Get down and dirty in the garden
Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, gardening with 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.
I am a long time reader of The Herb Companion magazine and always look forward to each new issue. I have noticed, however, that the gardening information about growing herbs is not always relevant to me. I live and garden with herbs in Texas, where the growing conditions and the weather can be very extreme. I thought other Texas readers of The Herb Companion might enjoy reading a blog about gardening with herbs from the Lone Star State.
I live in an area between Houston and San Antonio, just north of the Coastal Plain in Lavaca County near Hallettsville. Our soil pH is neutral, and we are lucky to have great sandy loam texture on our farm. We have a well to provide water, which is very hard and full of minerals, especially calcium. Right now we are experiencing a drought and, like most of the state, extreme heat, somewhat earlier than usual... if there is a “usual” any more. Herbs are some of the most drought-tolerant plants, as many of us have found out this year.
What's doing really well right now with very little water? Well, I have to say the Greek oregano and Santa Cruz oregano are doing the best with the least amount of water. Rosemary is doing the next best in my garden, although I am having to water it a bit.
Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) is doing very well with minimal water, and it's covered in the pinky-purple flowers it's known for. This is an underused plant. It has great flavor, is evergreen during the winter in our part of the state, and flowers during the hottest part of the summer. What's not to like?
I'm surprised the sage (Salvia officinalis) is doing as well as it is. I have had it die out during a very hot summer, but this year, perhaps because it is so well established, it is thriving in afternoon shade with just a little water about every other day.
Because I run a little nursery at my place, and because during this time of the year I spend a lot of my time and energy keeping stock plants alive for sales, my beds are often neglected. That's why I like herbs so much—they are really tough.
My herb bed would definitely appreciate a new layer of mulch and I'm trying to find the time to do that. It sure would help. Mulch is a very important component in any garden because it moderates the soil temperatures and, as you know, helps conserve moisture. A 2-inch layer of mulch will do wonders for your herbs, vegetables, shrubs and your annual and perennial flowers. Even native trees will respond well to a layer of mulch, so long as it's kept away from the trunk.
I hope you're all enjoying your gardens in the early mornings and evenings when it's pleasant to be outdoors. Don't forget to use those herbs. They're not just a pretty face!