Get down and dirty in the garden
Cynthia 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 (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.
As spring morphs into summer, mornings are very special in the herb garden. The air is so soft, humid and even a little bit cool ... as cool as it is going to be for the day. The Texas heat has set in. The gardens, and the gardener, look best in the early morning before the heat and humidity rise during the afternoon to the mid 90s. After a cool spring and a colder than usual winter, it's taking me some time to get used to summer temperatures. The herb gardens, however, are taking it all in stride.
Even the onslaught of the grasshopper hoards who are visiting us this year barely dampen the spirits of the plants. With the grasshoppers (to right) are munching on everything in sight, the herbs are the least bothered by the little critters.
Oh, yes, they're having their fun with the parsley, too, sharing what's left of the plants still to be harvested for seed with the swallowtail larvae. I've already harvested some seed from the parsley, and more is ready to cut. When saving seed from your own plants, it's important not to harvest the seed too early. If the seed is not fully mature, germination will be poor or non-existent. I'm anxious, though, to finish the harvest and pull the plants.
Not only is it nearly impossible to get through the path next to the bed, but I'd like that space to plant some more basil.
I did prune the monster Little Pinky Climbing Rose on the other side of the narrow pathway, but the parsley still impedes progress along the path. Once the parsley is gone, I plan to make a generous planting of the many different basils I'm currently growing out in the greenhouse. I have 'Serrata', with a serrated margin, three kinds of holy basil from India and several African varieties. The 'Serrata' is a sweet basil variety, and I'm anxious to see how the others taste.
Parsley flopping over the pathway awaiting harvest.
This time of year, basil does so well with adequate water. It's one herb that really loves our Texas heat and humidity, so I like to grow a lot of it. I know we're out of pesto, too, which I like to make and freeze in ice cube trays. It's so easy to cook up some pasta while a cube or two of pesto is thawing: Simply toss the hot pasta with the thawed pesto for an easy and delicious meal. Fresh tomatoes and squash from the garden can go in to make a more complete dish. Chill it and you have an easy pasta salad.
African blue basil—strong flavor and great flowers.
In the last month, I haven't worked too much in the gardens due to the business keeping me very busy, but I have done a few things. I added comfrey, pineapple sage and dwarf curry plant, Helichrysum microphyllum, to a mostly shady area on the north side of the yard (more about that bed in the future).
Dwarf curry—the little grayish plants in front of the comfrey.
I planted some stevia plants in a spot that gets morning sun and a little afternoon shade. The big job in the garden, however, was when we took down the tall lemon eucalyptus tree that died during the winter. Originally, we called a fellow whose ad in the local paper said "Tree Removal". But, when he called to tell us he couldn't keep his appointment to assess our project due to a broken arm received on a tree trimming job, we decided to do the job ourselves. We even treated ourselves to a new chainsaw, which will also come in handy to cut up the numerous dead pecan tree branches that have started to fall.
We roped off the dead trunk of our lemon eucalyptus for safety.
Making the notched cut.
Look out! Falling tree!
The tree measured almost 50 feet tall, exactly the distance from the base of the tree to our fence. After much studying of angles, reminding ourselves where the power lines are, roping the tree off so it wouldn't fall into said power lines if the cut was not right, my husband fired up the chain saw and made the precision cuts necessary to fell the tree and have it land where we wanted it to. And, it did ... pretty much. We were quite relieved and pleased that the tree was down with the only collateral damage being a pottery Toad Abode given to me by a friend. The pieces now decorate the cactus garden. The sprouts from the base of the old tree can grow up shrub like and full. Just today, I inadvertently ran the hose across some of the stalks that lie on the ground, and was rewarded with the pungent aroma of the lemon eucalpytus. Lovely.
What's going on in your early summer herb gardens around Texas? Whatever it is, I hope you are harvesting lots of your favorite herbs for salads, cooling teas and more.
Habek mint (Mentha longiflora) also known as bible mint,
with blue chicory flowers peeking from behind. This is a nice tea mint.
Here's a little poem I found which sums up my feeling of an early summer morning:
Turn out at six on a still June morning.
That's the hour, with the dew sheeting the grass,
and no one but the birds busy.
Five o'clock may be better if the weather is hot and fair.
This is one of the mystery hours in a garden, when the sunlight comes slantingly,
and strikes upon the wet and brilliant colors, and everything is still.
You are alone.
Your garden is yours and with it the whole world.
Not a voice to be heard...you are alone with beauty,
an impersonal and strange beauty,
a something that heals the heart of your restlessness.
For [we] need to be alone sometimes; and flowers ask no questions.