Overwintering plants


Hi, I would like to know what to do about these plants over winter.
Blackberry – just planted it this summer, will it survive winter? or do I need to dig it out?
Lavender – understand that it can survive winter. but I had one that survived one winter, but died after the 2nd winter. what could be the cause? I got 2 more this summer and I want to make sure I take the correct steps for them to survive this winter.
Parsley – understand that it won’t survive winter, how can I preserve it indoor?
Basil – It’s becoming very woody toward the end of the summer. is it because I planted a few of them too close together?
Thyme – cover it up with something?
Sage – same as care for Thyme?
Oregano – same?

I’m quite new to gardening, slowly but surely learning… Thanks!!


Hello!  Thank you for contacting us.  The Toronto Master Gardener’s mission is to aid new gardeners like yourself, look for Master Gardeners at Farmer’s Markets or Gardening shows, come by and say hello – we are here to help!

Meanwhile let us look at your questions;

Blackberries.  Do not dig them out!  They can survive winter, but the branches or canes as they are commonly called,  do require some winterizing depending on what type of Blackberry bush you have; If you have a trailing Blackberry you will need to gently bend canes to ground level in the fall and  cover with soil, straw or other mulch that will protect the canes from blowing around in the winter.  The canes of the erect type are more winter hardy, but they will benefit from a bit of protection in the form of a wind break.  The roots of the Blackberry are perennial, but the stems are biannual.  This means that the canes will grow one year, produce fruit the second year and then die.  Once a stem has produced fruit, you should prune it out, as it will not produce fruit again, but don’t worry – another cane will grow in its place!

I have included a link to our answer to a similar question – it contains a link to a government of Ontario site, this is a wonderful resource for new gardeners.


Lavender.  I am hoping that you purchased English Lavender for your garden.  It is the species that is most winter hardy.   Sorry to hear that your Lavender did not make it through its second winter, but remember it was a very difficult winter, plants had to withstand many periods of freezing and thawing, which play havoc on Lavenders as well as many other plants.  You might try giving your Lavender plants a nice winter mulch, this will help retain a base line freeze and also will help to protect them from damaging winds.  Below is a link that will provide you with more information on overwintering your Lavenders.



Now to your herbs

Thyme and Oregano are winter hardy if planted in the ground (not in containers).  A mulch would not go amiss.  Especially if your variety of thyme is not the hardiest.  Be patient with your Oregano and Thyme in the spring – they are sometimes are late to emerge.

Sage is technically hardy, and can, if given the right conditions and protection survive through the winter.  However, Sage’s enemy is moisture, and most often Sage is killed when we have a mid-winter thaw and the plant sits in water for too long.  It is better to enjoy the plant during summer, dry the leaves for winter use and then either sow seeds indoors in early spring or purchase a young plant at the garden center.

My advice is similar for Basil and Parsley.  One can grow these plants indoors given the correct conditions which include lots of light.  Most indoor gardeners cannot provide the kind of light to keep these plants healthy without the use of specialized grow-lights.   Parsley has good cold tolerance, so although it is not winter hardy you can keep Parsley going well into the winter.  Parsley leaves freeze well, so that’s another way you can extend your Parsley season.  Basil and Parsley are easy to start indoors by seed.  The attached links will give you good information about this.  Note about your Basil getting woody.  This is common at this time of year, Basil being an annual has lived its life span, and is winding down.  I hope you were able to harvest and enjoy the lovely fragrant leaves over the summer and look forward to planning your herb garden next spring.


One more note:  The Toronto Botanical Garden offers many garden talks in the Spring especially useful for new gardeners.  If you are in the Toronto area I am sure you would find these very helpful.  Here is a link to the site:  https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/