Herbs for Okanagan Area Plus as Weed Suppressant
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Melanie Bagley
Posted on: August 28, 2003

Please could you advise me on varieties of herbs. I would like herbs which fulfill the following criteria, if possible:

a.. Able to live in zone 5 (?) -- we’re near the Okanagan with very hot summers and snow on the ground in winter

b.. Act as a weed suppressant (would perennial be better for this?)

c.. Could be grown in amongst other plants

d.. Not too tall - preferably less than 2 feet tall

e.. A potentially commercial plant

For herbs to be commercially viable you need to have good stands that can be harvested mechanically. If excessive weeds are present then mechanical harvest becomes a challenge, if not impossible. If you have to resort to manual hand harvest, then it is difficult to pay for the labour and still make money.

Most commercially valuable herbs require weed control in order to get the solid stands needed to make mechanical harvesting practical. Even herbs that we usually thought of as weeds such as dandelion, nettle and catnip will not suppress other weeds enough to produce stands that can be mechanically harvested easily.

Probably the only herb that *might* work is comfrey. It is a perennial with a deep root system, and it shades neighbouring plants enough to prevent weeds from growing. But it grows to 3-4 feet in height (although it can be keep cut lower than this). More importantly, the market for comfrey is weak right now because of government restrictions on its sale for medicinal use. However, herb expert Richard Alan Miller is very bullish on this crop and thinks that it can be profitable if it is marketed right. The main restrictions are on its internal use; but used externally it is valuable for many conditions and should used in salves and ointments. Certainly, it is an extremely efficacious medicinal plant for both humans and animals, and has additional value as a forage crop for some farm animals.

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