Keep Growing! Winter Salads and Herbs for Your Windowsill

, written by gb flag

Winter windowsill salads

While greenhouses, cold frames, cloches and row covers can all be deployed to extend the growing season and protect a wide range of crops, that still means going out into the cold to harvest them. Much as I love the outdoors, when temperatures plummet the prospect of venturing into the garden to pick, with numb fingers, a few leaves for a sandwich or to flavor the evening meal becomes much less tempting!

The solution is to bring the plants indoors. Not all crops are suitable for this treatment, but some salads and herbs will thrive on a sunny windowsill, providing tasty fresh pickings for longer.

Transplant leafy salads with care into pots and place on a sunny windowsill

Winter Salads

Most leafy salads will continue to grow and produce harvestable leaves in winter, albeit at a slower rate than in the brighter days of summer. Cut-and-come-again or baby leaf crops are best – rocket, spinach and non-heading varieties of lettuce are all sound choices. Dig the plants up, making sure to include as much of the rootball as possible. Shake off loose soil and transplant into all-purpose potting soil.

If you don’t currently have salads growing in your garden to transplant, you can buy ‘living salad’ mixes (which are often made up of varieties of loose-leaf lettuce) from grocery stores. Carefully tease the roots of individual plants apart, pot them up and grow them on. Each plant will grow larger and produce more leaves when given more room than they had in their tray, so you’ll get more for your money this way too.

Sprouts and microgreens are two more hassle-free indoor crops to keep you in fresh salad ingredients throughout winter.

Smaller rosemary plants are easier to accommodate on a windowsill

Windowsill Herbs

Evergreen perennial herbs such as oregano, thyme and rosemary work well as indoor winter crops. They won’t grow much during the winter, but they will provide harvestable leaves and they will look and smell great! Oregano and rosemary grow too large for most windowsills, so choose young plants from the garden. It can be worth propagating herbs in advance, specifically for this purpose. In particular, it’s worth taking cuttings of rosemary because it has a tendency to die off in cold, damp weather. By having a few propagated ‘spares’ somewhere sheltered you can insure yourself against the potential loss of a prized rosemary bush over winter.

Chives can be persuaded to crop for longer when brought indoors in winter, and growing parsley on a windowsill will help keep its leaves in good condition.

Growing parsley on a windowsill in winter keeps the leaves in good harvesting condition

Growing Salads and Herbs on Your Windowsill

If your plants are already growing in containers, it couldn’t be simpler – just bring them straight in and pop them onto the windowsill.

Dig up plants growing in the ground and pot them up into all-purpose potting soil. Parsley has a long taproot, so when digging it up make sure to dig deeply to get as much of the root as possible, and plant into a pot tall enough to accommodate the root.

There’s no need to bring plants indoors straight away. In fact, they may even benefit from being left outdoors while they adjust to life in a container, but keep an eye on the weather forecast and bring them in before the first hard freeze. Choose your sunniest windowsill for your indoor winter crops, or supplement the light with grow lights.

Check plants over for pests before bringing them in. Believe me, a household infestation of tiny aphids is an annoyance you can live without! Keep plants separate from any permanent houseplants you already have to avoid the risk of transmitting any pests or diseases. Common pests of indoor crops are aphids, whitefly, mealybugs and spider mites.

Only water your overwintering crops once the soil is dry a couple of centimetres/one inch below the potting soil surface. Poke your finger in to check.

Harvest chives until the leaves are all gone, then return the plant to the garden for a rest

Harvesting Windowsill Salads and Herbs

Pick just a few leaves from each plant at a time and allow them time to regrow. Growth will typically slow right down during the shortest days of winter – and may even stop – but your plants will regain momentum as days lengthen.

Harvest evergreen perennial herbs little and often so as not to exhaust them. Chives can be harvested until all the leaves are gone then the plant returned to the garden. Plant it back in the ground if it isn’t frozen, or else leave the pot somewhere sheltered to wait out the rest of the winter. Sooner or later parsley will start to become tough and prepare to go to seed, so harvest as much as you like while it’s still good.

In spring, harden off plants before moving the pots back outdoors or transplanting your perennial herbs back into garden soil. You may continue to get some more pickings of parsley and salads but lengthening days will trigger them to flower and set seed. At this point you can either chuck them onto the compost heap or leave them to flower to feed early-flying insects.

Allow perennial herbs to rest for several months or even a year to give them a chance to recover from the continuous harvesting. For this reason I like to have some growing outdoors as well as indoors in winter, so I can pick up where I left off with well-rested plants.

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments


"Hello Ann Marie, do chives regrow indoors after they are cut? Thank you, Richard"
Richard on Monday 18 November 2019
"They usually will do Richard, although growth may be slow in winter. Warmth and plenty of light will help though. Search for How to Harvest Chives All Year Round in the search box at the top of the page for more on this."
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 19 November 2019
"Great advice. I grew sungold cherry tomatoes from cuttings all winter in Vt. a few years back. I did get to harvest a few tomatoes. Not recommended unless your windowsill gets lots of sun. In spite of constant pruning, they were still very leggy and grew so tall we had to drape the vines over the curtain rods in the room."
Karen Rockow on Thursday 19 November 2020
"At least they will have made an interesting talking point Karen! Glad to hear you managed a small harvest too."
Ann Marie Hendry on Wednesday 25 November 2020
"Thank you for Helping us to Grow our own Veg etc."
B.V.Brown. on Tuesday 14 December 2021
"Glad you're enjoying GrowVeg BVB!"
Ann Marie Hendry on Thursday 16 December 2021
"Dear Ann Marie, I have planted rocket on my window sill for micro greens but the seeds have come up very leggy. Almost 4cm before the first two leaves. The sill is not very warm and I didn't use any fertiliser . Please could you tell me what possibly could have gone wrong? Thank you very much, Gabriella, England"
Gabriella on Thursday 24 November 2022
"Hi Gabriella. It sounds like the seedlings are needing a little more light - do you have a sunnier windowsill you could grow them on? Having said that, as you'll be harvesting them so young, a little legginess won't really matter too much."
Ann Marie Hendry on Thursday 24 November 2022

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)

By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions