In the Middle Ages, herb gardens were designed as enclosed gardens with hedges or fencing to keep out animals and other intruders. They grew herbs primarily for medicinal or culinary purposes, though some were for personal uses like masking odors in lieu of bathing, household deodorizers, and to deter pests.
Herbs are no longer relegated to an enclosed garden. Often they are grown in containers or indoors in sunny windows or under artificial light.
In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to incorporate herbs, as well as fruits and vegetables, into mixed garden beds, borders, or rock gardens.
In addition to culinary and medicinal uses, herbs can add color, texture, and aroma to a garden and are a great draw for beneficial pollinators.
There are several options that are hardy in Zone 3-4, especially with good drainage and the addition of winter mulching and protecton from the wind.
Perennial Herbs for Zones 3-4
- Bee balm
- English chamomile
- English thyme
- French tarragon
- Lemon balm
Several herbs should be treated as annuals or overwintered such as basil, dill, sweet marjoram, Greek oregano, rosemary, garden sage, and summer savory. Some may self-seed, so even if they die back, they may still re-grow from seed the following year.
If you’d like to grow lavender in zone 3-4, Munstead Lavender is a variety that is semi-evergreen with winter mulching and protection. Since lavender prefers drier conditions, it is important to make sure you are not smothering the base of the plant with too much mulch which can hold in moisture.
When your herbs are ready for harvesting, it is better to do so in the morning before the sun is at its peak. If you are harvesting the leaves, strip them off by sliding your thumb and forefinger along the stem. They be dried by gathering them into bunches, tying them together, and hanging them upside down.