Spring is Here - Time to Trim Your Perennial Herbs

5 years ago
Salt Lake has been having spring-like weather lately, so on one of those warm days I went out in the garden and trimmed most of my perennial herbs, making way for the green shoots to appear.  When I mentioned on Twitter that I'd been trimming herbs, a few people asked about how to do it, so I thought I'd share how my herb beds looked after their spring trimming.  Nothing gets me more excited about summer than the appearance of fresh herbs in the garden, so I love seeing those little spots of green!  (Links to gardening sites contained within this post are purely for information purposes and are not meant to be an endorsement of the site.)
Nothing says Spring like perennial herbs starting to show some green!
If you're going to try growing herbs, you need to learn which are Perennial Herbs (those that come back year after year), which are Biennial Herbs (those that come back once after the first year) and which are Annual Herbs (those that have to be re-planted every year).  There can also be some differences based on the climate where you live; for example Rosemary is a perennial but in Utah it often dies if it's a cold winter.  If you're new to gardening, pay special attention to where you plant the Perennial Herbs because some travel around if they aren't contained (mint) and others grow to be quite large bushes if they aren't trimmed (sage, oregano, and rosemary).
Thyme is a perennial that dies down to what looks like a mass of sticks in the winter, but if you trim it down you will soon see tiny green leaves start to appear.  There are many types of thyme, all of which are fairly hardy and easy to grow.  (Those brown tubes are the drip watering system in my garden beds.)
Mint is one herb you may come to hate if you plant it where it can spread out, because it will overtake anything that's planted nearby.  It's best grown in a container, and I have my mint in a divided garden bed with the mint in the center section.  Mint grows like a weed, and the clumps of dead branches should be trimmed away every year.
Rosemary may or may not last through the winter, depending on what garden zone you live in, but this year we had a mild winter in Utah and the rosemary is very happy.  I didn't trim this too vigorously because I liked the idea of having some early-season rosemary.
French Tarragon is another plant that looks like a bunch of dead sticks in the spring, but green leaves will pop up, so trim the sticks away to give the leaves a chance to start again.
Parsley is a biennial, so if you trim the thick stems from the previous year leaves will sprout out again the second year.
If you neglect your parsley plants a little in the fall and let them go to seed, the seeds that drop will sprout the next year in the spring.  These little clumps of curly parsley are starting from seeds.  (By the way, parsley is easy to grow from seeds you buy, but they take a very long time to sprout.)

For some reason my Italian Parsley is very eager to get started this year, which is just fine with me!

And of course Chives is always one of the first herbs to start back in the spring.   I have a hard time remembering to trim this in the fall, so I usually end up in the spring just pulling out the dead pieces.
I have a few other perennial herbs planted around my back yard.  The Sage and Purple Sage aren't getting any leaves yet.  Lavendar is something I grow mostly for the flowers, and the plants are already covered with leaves, but I haven't trimmed it yet.  I've also got some Golden Oregano and Marjoram plants that are still looking pretty dead, but they will be getting a trim pretty soon.
If you have herbs starting to show up in your garden, please let us know in the comments about what you're growing and how they're doing at this time of year.  You can see all my Garden Updates since 2006 or the 2012 Garden Updates if you'd like to see more about my garden.

Kalyn Denny writes about cooking, gardening, and shares her low-glycemic recipes at Kalyn's Kitchen

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