adding a mixture of organic matter, like aged compost, and some sand. The sand will help promote good drainage.
You will want to pick a planting site that will allow the plants to remain undisturbed since winter savory is a perennial in many climates, you need to think about your long-term plans so you don’t plant winter savory in a spot where it will be inconvenient later on.
Some gardeners like to mix a bit of bone meal in at the planting site when they plant. This can add calcium to the soil, and encourage healthy root development.
Otherize, you can pick just about any planting site. Many gardeners use winter savory in vegetable and flower beds to help repel pests, but since it tolerates drought than poor quality soil well, it can also be planted on a slope or rocky bank. Its ornamental and aromatic flowers also make it a good candidate as an edging species.
When you transplant, your seeds should be roughly 10 to 12 inches apart. Set them into position and backfill into your planting holes, gently padding the soil back around the roots of the plant.
You may also be able to grow winter savory as a propagation via cuttings. To do this, take cuttings from the plant (the tips of new shoots will work) in the late spring and put them in pots of wet sand.
As soon as the cuttings root, you can transplant them to another container or directly into the garden.
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Caring for Winter Savory Plants
Although you will want to water immediately after planting – and on a regular basis until the plants are established – once they’re settled in, you only need to water every few weeks.
These plants handle dry spells well, and actually do best when the soil is allowed to dry a bit between waterings.
As a general rule of thumb, you should water your plants when the top inch or so of soil is dried out. This plant is drought-tolerant once you get it established and you’re better off letting it get a bit dried out rather than too waterlogged.
Winter savory requires very little fuss and care, but it’s a good idea to apply a top dressing like compost in the spring. This will provide it with the nutrients it needs to be healthy without creating an ambulance. Avoid using liquid fertilizers, as savory doesn’t respond well to these.
You will need to prune your plants in the first part of spring before any fresh growth appears. Just remove the old seed heads from the previous season. Usually, this will be about a third of the overall plants’ growth.
The older your plants get, the more often they will require regular pruning. This will encourage them to develop healthy growth and a full form.
Weeding and Mulching
While your winter savory plant is getting established, do your best to control weeds. This can be tough when the plant is small, as you’ll need to weed carefully by hand to prevent uprooting the delicate plant.
However, once it’s a bit larger, weeding will be an easy task. In fact, the tall, spreading nature of winter savory will prevent many weeds from growing nearby at all.
Once it is established, you can put down a one- to two-inch thick layer of natural mulch. This will not only help to keep weeds at bay, but it will moderate soil moisture, too.
Winter savory offers a variety of benefits to nearby plants. It can help keep bean weevils away if you grow it alongside beans. It can also be planted near roses, where it can reduce the likelihood of aphid and mildew infestations.
Winter savory also helps to repel cabbage moths, so it’s smart to plant this herb near cruciferous vegetables.
This plant is highly attractive pollinators with its bright flowers. Therefore, it is often planted near beehives. Not only did it help bees stay healthy, but it can add a wonderful piney flavor to honey as a result, too.
Winter savory is cold hardy to about 10 degrees. If temperatures regularly dip this low in the winter, you may want to insulate against the cold during the winter months. Something as simple as a five-inch thick layer of mulch can help protect against freezing temperatures.
You will need to remove the mulch itn he spring. You could also use a cold frame to protect your plants during these coldest days of winter.
Winter Savory Pests and Diseases
Winter savory has no major pests or diseases to worry about. In fact, due to its strong aroma and flavor, most pests are encouraged to steer clear.
There are occasional issues with spider mites and spittlebugs, along with leafhoppers, but usually, these pests cause insignificant amounts of damage.
Growing Winter Savory in a Container
Winter savory, like other herbs, is remarkably easy to grow in a container. You will just need a pot that is at least 12 inches wide, and equally deep.
Before you plant, fill the container with potting mix and a bit of loose sand to encourage drainage. Space your plants far enough apart that they get decent air circulation.
Put your container in a cool window that receives plenty of sunlight – six hours per day is ideal. You can also position your winter savory under a grow light. Make sure you water your container-grown savory whenever the top inch of soil gets dry.
How to Harvest Winter Savory
The best time to harvest winter savory is first thing, right at the start of the day. This is when essential oils in the plant are at their most flavorful and useful.
Winter savory goes dormant in the winter and puts on new growth in the spring, when it is grown in a temperate location. You will want to prune your plant regularly to keep it from getting woody, as well as to encourage fresh growth.
Some people choose to harvest winter savory during the winter months, but the flavor will be better during the main growing period in the summer.
When you cut, select sprigs only for mature stalks. Leave about half of the stalk on the plant for the health and growth of the plant.
Uses for Winter Savory
Winter savory has a ton of uses in the kitchen. Mostly, it is used as an herb on beans and meat. It works best for lighter meats, like turkey or chicken, and is often used in stuffing. However, it can also be used in sauces and soups. It loses a bit of its pungent flavor the longer it is cooked.
Winter savory also has a variety of medicinal uses. It is aromatic and also offers antiseptic and digestive benefits. Some people even use it to claim the itch and burn of bee stings!
When consumed, winter savory is believed to be a remedy for various digestive ailments like nausea, diarrhea, and sore throat. It can be used both fresh and dry.
Preserving Winter Savory
The easiest way to preserve winter savory for later use is to dry it. You can do this by bundling the stems with some twine and hanging them in a cool spot out of direct sun, like the garage. You can also dehydrate the stems in a food dehydrator for a couple of hours.
Once the sprigs are dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store the leaves in a container that is airtight. Keep them in a cool, dark location, where they will last up to four years.
When you add the herb to your cooking, make sure you take the time to crush them. They will taste fantastic!
Should I Grow Winter Savory?
Unfortunately, winter recovery is the longest-lived plant out there. In fact, it will likely need to be replaced every five years or so when you are growing it in your garden (more often for container-grown plants).
That said, winter savory offers gardeners a ton of benefits. It’s not only beautiful to look at, but its flavorful sprigs can be used when cooking all kinds of foods, from peas and beans to chicken. You can even add it to cheese bread!
Grow a few winter savory plants in your garden this spring, and you’ll enjoy its piquant, spicy flavor all year long.
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