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With its rich history, versatility, and hardiness, it’s no wonder that winter savory is an ideal herb to grow. Whether you want to use it for its unique flavor, and medicinal properties or as an ornamental plant, winter savory is a great addition to any garden.
Growing winter savory is easy and requires little maintenance, making it perfect for both experienced and novice gardeners. With the right location, soil, and care, you can enjoy the many benefits of this versatile herb for years to come.
In this article, we’ll be taking a close look at everything you need to know about growing winter savory in your very own garden.
What is Winter Savory?
Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a perennial herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Europe. It’s a small, evergreen bush that typically grows to be about 20-30 cm tall. The leaves are oval-shaped and dark green in color and the plant produces small, white, or pink flowers in the summer.
This is a hardy plant that can tolerate cold temperatures and is drought-tolerant, making it well-suited for growing in rocky or sandy soils. One of the unique characteristics of winter savory is that it has a strong, pungent flavor similar to thyme, and it’s often used as a spice in cooking.
History of Winter Savory
Winter savory has been used for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties. The history of winter savory can be traced back to ancient times when it was used in the Mediterranean region and parts of Europe.
In ancient Greece, winter savory was used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments such as digestive problems, respiratory issues, and wounds. The ancient Romans also used winter savory for its medicinal properties, and to flavor food.
During the Middle Ages, winter savory was widely used in Europe as a culinary herb, and it was also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, winter savory was widely used in England as a culinary herb, and it was also used to make a popular condiment called “savory sauce“.
Later in the 20th century, the use of winter savory as a culinary herb decreased, but its use in alternative medicine increased. Today, winter savory is still used in traditional medicine and as a culinary herb. The history of this plant shows how it has been valued for its many uses throughout the centuries, and it continues to be used today.
Uses of Winter Savory
· Culinary Uses of Winter Savory
Winter savory is a popular culinary herb with a strong, pungent flavor similar to thyme. It’s often used to add flavor to savory dishes such as stews, roasts, and soups and it also complements bean dishes and pairs well with poultry, pork, and game meats.
It can be used fresh or dried, and it can also be used in combination with other herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme to make a traditional blend. Winter savory can also be used to flavor vinegars, oils, and marinades.
· Medicinal Uses of Winter Savory
Winter savory has been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments such as digestive problems, respiratory issues, and wounds. It’s also known to have antimicrobial properties and to be a pain reliever.
· Aromatherapy Uses of Winter Savory
Winter savory essential oil has a strong, camphor-like scent and is used in aromatherapy for its stimulating and energizing properties. The essential oil can be used in a diffuser, added to a bath, or used in massage oils and creams. Winter savory essential oil is known to have a positive effect on the respiratory system and is often used to help with colds, flu and other respiratory issues.
This herb is also used to improve mental focus and concentration and is believed to have a positive effect on mood and emotions. The oil is known for its pain-relieving properties and can be used to relieve headaches, muscle pain and other types of pain.
· Household Uses of Winter Savory
Winter savory is a versatile herb that has a wide range of uses in the household. One of the most popular uses of winter savory is to make sachets and potpourri. Its strong, camphor-like scent can be used to freshen up linens, clothes, and drawers and it’s also used to repel moths and other insects.
Winter savory can also be used to make a homemade cleaning solution, and it has mild antiseptic properties. It can be added to a solution of water and vinegar to clean surfaces and deodorize the home. Winter savory can also be used to make a homemade laundry detergent, and or added to dryer sheets to give clothes a fresh, clean scent.
· Other Uses of Winter Savory
Winter savory has a range of unique uses in addition to its traditional culinary and medicinal uses. Some other unique uses of winter savory include:
- Beekeeping: Winter savory is known to be attractive to bees, and it can be used as a bait to help bees find hives.
- Pest control: Winter savory is also known to repel a variety of pests such as ants, mosquitoes, and moths.
- Animal feed: Winter savory is known to be a natural wormer and can be added to animal feed to help with parasites and to improve the overall health of the animal.
- Companion planting: Winter savory can be planted alongside other plants, such as beans and tomatoes. It’s believed to improve the growth and health of the companion plants.
- Landscaping: Winter savory can be used as an ornamental plant, it’s a low-growing evergreen shrub with small white or pink flowers in the summer. It can be used as a ground cover or in rock gardens.
How to Grow Winter Savory
Here’s what you need to know about growing winter savory:
Step One: Choose a Location in Your Garden
Choose a location that receives full sun, has well-draining, slightly dry, and rocky soil, is protected from frost and wind, allows enough space for the plant to grow and does not flood or retain water. Companion planting with beans is also beneficial. Consider your specific growing conditions and climate when selecting the spot.
Step two: Sow the Seeds
The right time to sow winter savory seeds is in the spring, after the last frost has passed. They can also be started indoors and transplanted later on. Keep in mind that winter savory is a perennial herb in zones 6 and higher, but it’s considered an annual in zones 5 and lower.
Winter savory seeds should be spaced about 12-18 inches apart. This allows enough room for the plants to grow and spread out, while also providing good air circulation to prevent disease. If you’re starting the seeds indoors, be sure to transplant them to the garden after the last frost with this distance of spacing.
Step Three: Keep the Soil Moist
It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist after planting winter savory seeds, but not waterlogged. Water the soil deeply, making sure to saturate the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches.
Once the seeds have germinated, you can reduce watering frequency, as the plant is drought-tolerant and doesn’t require frequent watering. Be sure to check the soil moisture regularly and adjust watering as needed.
Step Four: Fertilize Your Winter Savory
Before planting winter savory seeds, fertilize the soil with a balanced fertilizer or add compost to the soil. Once the plants are established, you can fertilize them every 4-6 weeks during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer.
Avoid over-fertilizing as it can damage the plant. Keep in mind that the plant is drought-tolerant and does not require a lot of fertilizer.
Step Five: Harvest Your Winter Savory
You can harvest winter savory leaves and branches as needed throughout the growing season. Avoid over-harvesting as it can damage the plant. For the best flavor and aroma, harvest the leaves before the plant flowers.
Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the stems and avoid pulling the leaves off by hand. If you want to dry the leaves for future use, cut the branches with leaves and flowers, and hang them upside down in a dry and well-ventilated place for a week or until dry.
Step Six: Prune the Plants
To promote bushier growth, prune winter savory plants back in the late fall, after the first frost. Cut back the plant to about 6 inches above the ground using pruning shears. This will encourage new growth in the spring.
Pruning also helps to keep the plant compact and prevent it from becoming too woody. If you’re growing the plant in zones 5 or lower, mulch heavily to protect the roots from cold after pruning.
Step Seven: Mulching
Winter savory is a hardy herb that can tolerate cold temperatures, but in zones 5 or lower, the roots need to be protected from cold. Heavy mulching is needed to protect the roots from frost, especially after the first frost and after pruning.
Mulch, such as straw or leaves, will help to insulate the soil and keep the roots warm. This will increase the chances of the plant surviving the winter and thriving in the spring. It will also help to retain moisture in the soil during the dry winter months when the plant is dormant.
Frequently Asked Questions about Winter Savory
To overwinter winter savory, mulch heavily to protect the roots from cold and prune back the plant before the first frost.
Winter savory is believed to be a good companion plant for beans, as it helps repel bean beetles, also many other plants.
Winter savory is relatively easy to grow, it prefers well-draining soil and full sun, is drought-tolerant and requires little maintenance.
It takes about 2-3 weeks for winter savory seeds to germinate, and the plants will be ready for harvest within 2-3 months.
Winter savory can grow up to 18 inches tall and wide. It is a bushy plant with an upright habit, that’s why it’s important to give them enough space when planting them. Keep in mind that pruning back the plant in late fall can promote bushier growth.