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 didn't get too much done at The Herb Cottage this week. I spent a couple of days in lovely San Antonio visiting with a friend from Florida who was there visiting her mother. But, I did get germination on several flats I planted last week. The salad burnet and fernleaf dill seeds sprouted. The plants are so tiny!! I love seeding. It's just amazing to me how a little seed pushes itself through the soil and reaches for the sun. Just add water!
Salad burnet and dill seedlings.
I had very good germination on the thyme seeds. There are two different varieties here: German winter thyme, which is an excellent herb to grow in our area and further north in Texas, and English thyme. Both types are called Thymus vulgaris or common thyme. If you see a recipe which calls for simply thyme, you can never go wrong using English thyme or the German winter variety.
German winter thyme grows a little bit stockier than the English, in my experience. It grows woodier and very sturdy. The flavors are very similar—the German is perhaps a little more pungent.
Propagating thyme from seed is not a quick endeavor. (Click here to read more about propagating herbs.) It will take about 5 to 6 weeks before these seedlings are ready to be planted in a garden or herb container. If you have healthy, thriving thyme in your garden it's easy to make new plants simply by digging out a section of the plant with roots and transplanting it to another spot. If your thyme is in a container, take it out of the pot and cut the plant in half or in sections for more plants. Don't over-water the new plants; do keep them moist until they settle into their new home.
It's still very hot here in Texas, but it didn't break 100 degrees yesterday. Today and tomorrow are forecast to stay in the 90s as well. I also noticed the forecast lows to be below 70 degrees the next few nights. The plants will love the cooler night temperatures, even if it's just cooler by a few degrees. When it stays hot at night, as it does here for weeks and weeks, it really stresses the herbs.
Many of our favorite herbs are from very warm environments such as the Mediterranean. Even these herbs, which thrive in hot daytime temperatures, start to suffer when the nights stay above about 75 degrees for weeks on end. So, the upcoming cooler nights should help make our herbs perk up and even put on new growth. The lemon balm I pruned to the ground a couple of weeks ago is already showing signs of fresh new growth.
If you live in the southern half of Texas and you haven't pruned back leggy herbs yet, go ahead and do it now. You don't have to prune heavily if the plants still look good. But, if you have plants that are all stem with a few leaves at the top, go ahead and cut those stems down to several inches above the soil. With cooler temperatures and shorter days, those plants will put on a flush of new growth this fall.
If you live in the northern half of Texas, where it will get colder sooner, prune lightly if the plants look leggy. Otherwise, leave them alone, harvest and enjoy your herbs this fall.
I thought I'd share this picture of Miss Ruby Begonia (my cat) under our big oak tree lounging in the chive flats. On a hot afternoon, it's cool there and the pots are a bit damp, making a fragrant, comfy place for napping. I'll be repotting the chives when she moves on to a sunnier spot as the weather cools a bit.
Ruby Begonia lounging in the chives.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Marcus Tullius Cicero