WINTER GARDEN HERBS
Certainly the best and easiest time of year to plant a garden in our desert climate is in the Fall. As the night time temperatures begin to cool, the garden breathes a deep sigh of relief and prepares for beauty to come.
Fall is the perfect time to plant certain herbs. Although many of them are not real cold-sensitive, it is still advisable to cover the plants on any night that reaches 32 degrees. This will save those succulent leaves for your cooking.
All herbs, no matter what time of year, would benefit from afternoon shade. So whether you plant in a pot or in the ground, be sure to give your herbs some afternoon shade.
Herbs really like well-draining soil. If planting in a pot be sure to use a well-draining potting soil. If planting in the ground, mix mulch into the soil, resulting in a mixture of ½ mulch and ½ existing soil to plant in. Because herbs are actively growing they need to be regularly fertilized. If growing in a pot use a water-soluble fertilizer. Herbs planted in the ground can be fertilized with a water-soluble or a time-release fertilizer.
Listed below are some great herbs for cooler weather:
Coriandrum – Cilantro (Coriander)
Cilantro is a savory herb found originally in the Mediterranean. When using cilantro in a recipe, the term Cilantro is used when the recipe calls for the fresh leaves. Sometimes the term coriander is used in a recipe and refers to the seed of the cilantro. In Spring as our temperatures begin to rise, Cilantro will start to flower and set seed. Try to pinch off any flowers as soon as you see them. This will prolong the life of the plant.
Petroselinum – Parsley – Curled and Italian
Curled parsley will grow 6” to 12” high. The curled parsley is most often used as a garnish. Although it may survive all year, it is best to begin with new young plants each Fall. If planting from seed, plant early in the Fall because parsley seeds may take 2 or 3 weeks to germinate, and soak seeds 24 hrs. before planting. Thin seeds to 6” to 8” apart after they have put on their second set of leaves. Curled parsley makes a very attractive border when planted around a vegetable or herb garden.
Italian parsley grows 2’ to 3’ tall and wide. It has more flavor than curled parsley and is often used in Italian cooking. Like curled parsley, Italian parsley seeds take time to germinate, so be sure to soak them 24 hrs. before planting. Thin the seeds to 1’ – 1½’ apart.
Anetum graveolens – Dill
Dill is native to Southwestern Asia and has naturalized in the United States. Dill grows 3’ – 4’ tall and 3’ wide. It produces 6” clusters of yellow flowers in Spring. Both the leaves and seeds of this plant are pungent. Successive crops can be sown to maintain a constant supply. Thin the seedlings to 1½’ apart. An easy way to keep dill year to year is to simply let some plants go to seed in your garden.
Origanum – Oregano
This is a low-growing groundcover plant with small flowers, making it a good candidate to plant on the edge of a pot where it can spill over the edge. It is a good idea to cut back an oregano plant that may have survived for a whole year. Fall is a good time to do that.
Aloysia triphylla – Lemon Verbena
Native to Argentina and Chile. This plant is a naturally leggy plant and would look better if it were planted amongst other plants that can cover some of the legginess. Often referred to in stories about the Antebellum South, the lemon-scented leaves are used to flavor teas and iced drinks. Lemon Verbena is somewhat cold-tender, so be sure to protect it during a freeze.
Cymbopogon citratus – Lemon Grass
Native to India. All plant parts are strongly lemon-scented and used in Southeast Asian cooking. The grass clumps can grow to 3’ – 4’ tall and 3’ wide. They are a little frost-tender so protect against cold weather. Be sure to dig it up and divide it every few years.
Thymus – Thyme
A diminutive of the mint family with heavily scented leaves. Thyme is very low-growing making it a good candidate for rock gardens. It is attractive to bees which will help pollinate other plants in your garden.
Mentha – Mint
Plant mint in a shady, damp spot in your garden. Give it room to grow since it sends out underground runners and can be invasive. Basically, mint is pretty tough to kill.