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Growing Herbs in Texas: Early Spring Planting

2/9/2010 9:51:05 AM

Tags: Texas Gardening, Herbs, Early Spring Planting, Cynthia Meredith, Growing Herbs in Texas, Herb Cottage, Tips

C.MeredithCynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.

Winter sure is hanging on here in south central Texas. We've had so many cloudy days, a fair amount of rain and cold temperatures. It's been a few weeks, however, since we've seen a freeze here, and I'm seeing signs of new growth on plants that froze back. One of my favorite plants that froze is ramie (Boehmeria nivea), or Chinese silkplant. This is the plant that the fiber ramie is made from—you know the fiber that's woven with wool or cotton for sweaters. For more information, here's a link to an article in Wikipedia.

Ramie Plant
Tiny new growth on a ramie plant. 

Mature Ramie Plant
Mature ramie plant.
Courtesy of Wikipedia 

I've seen swelling buds on several trees such as vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), or chastetree, also called Texas lilac or monk's pepper due to its reputation for suppressing libido.  

Vitex is a wonderful small tree with fragrant purple, pink or white flowers. The leaves are palmate and a nice, medium green. Vitex is easy to grow and the flowers attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. I know spring can't be too far ahead when the vitex shows signs of new life.

Purple Vitex
Purple vitex
Courtesy of

According to Ellen Zimmerman of EZ Herbs in Austin, "The medicinal berries are used to treat PMS and menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and excessive bleeding. As a hormonal balancer, vitex regulates progesterone and estrogen, treats fibroids and re-establishes normal ovulation and menstruation."

Cleared Garden Beds
Cleared garden beds waiting for growth to fill in and some mulch. Notice how green the grass is from all the rain we've had.

I've had time between seeding flat upon flat of tomatoes for spring sales to weed and clean up a few garden beds. The main herb bed looks much better without all the spring grass coming up everywhere. I even planted a few more herbs from transplants: fennel, bronze fennel, I planted these adjacent to each other as they are a great visual combination, more chamomile, dill and a Greek oregano.

bronze and Green Fennel
Bronze and green fennel.

As with many gardeners, this is has to be my favorite time of year. Oh, yes, I love late spring and early summer when the roses are in full bloom, the basil is still stocky and perfect, the thyme has its tiny blossoms, and I'm overwhelmed by the richness of the textures and colors of the garden. But this time of year is quiet and slow. You have to look closely to see the changes, but they are there. Spring is not that far off when the buds begin to swell on bare branches, new growth is tucked down between dead branches and people at the farmers' market talk to me about starting their garden.


Texas Olive in San Antonio
Texas olive in San Antonio, Texas.
Courtesy of 
Bexar County Agri-Life Service 

Don't be fooled, though, by the errant warm breeze or sunny day, of which we've had one in about the last two weeks! Winter resides even in the southern part of Texas into March. So if you start to put out tender plants like basil or tomatoes, be ready to bring them in during the next freeze. I cannot tell you when it will happen, only that it will. And, those of you in the northern part of Texas, you know you have at least two more months before your winter weather is truly over.  

(Find more tips for starting your spring garden by reading our "Spring Garden Checklist.")

So, try to enjoy the quiet pre-spring season, watch your plants, look for the robins and blue birds, and spring will be here before you know it.

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