Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Herbs

Here is the latest July 2010 Newletter from Cindy at The Herb Cottage

Summer Herbs

In our hot, humid South, it's sometimes difficult to stay focused on the garden during the hottest summer days that we're experiencing now. The sun is searing, the temperatures rise to the mid-nineties by early afternoon and the gardener decides to call it quits and go inside for the rest of the day. Just because the weather is very hot does not mean we don't garden during the summer... we do. We go out in the early morning and the evenings to enjoy the tranquility and scents of the herb beds, pull weeds, water and, as I did recently, recover a bed from some terribly overgrown parsley.

This Summer brings a wealth of growth from our herbs. We've been graced with summer rain and the herb plants are showing the results of inches of rain. Last year we were in a terrible drought by this time of year and even the hardiest herbs were showing stress. This year the Mint and Lemon Balm are thick and full, the Sweet, Lemon and Lime Basil are shrubby and full of flavor and the Rosemary has new growth on the tips of most of the branches.

I know those of you who don't live in the South have had your share of weather trials this summer and I hope your herb gardens are giving your much pleasure in spite of inclement weather episodes.

So, what's looking best this summer in your garden? Here, the Oregano is outstanding. I've already harvested flowers for hydrosols and I still could cut back more foliage to make the plant a little more compact. I plan to make more Herbal Vinegars, too, and Oregano is a staple in many of the blends I like. As I mentioned, the Rosemary is growing vigorously. It's another one I like for Herbal Vinegar and hydrosols as well.

Of course, Basil loves our hot, humid weather so long as it gets enough water. In between rain storms I water the Basil to keep it looking good. I have yet to make Pesto this year, but hope to get to it before too long. I also like to use the citrus basil in Herbal Vinegar for marinades on fish and chicken. The red and purple Basil, varieties like Osmin Purple, Purple Ruffles or Red Rubin, make Herbal Vinegars of a rich cranberry color with a flavor to match. Perfect for a housewarming or holiday gift.

Those of us in a climate where Bay Laurel grows know how well it does with very little water in the heat of summer. Bay is somewhat winter hardy. It took two mornings of 18ºF last Winter without damage. If you've never used fresh Bay in your cooking, you are missing out, in my opinion. Fresh Bay leaves add a deeper, richer bay flavor than the dried ones. Bay is also a pretty plant for holiday decorating, as it is evergreen, dark green in color and fragrant.

Some herbs that play out in our intense summer heat are Dill, Cilantro and sometimes, even Thyme. Here, Dill and Cilantro are definitely cool season herbs and die out after forming seed in the late spring. Thyme needs excellent drainage to survive our spring and summer rainstorms when we get inches of rain at a time. My English, Creeping, one Lemon Thyme and Lavender Thyme plants all died. The one bigger Lemon Thyme that is planted in a shadier spot, in raised bed, is doing pretty well. Also I have a Lavender Thyme in a hanging pot that is doing very well, so long as I remember to water it.

Parsley will do fine during the hot summer months if planted where it gets some afternoon shade. Of course, Parsley, being a biennial, does best in the summer if it's in its first year of growth. In its second year, it'll put on a flower stalk and start to go to seed more quickly in the heat. If you do allow parsley to seed out, and let some fall, you won't have to replant parsley. It'll come up for you when the soil temperature is a little cooler.

In general, herbs just laugh at summertime heat and keep on growing with a minimum of water and fuss. I hope yours are doing so, and that you're enjoying the summer, your herbs and all the wonderful things you can do with them.

Lemon Eucalyptus after the main trunk has been cut. Lots of new lush growth.


Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions. -Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

Until Next Time,
Good Growing to You,
Cindy Meredith, proprietor
The Herb Cottage
442 CR 233
Hallettsville, TX 77964
phone & fax: 979-562-2153

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