seal Growing Herbs in North Texas

Collin County Master Gardeners Association

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"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.


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Notes from Lucy Harrell’s talk about Gardening – the way it was.

By Jacki Brewer


If you missed Lucy Harrell at Rendenta’s on Sunday Oct 16th you missed some interesting tidbits about the way organic gardening was in the way, way back as well as information that is helpful for the modern organic gardener.

I jotted a few notes to share but if you want to get more in depth information go to Lucy’s website at or email her your questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Lucy loves to answer questions and give valuable advice on organic gardening so don’t be afraid to pick her brain.

Lucy talked about how her grandmother kept separate compost piles that treated different plant needs. Comfrey leaves were a compost staple. Many types of weeds were harvested to use in the compost pile because they were rich in many nutrients. To keep from having weeds grow in your compost pile, keep the weeds in some type of container for two weeks until they dry, shake the weeds to loosen any seeds. The seeds will fall into the container and then you can toss the weeds, now seedless into the compost.

Compost piles should never be allowed to get any taller than 3 feet because they will get too hot underneath and kill the good components that are growing. Once they get that tall leave them to do there composting thing until they are about 18”.  

Lucy talked about how her grandmother had a big wrap aroung porch that everyone would congregate on in the summer. There was always old fabric or rags around to make rag rugs for the porch. The next summer after the rag rugs had seen better days her grandmother would use them as mulch in the garden as they would eventually break down and new rag rugs would be assembled again. Nothing went to waste.


Prune upright Rosemary in August. Upright rosemary blooms on new growth usually around Feb.

Prostrate rosemary doesn’t need to be pruned to encourage blooming.

Tip: If you want to chase mosquitos off, placed DRIED rosemary stems in your outdoor fireplace, pit, or chimenea and the aroma will keep those skeeters at bay. Never use fresh rosemary in a fire.

Best way to propagate rosemary – take a stem cutting, trim off the bottom half of leaves so you have something that resembles a mini tree and place in small grow pot that has drainage with straight worm castings.

Hint for keeping your forced paperwhites from getting too leggy – don’t place them in too bright a place right away. Keep them in low light until the stem starts to emerge to about 3-4 inches and then give them more light.

If you grow purple Homestead verbena sprinkle orange or red poppy seeds into the verbena in the fall and in the spring you will have this lovely contrast of the purple with the orange/red color of the poppy.

Sow calendula and nasturtium seeds now as well as delphinium. Now is also a good time to sow wild flower seeds if you have a good location for them.

The older leaves of Hellebore (Lenten Rose) should be removed in the early spring to give the plant enough light to encourage it to bloom.

Curly parsley is a nice companion plant with pansies or violas.

When planting your pansies here is a recipe to ensure success:

Mix equal parts of worm castings, rock phosphate and alfalfa meal. Dig your hole and put a handful of this mixture into the hole, plant and then water in with Maxicrop Seaweed.

Many times with our pansies once we plant them the tops grow too quickly for the existing root ball to handle and that is why we may see our pansies not do so well. This recipe for planting ensures that the plant will develop a strong root system before the top growth gets going.