Yesterday I did a talk on herbs and one of the first things we talked about was how some of our plants look dead. Here it is April and we are used to seeing things lush and green but this year isn’t the same. It’s being called the winter that won’t go away. Some herbs are hardier than others. Plants like sage and oregano seem to have come through winter unscathed. Yet rosemary and lemon thyme are not a pretty site right now.
I had some young plants overwintering in the garden and this is how the lemon thyme looked in early spring. Lemon thyme is only evergreen in zones 8 and 9 so that explains why it looks so rough right now. Last month I dug up all the new herb plants that had been sunk into the ground for the winter and brought them into the greenhouse. I call it my hospital area of the greenhouse. With the added warmth most of the herbs will recover.
As you can see above the thyme plants are beginning to fill in and will be fine. Remember most herbs are from the Mediterranean and like a well drained soil and full sun. Think back to our fall last year when we had two full months of rain in October and November followed by extreme cold and snow in December, January and February. All that snow saturated the soil and now we have had one of the wettest Marches on record.
As we go through April you should see some new growth on your herbs if you haven’t already. My mint planted in containers is not showing any growth yet but I had one plant escape into the garden. I know, what a job it will be to remove it. The mint in the garden is sending out 18″ long runners under the ground before its top growth is showing. It may be a good thing to empty your container to see if your mint’s roots are doing the same thing. They may have been frost damaged but I doubt they are dead plants.
When I asked how many people in the class yesterday had lost their rosemary plant, many hands went up. Rosemary is hardy to zone 9. We live in zone 8 so when the temperatures went down to -10C it probably caused the damage you see on your plants. Above I have lots of dead branches on my large rosemary plant. I will prune them out now that any chance of frost has passed.
We have been spoiled by the last few warm winters. The closer rosemary is planted near the home, the better chance it has over the winter. Planted out in the outer edges of the garden leaves it more exposed to the elements. Most of my rosemary plant has lots of green growth still so all was not lost.
I used a floating row cover over the garden to shield the new herb plants from the winter cold. Even with protection the plants showed a fair amount of winter damage. The sage is leggy so it will need some pruning to shape the plant once it leafs out a bit more. They certainly didn’t look well enough for my herb talk yesterday so I had to buy new plants for that. We divided herbs yesterday and all I had in the garden were oregano and chives to share. Dividing herbs is so easy. Check out my post here on how I deconstructed my herb container last summer.
So my advice today is to be patient for another couple of weeks. Your herb plants may recover, be it slowly. If they don’t the garden centres will be thrilled to see you. Don’t forget the growers are having a hard time as well. Plant selection is slowly arriving at the garden centres but like our gardens, they are three weeks behind as well.