The Q&A Archives: Bringing Basil In For The Winter

Question: I had very good luck with growing basil in pots outside over the summer but now I want to bring it in the house so I can have basil all winter long. I repotted the best plants in regular potting soil. My questions are, 1)should I use plant food on them or anything else to keep them healthy indoors, 2)the stems seem to be very woody-is there anything I can do to correct that or should they be that way, 3)when I want to use the basil should I pick off individual leaves or cut off the tops of the stems & 4)is there anything I can use to stop my cats from eating the leaves?

Answer: To be honest your plants are probably quite mature now and may be approaching the end of their time, especially if they are woody. These plants as a rule are not terribly long lived, so many gardeners will root tip cuttings taken from their best plants rather than saving the entire plant. In any case, the plants should be gradually acclimated tot the reduced light levels found on the window sill. An occasional light feeding with a balanced water soluble fertilizer might be called for if the lighting is sufficient to keep them growing fairly quickly. Since the plants will grow slowly compared to when they were outside, you may prefer to harvest just the occasional leaf or two rather than cut the plants back hard as you would for a summer harvest. I'm not sure what to suggest about the cats, but perhaps lining the surrounding surface with tin foil would make it unpleasant for them to get close enough to eat it. You might want to be careful to keep cats out of the habit of nibbling on your plants as some can be poisonous.

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