Saskatchewan Herb Suggestions
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Elaine Stella
Posted on: September 26, 1998

Just getting started here in Saskatchewan. Any suggestions of good plants to start with that are easy and suitable to the diverse climate?

Because many of the herb favourites are not hardy below zone 5, growing herbs on the prairies where zones range from 2 to 4 presents special challenges. The book by Lyn Kublick called "The Prairie Herb Garden" (available from Richters) is an excellent guide.

It is heartening to know that it is often possible to stretch the hardiness zones by employing simple techniques such as improving soil drainage, winter mulching, and wind breaks and planting near buildings. So, it is possible to get english lavender, which is rated hardy to zone 5, to survive in a zone 4. Kublick’s book will help you to do that.

In some cases it is just not possible to get certain herbs to winter outdoors in the prairies. We say, don’t let that limit you! This calls for another approach or mindset for handing these plants. Think about common "annuals" such as geraniums, petunias, marigolds, tomatoes, and peppers – these are all perennials but are not hardy in Canada – yet we have come to think of these as "annuals" which we plant anew every year. In the same way, perennial herbs that do not survive prairie winters can be grown as "annuals". Good examples are english thyme, rosemary, greek oregano, and there are many others. The moral is, don’t give up if something does not come back the next year; plant again as long as the growth in summer is enough to produce fresh cut foliage for cooking or medicinal use.

Still, there are perennial (and biennial) herbs that are perfectly hardy on the prairies. These include (in no particular order) lovage, comfrey, caraway, some mints, winter savory, echinacea, garden sorrel, and many others. If you have any doubt about a herb, check Deni Bown’s "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" (available from Richters) which lists hardiness zones for most of the herbs in our catalogue.

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