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Herbs: Current Production

Current Production

There are three main categories of herbs that can be grown in this province:

  • Culinary herbs
  • Medicinal and cosmetic herbs
  • Medicinal and essential oil herbs 

Herbs grown historically include:

  • Spearmint – for essential oil
  • Echinacea – medicinal
  • St. John’s  Wort – medicinal
  • Feverfew – medicinal
  • Garlic – culinary
  • Valerian – medicinal
  • Coriander – essential oil
  • Dill – essential oil
  • Sweet Basil – culinary
  • Charmomile – culinary/medicinal
  • Willowherb (fireweed) – cosmetic

A number of the above crops have not continued in popularity here because of:

  • changing markets
  • increased competition worldwide
  • excessive labour requirements
  • poor adaptability
  • lack of grower or marketing expertise; and
  • in some cases, disease problems. 

The following other herbs are being grown on a fairly small scale or experimental basis.

Culinary 

Appendix 1 – Common Culinary Herbs
  • arugula, chives, cilantro, fennel, horseradish, lemon balm, oregano, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, sage, summer savoury, sweet marjoram, tarragon, thyme

Medicinal and cosmetic

Appendix 2 – Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses
  • astragalus, burdock, calendula, catnip, comfrey (for veterinary use only), dandelion, ginseng, goldenrod, goldenseal, hawthorn, lavender, liquorice, marshmallow, milk thistle, motherwort, mugwort, mullein, red clover, sea buckthorn, seneca, ginseng, stinging nettle, wormwood, yarrow, yellow dock 

Essential or pressed oil

  • borage, caraway, dill, angelica, chamomile, fennel, juniper, lemon balm, hyssop, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, sage, thyme, yarrow 

Many essential oils are also from plants not suited to our climate.

Other Herb Crops

When venturing into new herb crops, it is essential to obtain as much information as possible about the crop before planting and then plant only on an experimental basis. Enough of the crop should be planted to simulate commercial production, 10 rows about nine to 10 metres long might be considered.

Attention should be paid to:

  • Hardiness of perennial crops
  • Preferred soil type and growing temperatures
  • Length of growing season and moisture requirements
  • Propagation methods
  • Required equipment
  • Cultural practices required to ensure the plants do not become noxious weeds.     

Above all, the ability to market the crop is paramount. 

Potential growers might also consider native plants as well as exotic ones. 

Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate is the regulating authority for natural health products for sale in Canada and has banned some herbs because of their toxic properties (e.g. ephedra). 

Organic Production

Many herb growers choose to grow their crops organically as a marketing tool or as a personal choice. A good understanding of organic production and practices is needed to effectively address pest and weed control. If land has not previously been in organic production, there will be a time lag of several years before certification can be given. For more information, including a list of certifying agencies, visit the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.

Labour Requirements

Planting space: While some herb production, such as borage, milk thistle, chamomile and mint, can be produced on a field scale, the majority are produced in small plots as row crops or closely spaced in small beds. 

Harvesting: Some crops may need to be harvested repeatedly over the season, or at least once or twice a year.

Machinery: The use of small machinery, such as water-wheel transplanters, plastic mulch-laying equipment, cultivators and in-field dryers should be considered. In some instances, there may be opportunities to cost-share with other growers in the area. 

Irrigation: A number of herb crops require irrigation for establishment and good yields. However, some are better as dryland crops. 

Pest Control: Usually organic, pest control may be necessary. Agronomic practices, such as between row-cultivation, can sometimes help reduce a pest population. 

Weed Control: A good deal of hand-labour is required in keeping these plots free of weeds. The use of plastic mulches is gaining acceptance as a means of weed control, since it significantly reduces the amount of hand-labour required. It should be noted that few pesticides are registered in Canada for commercial herb production, although that is slowly changing.

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