Overwintering Herbs In Cold Climates

by Monika
(Beaumont, AB, Canada)


Hi there,
living near Edmonton, Alberta makes growing my own herb garden quite a challenge. Back in Germany all my herbs would grow back each year without a problem. Here with the long cold winters I have been buying new herb plants every spring, just to be on the safe side of having fresh herbs every summer. Last fall I tried for the first time to save the above mentioned herbs , which have been planted in huge pots, by covering them with straw and big plastic bags. I have removed the protection last week, but I can't tell, if the plants survived or not, as right now, everything is still brownish and woody looking. How long do I wait for any vital signs, before I run and buy everything new ... again?

And one more question: Where can I find bay and juniper plants, I tried to research online, but wasn't successful.

Could you please help me? It would be very much appreciated by my whole family, as I am cooking with a big variety of herbs and spices and the more fresh ones the better.

So thank you in advance for your assistance

Kind Regards.

Monika Cordick
Beaumont, Alberta, CANADA


Hi Monika,

overwintering herbs in such a cold climate is indeed a challenge! Herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender or Sage won't survive prolonged severe frost periods you have in Alberta. They need to be overwintered indoors if you want to grow them from year to year. You need a cool but bright room for doing this. Some plant lights might be a good idea if light levels are low and the room is too dark.
You can grow the herbs in clay pots and sink them into the ground for the summer months. Lift the pots up in the fall to bring them indoors.
Clean them up and inspect them for pests e.g. slugs and snails and diseases. Treat them if necessary.
Very important is to keep the soil on the dry side while you have the herbs indoors. Water them only if the soil is dry and don't feed them.
In the spring once the risk of frosts has passed you can start to get your plants used to being outside again. Keep them in a shaded spot for a few weeks first so they can get used to the higher light volumes again. Now it is time to start feeding the plants again. Just remember that herbs don't require the strength and frequency of feeding that other plants do.

rosemaryIf your herb plants like Rosemary, Sage or Thyme have lost all their leaves I suspect that they are dead. These plants are evergreens and should not loose their foliage during the winter. Try to scratch the bark on some of the branches. If it is green underneath it there is still live in the plant. If it is brown...well, it is not a good sign and you will have to start from scratch!

I am not sure where you can buy bay or junipers in Canada. The reason for them not being available might be that they won't survive the winters outside. You would have to keep them inside as well for the winter. You could try Naturehills and ask them if they deliver to Canada.

You can start herbs from seeds in early spring inside with the help of grow lights if necessary. Herbs like parsley, chives, rocket or basil are easy to grow from seed. You can them either plant them out or keep them in containers. This will help to prolong your herb growing season by several months. Once it gets colder in the autumn you can try to keep them growing indoors with the help of the grow lights.

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Jun 08, 2017
Over Wintered Thyme
by: Cori Willis

Last year in Edmonton (2016) I planted Thyme from seed and in the fall ripped out almost all of it thinking there is no way it will grow back but then it occurred to me that there would be only one way to find out and all I had left was one tiny 4 inch branch left in the ground. The only covering my raised bed got was from an old curtain from an outdoor gazebo and the cover was not for the thyme but to keep all the pine needles, cones and seeds from dropping into the garden and to make spring cleanup fast and easy. It is now June 8 and it is getting new leaves all along the branch where it looked scraggly and it is doing amazingly well. Originally in the fall there were leaves at the top of the branch and just down from that. The rest looked dead and now there are new leaves sprouting right from the ground all the way up the branch. I have planted more seed this year since I ripped all of it up but it will stay there this fall now that I know it will be fine.

Oct 03, 2016
Bay Laurel in Alberta
by: Anonymous

I purchased mine this spring at Salisbury Greenhouse in Sherwood Park.

Nov 02, 2015
Herbs In Cold Climates
by: Anonymous

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Sep 25, 2015
Cold Climates
by: Anonymous

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May 20, 2015
Availability of Bay Laurel in Alberta
by: Anonymous

I bought my Bay Laurel tree at Hole's Greenhouse in St. Albert. It's 8 years old now and doing just fine.
I have also wintered over chives, mint, and lavender in sheltered spots. Mint is almost impossible to get rid of once it takes hold, so plant in fully enclosed container. Calendula also comes back - it throws seeds everywhere and is quite invasive, but makes wonderful salves and is a nice flavouring for rice and casseroles where you might use saffron.

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