Location, Location, Location

Most of my herbs are doing the best this year that they have ever done. I think I am finally (after eight years of trying) getting basic herb growing down pat. It all comes down to location.

Being in Central Texas means I can't always go by what the back of seed packets, those little labels on transplants, or most books say about whether or not plants require full sun. I’ve been growing herbs based on trial and error from the start. I'd plant according to the seed packet or little label for herbs which where supposed to live forever, only to have them shrivel in the hot, seemingly endless Texas heat. Summer here really extends from end of May to the end of September, if we are lucky. Hot is over 95 degrees, which if the past 2 weeks are any indication, we are in for a very long, unbearably hot, countless- days-over-100 summer. Thus, parsley does not really like full sun, nor does basil, oregano, and newly transplanted mint. If I can provide plants a shady late afternoon, they are more likely to hang on longer and not whither under the hottest part of the day, between 4 and 6 p.m.

My parsley going to seed!

Which brings me back to my trial and error. For years I have tried to get my parsley to weather over the summer. It should have a two-year life span before going to seed. Until this year, my parsley never went to seed; it just got fried in the sun. With a very shady spot on the northeast side of the house, and part of the yard irrigation system, my parsley not only weathered last summer, but has gone to seed. Success! Best case scenario, my parsley will reseed and I will not need to buy any parsley transplants next year.

I also struggled for years to find the perfect spot for mint. I discovered if I planted in the fall, the location didn’t matter nearly as much as if I planted in the spring. In the spring, it needed afternoon shade to make it through the summer. If I planted in the fall, it was established enough to make it through the summer without a problem, letting us enjoy fresh mint tea all year long.

Oregano and Lemongrass. Anyone need some oregano?

With exception of the dill in my garden, my herbs fill the beds around my house. Slowly, all the nandina bushes have been transplanted out of the beds into the back property line of our house. I find this is the best way to tend the herbs. It allows my husband to weedeat the oregano on occasion. Otherwise that plant, which can’t be killed, would take over the whole front yard. By walking past my basil plant whenever I walked into the house, I can deadhead it daily, allowing it to grow into a wonderful three-foot-tall bush of pure goodness. This also allowed the basil to get afternoon shade and guaranteed water twice a week from the irrigation system. Plus it makes it much easier to throw some herbs into whatever is for supper.

Now that I have my basic herbs figured out, it's time to expand. I've attacked my lone basil plant too aggressively for cooking the past few nights; I could benefit from a second plant. I still have time - up until September in fact - to plant new basil plants. Like most other herbs, it just needs the right location in order to flourish for months.