Growing Herbs in Fairbanks, Alaska
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sandra Manning
Posted on: June 25, 2002

I am looking at moving to Fairbanks, AK, and need to know which herbs I can probably grow up there out side where it gets to about -40 [Fahrenheit] during the winter and maybe 90 in the summer. Which ones could be grown in a greenhouse where the sunlight gets down to maybe 5 or 6 hours a week in winter and 24 in summer?

According to the USDA’s hardiness zone map you are in either zone 2 or zone 3. We have the zone ratings for each herb in the "Richters Herb Growing Infobase" in the "Richters InfoCentre" section of our website.

It is important to realize that the hardiness zone ratings are just a guide on what perennial plants are likely to survive winter temperatures. It is possible to grow many perennial herbs that won’t survive your winters as annuals. For example, english thyme and greek oregano likely will not survive your winter but they will produce plenty of useable fresh or dried herbs when grown as annuals. With your long summer days you have the added advantage that the extra sunlight promotes faster and bigger growth.

There are relatively few perennial herbs that will survive zone 2 or 3 but if you mulch and provide good water drainage your herbs will stand a better chance of survival. A good snow cover is excellent winter protection for many perennials.

You write that the winter light is 5-6 hours a week. I am assuming that you meant 5-6 a day. Even 5-6 hours a day is really not enough for growth in a greenhouse. At best you will only be able to keep plants alive. For good winter growth I strongly recommend that you look into getting high intensity metal halide lights suitable for growing. Even in our more southerly latitude in Goodwood we find that response of herbs to the extra light in our greenhouses is dramatic.

For more information on lighting systems check the indoor growing article in the "Magazine Rack" section of our website.

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