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While spring is the traditional planting season for many garden plants, late summer and fall are also prime planting times for trees, shrubs, perennials, and herbs. Yes herbs! There are many herbs to plant in fall – annuals, biennials, and perennials. Here are ten culinary herbs to plant in your garden and containers this autumn.
Annual herbs to plant in fall:
While many perennial herbs like thyme and oregano prefer well-drained soil that’s not overly fertile, the below annual herbs grow best when given compost and regular irrigation.
- Parsley – Of all the herbs I grow in fall, parsley is the one that I use the most. I’m constantly clipping sprigs of my curly and flat-leaved parsley for salads, marinades, soups, and pastas. Parsley’s ease of cultivation and versatility in the kitchen make it a prime candidate for a list of herbs to plant in fall. I plant parsley in spring, but again in late summer and early autumn in my cold frames and polytunnel. Any plants left in the garden in late autumn are covered with a mini hoop tunnel before the hard frost arrives. Then, we can harvest homegrown parsley throughout late autumn and winter. Because parsley is a biennial, the plants begin to flower the following spring. At this point, I pull them up and toss them on the compost pile, but if you have the space, you can allow them to flower as the pollinators love the blooms.
- Chervil – Chervil is one of my favorite annual herbs to grow in fall and winter – yes winter! I sow the seeds in early fall in a corner of one of my cold frames. By late autumn, the plants have filled that space and the cold-tolerant foliage is ready to be harvested all winter long, adding a licorice flavor to our food. Chervil foliage looks a lot like parsley, but with a slightly more delicate appearance. It’s very ornamental when planted in fall containers too. Get a jump-start by sowing the seed indoors under grow-lights in late summer, moving them outside to beds or pots in early autumn. Expect the plants to grow about a foot tall in a fall or winter garden, but in a spring or summer garden they can reach heights up to two-feet.
- Cilantro – Love it or loathe it (I love it!), cilantro is a quick-growing herb with a pungent flavor essential in so many dishes. Because my spring-planted cilantro tends to bolt quickly, my best season for cilantro is autumn. Cilantro is partial to the short days and cooler temperatures of fall and won’t bolt as fast as it does in spring and summer. Sow the seeds in pots, window-boxes or garden beds from early to mid-autumn, harvesting often.
Perennial herbs for fall planting:
While spring is the primary planting season, don’t overlook fall. The warm soil, cooler weather, and ample moisture help plants establish quickly and give you a head-start on the spring garden. When planting in fall, avoid adding fertilizer at planting time. A dose of nutrients late in the season can spur fresh growth which may then sustain winter damage. Instead, dig in some compost and plan to fertilize in early spring with a balanced organic herb fertilizer.
You can grow perennial herbs from seeds, but you’ll need to start them indoors under a grow-light at least eight to 10 weeks before moving them to the garden. It’s quicker and easier to buy healthy seedlings from your local nursery for fall planting. Use herb snips to harvest fresh herbs quickly and without damaging the plant.
- Sage (hardy to zone 5) – I’ve been growing sage for over twenty years and while I don’t use it frequently in the kitchen, I’d never have a garden without it. Why? Sage is a beautiful plant with gray-green leaves but when it flowers in early summer, it also becomes a pollinator plant, attracting countless butterflies and bees to the garden. Sage is a woody shrub that grows two to three feet tall in my zone 5 garden. It can be susceptible to winter damage but covering the plant with evergreen boughs in late autumn helps insulate it over winter.
You’ll find tips for harvesting and using sage in this video.
- Thyme (hardy to zone 5) – Thyme is the perfect perennial herb for the edge of an herb garden. It’s low-growing and spreading, and is very drought tolerant. Its tiny flowers are extremely bee-friendly, and the leaves have a wonderful fragrance and flavor. Thyme plants are typically sold in four-inch pots and you’ll likely find a handful of types like lemon, lime, English, French, and common at your local garden centre.
- Marjoram (hardy to zone 7, 6 with protection) – This savory perennial herb is hardy to zone 7, but I have had luck overwintering it in my cold frames and polytunnel in my zone 5 garden. For those in zones 7 and up, this is one of the best herbs you can plant in fall. Just be sure to tuck it in beds by early to mid-autumn which gives it time to set roots before winter.
- Chives (hardy to zone 3) – Chives are perhaps the easiest and most reliable perennial herb to grow. And, they’re on this list of herbs to plant in fall because they’re so easily dug up and divided to be shared and re-planted. The spiky, onion-flavored foliage adds pretty texture to an herb garden and in late spring the round purple flowers attract bees and other pollinators.
- Lavender (hardy to zone 5) – Lavender doesn’t just prefer well-drained soil, it demands it. Find a sunny site, like a raised bed, which drains well and won’t leave your lavender sitting in soggy soil. When planting lavender in fall, aim to plant six to eight weeks before the soil freezes so the plants have time to settle in. To protect the plant during its first winter, mulch in late autumn with evergreen boughs or a layer of straw.
- Greek oregano (hardy to zone 5) – I grow several types of oregano in my gardens. Common oregano is reliably perennial and not only returns each year, but self-sows with abandon – be warned! Unfortunately, the flavor of common oregano is very faint and not ideal for the kitchen. For that reason I prefer to grow Greek oregano in my herb garden. While hardy to zone 5, it doesn’t always overwinter and so I find myself fall planting new seedlings every few years. Harvest often, drying the leaves for your herb cupboard or use fresh from the garden.
- Lemon balm (hardy to zone 4) – Related to mint, the lovely lemon-scented foliage of lemon balm makes it an essential herb for tea and sprinkling over fruit salads. However, it can be invasive so plant it only in an area where it can spread or put it in pots or fabric planters. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and is suited to fall planting. It loves rich, moist soil so water regularly if there has been no rain.
For more information on growing herbs, check out these posts:
- The 7 best herbs for container gardening
- Grow your own tea herbs
- Grow herbs indoors on a sunny windowsill
- Growing a culinary herb garden
Are you planting any herbs this fall?