Gardening in Texas: Part 4 – Growing Herbs

By Ebony Porter, April 25, 2016, Green

Welcome to Gardening In Texas from Bounce Energy! We hope this series will steer you in the direction of planting a green Texas garden with a eco-friendly lifestyle in mind. We’ll discuss shaping a garden that uses less water, grows in harmony with animal and insect life in the area, and provides you with more than just a pretty view.

Growing Herbs

In earlier installments of our series, we covered native plants, trees, and wildflowers that grow with natural ease across Texas. Today, we venture into easy-to-grow herbs both annual and perennial.

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Fresh herbs are the real deal. Whether you use them in salads, sauces, casseroles, mixed drinks, rubs, marinades, and more, they trump dried herbs sold in small jars. They are a must-have for any garden, whether you grow your own vegetables for consumption or not. Growing herbs is also cheaper than buying them every week at the grocery store or farmers market. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching for herbs each time you cook a meal, or impressing your guests by using fresh herbs in your cocktails at your next party!

You can grow herbs in ornamental gardens, natural native gardens, and, for those of you without a yard and/or limited space, most certainly in pots. And while separate herb gardens are super cute, you don’t have to grow a specific garden just for herbs. And if you want to build a garden that invites butterflies, add herbs to your list!

Perennial Herbs

These are ideally planted among your other ornamental plants. They fall in sync with any and all other plants, and they stay vibrant for at least 9 months out of the year. Incorporate them into your established garden, or add them to a larger pot with other annual color.

Rosemary

RosemaryInRedZinnias-2Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Rosemary growing with red zinnias. Photo courtesy of Ebony Porter.

You find rosemary all across our great state in school gardens, civic landscapes, and front yards, for good reason. It’s hardy. You can almost ignore rosemary, and it will still grow. Once established, it doesn’t require much water, making it ideal if you live in an area where it’s important to conserve water. It loves a rocky terrain, and will even thrive in “gumbo soil” found in East and South Texas.

Rosemary can get rather large, so it’s possible to grow it as a hedge for privacy, while also enjoying its glorious scent and foliage. It blooms in spring with lilac purple flowers, which the bees love.

Use fresh chopped rosemary as a rub on a roast chicken, chopped as an addition to your hash brown potatoes for brunch, or add a sprig into a small cloth bag to use in a bath for a relaxing, uplifting soak.

Oregano

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Chochi the Cat watches over the oregano. Photo courtesy of Ebony Porter.

Growing oregano is easy. A lover of sun and partial shade, it’s a low-growing bush, even at its maximum height and width. It will grow fuller in spring compared to other seasons, but you can pretty much depend on access to fresh oregano all year long.

Simply cut a stem at its base, and pinch your fingers around it while pulling up. Leaves will pop off. If you’re like me, I love eating the leaves whole, and there’s no reason to chop them to use in your recipes.

Along with basil, oregano is the staple of cooking Italian food, but it is also found in other culinary traditions. Use fresh oregano in your salad dressings, in a quiche, and in your next batch of mac-n-cheese. Have you ever tried fresh oregano in a salad? It adds the most beautiful, musky twang.

Lemongrass

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Lemongrass is so beautiful, it might be mistaken for an ornamental grass. It loves morning sun, and as a bush, it will reach its greatest size to 3 feet by 2 feet. You can depend on harvesting lemongrass all year long, which is great for Texans, since the herb is purported to ward off those pesky mosquitoes that bombard us for a majority of the year.

Use lemongrass in Thai dishes, especially when making rice. You can also use it to make a refreshing ice tea!

  • Cut the grass at the base and cut into 1 inch lengths.
  • Place one grass blade into a small teapot and fill with boiling water.
  • Steep for 4 minutes.
  • If you like a little sweetness, go ahead and add honey.

The scent of lemongrass is like no other. Your tea may inspire you to put a chopped blade or two in your bathtub!

Annual Herbs to Grow in Texas

Some herbs simply don’t grow all year long, and that’s okay. Growing seasons are natural, and once you find a rhythm with your garden, you will learn that the cooler temperatures bring parsley, while the warmer weather get us excited for basil!

Mint

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

I place mint in the annual category. Some years, my mint thrives all year long, but others, it doesn’t. My mint typically is at its worst in summer, so while it’s thriving, I soak up its refreshing leaves.

Mint loves partial shade and good soil. Don’t let it dry out too much, as it prefers a moist home. I keep my mint in an area where it can grow a bit wild, but be warned – mint likes to crawl and pop up in all sorts of places in the garden. That’s why I would recommend that new herb gardeners grow it in a pot. If you do choose to add it in your garden, make sure its roots are contained so they don’t dominate the rest of your garden and root space.

Use mint in salads, in mojito mixed drinks, or as an addition to your tabbouleh salad. It is said to aid in digestion, so grab a leaf of mint and chew it up for a natural breathe freshener, too.

You can also make mint tea like we did for lemongrass tea. Place 5 ripped leaves into a small teapot of boiling water and enjoy a cup of mint tea at the end of the day.

Parsley

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

This is a cool weather herb, so you can really only enjoy fresh parsley from October through April. It loves full sun, and it does require watering when the soil turns dry. I recommend growing parsley from seed, though you can purchase seedlings at nurseries when they appear.

When parsley is in season, my family eats it daily. My daughter loves it chopped up in her mac-n-cheese, while my husband and I love to include it fresh in our salads. And any savory baked item welcomes a handful of chopped parsley. Loaded with Vitamin K and iron, the smell and flavor of fresh parsley is leaps and bounds better than the dry stuff.

Basil

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Basil plants love the Texas climate and thrive in full sun. Their bushes can often reach 4 feet tall! So give them a bit of room to grow and stretch out.

If you grow the stuff from seed, you’ll most likely turn up with so many seedlings, you can share them with friends or neighbors. Once they turn to seed, their flowers attract bees and butterflies, which is good for your garden as a whole.

Basil is used on fresh pizzas, to make pesto, and chopped fresh in margaritas!

Dill

Gardening in Texas: Part 4 - Growing Herbs

Dill is a beautiful herb that loves the sun. It’s wispy, delicate and has an old-timey look once it flowers yellow and goes to seed. The swallowtail butterfly will certainly find your dill plants, so plant enough for you and the butterflies. They will lay their eggs on the stems and their caterpillars will eat to their hearts’ content..

Used dill chopped up into salads, on fish dishes, and of course, to include in making dill pickles!

Are you a lover of growing herbs in Texas? Got any herbs we didn’t mention? Please share with us below! We’d love to know which are your favorites to grow in the Lone Star State.

 

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