Herbs to Grow in Manitoba (Zone 3A)
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Gordon Ogilvie
Posted: Before April 1998

I live in South Central Manitoba and I am an amateur gardener. I would like to grow herbs but I don’t know which herb varieties would grow best in a short season. We are Hardiness zone 3A. We normally plant our garden during the long weekend in May because soil temperature are suitable for planting at that time. We also have a risk of frost by mid- september. I would like to know which herb varieties are suitable for our conditions. Can you please help me?

Increasingly herb books are listing zone ratings. The best is Deni Bown’s "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" which is an excellent all-round reference book that any serious herb gardener should get. Richters carries this book, as well as others that list zone ratings. You can quickly see from the zone ratings which herbs are likely to do well in your area.

You may find that not many of your favourite herbs are rated zone 3 or lower. That does not mean you cannot grow those plants; zone ratings are only a guide and in fact many plants rated for higher zones will grow in your area successfully.

This point needs to be emphasized. First, because most herbs have not been subjected to exhaustive hardiness trials, most zone ratings are approximations or even guesswork. Second, local conditions have a profound effect on hardiness. French tarragon will be perfectly hardy in a sandy, well-drained soil in zone 5, but in heavy, wet clay, it cannot survive in even zones 6 or 7. Third, with protection such as winter mulching you can often "push" plants to grow in a colder zone. Fourth, even if a plant does not survive the winter in your area you can still grow them as annuals, or bring them indoors over winter. What matters is whether or not you get enough growth to get a harvest.

Some suggestions:

Lemon balm: perennial, zones 4-9. May be pushed to zone 3 *if* soil drains well and *if* protected with a winter mulch.

Basil: most are annuals; all should be planted after the ground is warm: in your area that may mean early June.

Chives: perennial, zones 3-9.

Dill: annuals; sow directly in the garden in late May or transplant peat pot seedboxes (without disturbing the roots – very important!).

Lovage: perennial, listed as zones 5-8, but we believe that it will survive colder zones, possibly zone 3 with protection.

Sweet marjoram: a tender perennial (zones 9-10) that is normally grown as an annual.

Greek oregano: perennial, zones 5-9. Probably won’t survive zone 3 even with protection and excellent drainage, but it can be grown quite successfully as an annual.

Rosemary: tender perennial, zones 8-10. Can be grown as an annual or dug up and overwintered indoors.

Garden sage: perennial, zones 5-8. Like oregano, probably will not survive zone 3 but can be grown as an annual.

Savory: the summer type is annual and the winter type is perennial. Winter savory is rated zones 5-8, and is probably matures too slowly to grow as an annual. Summer savory is better as it grows more quickly and will yield a harvest.

Sorrel: perennial, zones 4-8. Probably will survive zone 3 with protection and good drainage.

French tarragon: perennial, zones 4-7. Needs protection and excellent soil drainage to survive. May only work as an annual.

English thyme: perennial, zones 4-8. Same as tarragon.

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