Gardeners' Dirt: Herbs add sight, smell, taste in garden
By Jean Knowles - Victoria County Master Gardener Intern Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.
Herbs can add interest to all parts of the landscape, from flower beds and borders, to pots and planters. A basic knowledge of good gardening practices and the requirements of the specific herb will enable you to have a one-of-a-kind landscape.
Most herbs are easy to grow. In fact, in their native settings, most are basically weeds - in the kindest definition of that word - grow without much care and self-propagate.
To be successful, planting herbs with annuals and perennials requires the gardener to understand the specific needs of the herbs and determine where in the garden those needs can best be met.
Some herbs are perennials, while others are annuals. Some prefer full sun and can tolerate hot, dry conditions, while others prefer some shade and like moist soil.
Some annuals grow in cool weather and die back when it gets hot, while others only begin to grow when the temperatures get warm. So the gardener must determine the needs of the specific herb.
The little tag in the pot at the nursery gives some basic information. But, before you put much money into plants it is a good idea to get a good book that is more specific, such as "The Cook's Herb Garden" by Jeff Cox and Marie-Pierre Moine or go online.
Ground vs. container
First, you have to determine whether to plant in the ground or in containers - and which herbs will grow in the places you have available.
Most herbs can be grown either in the ground or in containers. There are advantages to each choice. In the ground, the herb has more space to develop a good root system, usually grows larger and can withstand less care. In containers, the plant requires more consistent care, but can be moved around to get the optimum conditions.
For example, lavender does not like to have wet feet. If lavender is in pots you can move it onto the patio when there is an extended wet spell - yes, we have had those in the past.
Another advantage of containers is when planting herbs with perennials you can grow the herb to good size in the pot in another location and then move it to the desired place when it is large enough to get the sunshine it needs.
Available growing conditions will determine whether the herbs will be successful in a particular location. Some herbs, such as mint can be very invasive and are best grown in pots.
Keep in mind where and when the herb will be planted before you head to the nursery.
Perennial herbs for our area include rosemary, common sage, Mexican mint marigold, mints, thymes, oregano, lavenders, lemon grass, lemon verbena, lemon balm, hyssop, stevia and chives. Annuals include basils, dill, fennel, parsley, cilantro and arugula.
Cool season herbs that grow in our area include parsley, oregano and arugula. Most everything else grows better in spring and summer.
Herbs that can grow in partial shade include mint, some basils, anise hyssop, arugula, sorrel and parsley.
Herbs that can tolerate the full sun are rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and some basils.
Herbs such as mint and lemon balm require consistent, moist soil. Others like rosemary and sage do best in soil that dries out completely. Lavender cannot tolerate wet feet at all.
This is an incomplete list and only includes herbs that I have grown successfully in Victoria. For more detailed information on particular herbs for Texas, information can be found in Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac.
For a planting of herbs in the flower garden or landscape to be successful, the requirements of the herbs and partner plants must be similar. Some combinations that have been successful in the Victoria area are listed below.
In-ground plant partners for our area
• Low-growing rosemary and miniature roses
• Cosmos with sage and/or bush rosemary
• Purple basil in front of daylilies - the basil covers up the unsightly foliage of the daylilies
• Lemon balm in front of medium-sized bush rose
• Thyme with small zinnia
• Low-growing lantana in front of rosemary
• Mexican mint marigold in front of butterfly bush, salvia or rose
• Parsley or cilantro in place that perennial such as salvia will appear in late spring
Planting herbs in your flower garden will provide you fun while experimenting new combinations and creating a unique garden that provides stimulation for the senses of sight, smell and taste.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at victoriaadvocate.com.