- Saturday, July 22, 2017
Growing Herbs in North Texas
Collin County Master Gardeners Association
972-548-4219 (Information Center) * 972-548-4232 (Main Line)
"There are two distinct meanings of the word herb: A non-woody plant, from which we get
the term “herbaceous” and any plant that has therapeutic properties.
Although we tend to think of herbs as small, aromatic plants such as parsley and thyme,
they include a very wide range of plants from annuals, biennials and herbaceous perennials
to trees, shrubs, climbers and primitive plants such as ferns and mosses.
Some herbs are not especially aromatic, and others may even smell unpleasant;
for example, a boxwood hedge after clipping.”
- Deni Bown, Growing Herbs
Various parts of herb plants are used. Most herbal flowers are edible and add color to
salad and flavor to teas. Leaves are the part most of us are familiar with.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Cool Season Annual; Full Sun; 1-2’ t x 1-2’ w; Blooms
Yellow Spring and Fall.
Seeds, berries and fruits are used in cooking or for making teas. These parts need a longer
exposure to heat to unlock their flavor. Stems are the parts of the plant visible above the
ground. Common herbal stems include chives and lemongrass. Herbs commonly found
underground include garlic and ginger.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) – Perennial Rhizome; Part Sun to Part Shade; 2’ t x 1’ w; Water
Proven horticultural practices will assure your success in growing herbs.
When siting your herb garden, keep it close to the house so it’s convenient to snip herbs
when you need them. A water source nearby is another convenience. The most important
consideration is that the plants will receive sufficient sunlight.
Winter Savory (Satureja montana) – Perennial; Full Sun; 6-12” t x 8-12” w; Blooms White
in Fall; Requires Sharp Drainage.
Plants vary in their light requirements, but in general herbs require at least half a day of
sun, preferably morning light with afternoon protection.
Some herbs that tolerate shade include chervil, chives, lemon balm, mints, parsley,
pineapple sage, St. John’s wort, tarragon and violets.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) – Tender Perennial; Part Sun to Part Shade; 2’ t x 2’ w;
Blooms Red in Fall.
Raised beds make gardening easier and allow you to determine the quality of the soil. Organic matter such as compost is an essential ingredient in soil health. Expanded shale is useful in loosening tight clay soils and creating air space for plant roots.
Mulch helps control weeds, prevents erosion and soil compaction, conserves soil moisture and prevents crusting of the soil. It also regulates soil temperature and keeps plants cleaner. Using a shredded hardwood mulch adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. The Mediterranean herbs benefit from a mulch of pea gravel.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) – Perennial; Full Sun; 2-3’ t x 2’; Blooms Blue in Summer; Requires Sharp Drainage.
Efficient watering practices are important to conserve water, but also for the health of the plant. The goal is to replenish water used by the plant and water lost through evaporation. Water plants thoroughly and then allow them to dry out slightly. Group plants according to their water needs. Apply water at the root zone through drip irrigation or soaker hoses.
Herbs grown in garden soil get much of their nutrient needs from the soil. Some herbs have more need for nutrients.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora) – Tender Perennial; Full Sun; 3-4’ t x 3-4’ w; Benefits from Frequent Fertilization.
Before pruning, allow plants to settle in for a few weeks. Pinch pruning is nipping out the shoot tip to produce bushy, attractive plants. Some herbs are pruned by cutting stems close to the soil line. Always use sharp scissor. Practice good hygiene by keeping tools clean.
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) – Annual; Part Sun to Part Shade; 1’ t x 1’ w; Cut Stems to Soil Line when Pruning.
In general, harvesting herbs occurs at season end and before plants flower. The best time to harvest is early in the morning. There are two methods. With annual plants, the entire plant can be pulled. When harvesting perennial plants, remove no more than one third of the plant.
“An annual plant is one whose complete cycle of development, from germination of the seed through flowering and death, occurs in a single growing season.”
Some annual herbs: Basil, borage, calendula, cardoon, chervil, cilantro, dill, Florence fennel, nigella, pelargoniums, poppy and summer savory.
Borage (Borago officinalis) – Annual; Full Sun; 1’ t x 1’ w; Blooms Blue in Summer.
“A biennial plant is one that requires two seasons to complete its growth cycle; usually generating vegetative growth the first year, then flowering, fruiting and dying in the second.”
Some biennial herbs: Caraway, evening primrose, mullein and parsley.
Mullein (Mullein verbascum) – Biennial; Full Sun to Part Sun; 6” t Rosette; Up to 8’ t Flower Stalk; Blooms Yellow in Summer.
“A perennial plant is one that continues the cycle of new growth, flowering and fruiting for at least three years.”
Some perennial herbs: Bay laurel, bee balm, bronze fennel, catmint, chives, clary sage, comfrey, Echinacea, eucalyptus, feverfew, germander, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, Mexican mint marigold, mints, oregano, rosemary, rue, sage, salad burnet, St. John’s wort, tarragon, thyme, valerian, violets and winter savory.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – Perennial, Part Sun to Part Shade; 1’ t x 1’ w; Blooms Yellow in Summer through Fall, followed by Colorful Berries.
Many herbs grow well in containers and containers allow you to control the environment to provide plants with the soil, water, fertilizer and drainage to meet their needs. Some invasive herbs should only be grown in containers. Almost any container is suitable provided that it has drainage holes. Use commercial soil mixes. Plants in containers have limited soil and require more frequent water and fertilizing. When plants become root bound be prepared to graduate plants to larger containers.
When designing containers, use a mixture of tall plants, plants that fill the middle area, and plants that cascade over the sides of the container. Herbs look beautiful mixed with flowering annuals, bulbs and even vegetables. Consider the water needs of the herbs in the container. Container plants benefit from mulch the same way that plants in the ground do.
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) – Tender Perennial; Full Sun to Part Sun; 1’ t x 1’ w; Blooms White in Late Summer.
Why Grow Herbs? They are resilient and some of the easiest plants to grow. Where there are herbs, there are bees and butterflies. Because their powerful essential oils confuse and repel pests, herbs act as guardians of the garden. There is an herb for every situation in the garden. Most herbs are available in economical 4” pots and many can be grown from seed. Reduce your carbon footprint by reducing trips to the market, and reduce waste by snipping just what you need.
Herbs are a delight to grow, not only for their diverse flowers, scents and forms, but because they are the simplest group of plants to cultivate.
Bown, Deni. The Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses. London, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1995.
Bown, Deni. Growing Herbs. London, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1995.
Foley, Corline, Jim Nice and Marcus Webb. New Herb Bible. London, Quintet Publishing Limited, 2002.
Harding, Jennie. The Herb Bible. New York, Barnes and Noble, 2005.
Hill, Madeline and Gwen Barclay. Southern Herb Growing. Fredericksburg, Shearer Publishing, 1987.
Kowalchik, Claire and William H. Hylton. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, Rodale Press, 1987.
McVickar, Jekka. The Complete Herb Book. London, Kyle Cathie Limited, 1994.
Schlosser, Katherine K. The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs. Baton Route Louisiana State University Press, 2007.