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.
Winter certainly has set in here in south-central Texas. The temperatures barely reach 55 or 60 degrees during the day and the lows have been in the high 30s to low 40s most mornings. However, the forecast is for much colder weather this week, so keep those sheets, old quilts and blankets handy to cover tender plants. Remember to water herbaceous herbs and vegetables if the temperatures drop to freezing or below freezing to help them cope with the cold.
Most of my plants, including potted herbs and vegetable seedlings I have for sale, are growing slowly during this cold and, sometimes, cloudy weather. There is root growth, however, taking place in all my pots and small plants in the garden beds. Roots grow during cold temperatures so long as the ground does not freeze or stay very cold for weeks on end. That is why we suggest planting hardy herbs, shrubs and trees in the fall. The roots get a chance to get good growth during the cool to cold weather and then have a much easier time coping with the extreme heat of our brutal summer and early fall seasons.
When it's too cold, windy and unpleasant outdoors, what do we do to satisfy our gardening urge? Why, we peruse seed catalogs and web sites looking for new and interesting plant varieties for our gardens. Or, we may look over last year's garden journal. Didn't keep a journal? Well, you could simply write down what you remember from the past year. Or, look for a notebook to start one now for 2010. Or, set up a little journal on the computer, if you prefer to keep notes that way. Any way you decide to do it, keeping a garden journal weekly, monthly or how ever often you decide to make an entry is fun. The experience causes you to distill what's been happening in the garden so you can write about it.
Also, check out the great article in the January 2010 issue of the Herb Companion, "Herbie's Favorite Seed Catalogs."
Here in Texas we have to know about our climate and growing conditions to interpret the information given in catalogs that are for national consumption. I buy seeds from suppliers as far away as Maine, Colorado and Virginia. The cultural information for those areas of the country can be quite different than for here in Texas. Sowing season, water usage, sun/shade requirements and how big the plant will get can vary greatly in my garden from the stated information given from the supplier.
My advice is to do further research on new plants you want to grow in your gardens. Read the given information, and think about your own garden. Many plants, for instance, that require summer FULL SUN in other parts of the country will need afternoon shade here. Some seeds will need to be sown in February or March here instead of May or June in places further north. A good starting point for finding out about Texas plants is Aggie Horticulture. There are sections for each part of Texas so you can learn with confidence about your area of the state. Of course, you can always check out The Herb Cottage, too, for the best information on growing herbs in Texas.
I love experimenting with new varieties of herbs in my garden, pushing the Zone envelope. Sometimes the plants I want to grow do not survive here. Or, I learn I need to grow them as winter annuals instead of spring into summer. Testing, learning and even failing is all part of gardening.
May your New Year be Prosperous, Growing and Thriving.
Stay warm and don't fret over your hardy herbs in the garden. With a little cover, they'll come through the below freezing temperatures just fine!! Potted herbs need more protection because the roots are not insulated by the ground, so you might want to move them or cover them. I've even seen pots wrapped in bubble wrap to help insulate the roots!!