Growing Herbs in Texas: The Importance of Pruning and Mulch

By Staff
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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 ( for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.

It is still very hot here in my part of Texas. Day after day the temperature reaches 100 degrees or above with no rain. I was in town this morning and two people stopped me to ask how to keep their plants alive in this weather. It surely is a challenge.

Two things I think will help preserve plants are pruning and mulch. If you live where there is water rationing, you might have to sacrifice some plants to save others. Annuals are generally the biggest water-users–even in the herb garden. The sweet and succulent basils that I wrote about last week definitely are not considered drought-tolerant. Harvest your basil, make pesto or make flavored vinegar and think about replanting it early in the fall for a later crop. Save your water for your big rosemary plant or your favorite antique rose. Basil grows quickly from seed; you can usually find transplants in the southern parts of Texas to plant it early in the fall. If you live in the northern part of Texas, you can take cuttings now. Root them in a glass of water in the kitchen and plant them indoors for the winter.

Also, prune those leggy oregano plants if they’re wilting too quickly every day. If they’ve already bloomed, prune them back by about half their size. The following picture is before I pruned back this Santa Cruz Oregano.

You can see how leggy it is–it looks unhealthy and not very attractive. The next picture is after only about 15 to 20 minutes of work pruning. How much better the tractor tire bed looks.

My lemon balm looks very poor even though it gets afternoon shade. I generally prune my lemon balm during August, and this year I’m doing it earlier. When the weather cools down it’ll grow out and againprovide me with wonderful leaves for tea and Lemon Balm Quick Bread (a favorite with anyone who’s ever tried it!)

The other very important step that will help your plants through this hot, dry spell is to mulch, mulch, mulch. I stepped barefoot on a spot in my yard underneath the full sun that is not mulched. Yeow!! The soil was really hot! Imagine how the roots of the plants feel with that heat around them. Also, we all know that mulch conserves water as well as tempering the soil temperature.

I know other parts of Texas have been getting rain. I’d love to hear from some of you in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area or east Texas. How do your herb gardens grow this summer??

And, just so we never give up hope, here’s a picture of the flowers that recently bloomed on that tough plant–garlic chives.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
–Marcus Tullius Cicero

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