Experts and BHG readers answer.
How do you cultivate herbs such as lavender, thyme, oregano, basil, and parsleyin a Zone 5 garden?
Harvest the perennial herbs continually over the summer. You can cook or preserve your harvest throughout the season, but the flavor of most herbs is better before they bloom. In my Zone 5 garden, I have many perennial herbs that I cut back after the first hard frost in fall. I completely harvest herbs I treat as annuals, such as basil and parsley, in summer or clean them up after frost in fall. Specifically, here are tips for the herbs you mentioned. Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Harvest this annual before it blooms, then toss any remaining plants af-ter frost takes it down. Lavender (Lavandula). Its winter hardiness depends on species and variety. For your zone, 'Hid-cote' and 'Munstead' are the hardiest English lavenders (L. angustifolia). French and Spanish varieties will not overwinter in your area. I don't protect my lavender, but I also do not cut it back in fall. After the new spring growth begins, I cut away any dead stems and shape the plant so that new growth comes from the center of the plant. A mulch of leaves around the base of the plant helps protect it through winter cold. Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum). In your zone, traditional oregano is hardy outdoors all winter. It needs to be pinched back or harvested to keep it from looking scraggly and prevent it from reseeding all over the garden. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum). Parsley is a biennial, so even if it makes it through the winter, it will go to seed quickly the next summer. It is best to replant it each year. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Winter hardiness varies according to variety and how severe the winter is. For example, common thyme is usually hardy in Zone 4, but variegated varieties often are not. Good soil drainage is important. Mulch will help. Cut away any dead stems in spring.