Growing these versatile plants in our Southern climate can be a challenge. The keys to success with herbs are plant selection and site preparation.
Don't expect to harvest armloads of English lavender blooms or great handfuls of French tarragon. Sage and thyme can also be difficult to grow, disappearing mysteriously after a few years. Don't blame yourself. These perennial herbs should be considered as short-lived plants in our hot, humid climate. Count yourself among the lucky ones if you can get 3 or 4 productive years from these herbs before they pass on.
Although our climate makes it difficult to grow some herbs, there are many that we can grow very successfully. We just have to select the right ones! You can harvest armloads of basil, lemon balm, Texas tarragon, (Tagetes lucida), catnip, German chamomile, Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas), chives, mints, and many others. These herbs thrive in our part of the South.
A major cause of failure with herbs in the South (other than climate) is poor drainage of the soil. Planting your herbs in a well-drained bed area, a container or raised bed, will more likely result in success. This is of particular importance for the following herbs that cannot tolerate wet feet: sage, oregano, thyme, lavender, rosemary, French tarragon, and scented geraniums.
Uses of Herbs
If there is one herb my wife and I love to grow more than the rest, it has to be basil. There is nothing better for the hot months because it is gorgeous in the landscape and delicious in fresh summer meals.
Many of the gardeners I have talked to think we have taken basil growing to the extreme.
Like many home gardeners, I used to put plants in my landscape without worrying about labels because I was sure I’d remember what was planted where. And like most of you, I would end up scratching my head wondering what I had planted where.
One of the best gardening tips I can share, especially in the spring when you’re putting so many new things out, is to label your landscape plants.
Mint is one of those plants that gardeners both love and hate at the same time.
Many gardeners love the sweet fragrance they smell when they brush against the mint foliage. They also find mint iced tea to be delicious or a mint julep to be a sure-fire summer time refreshment.
But in the landscape, mint grows aggressively and can quickly take over an area. I’ve heard people say -- hopefully in jest -- that the only way to control mint in the landscape is to move.
It may be early September, but now is a good time to start thinking about growing fresh herbs to harvest during the winter months.
Fresh herbs are relatively easy to grow in containers. In addition to offering a feast for the palate, herbs can offer a feast for the eyes. Many of the basic herb species are available in variegated or multicolored foliage. The multicolored ones work well in recipes, but they also make flavorful garnishes.
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
COLUMBUS – The Culinary Arts Institute at Mississippi University for Women kicked its cuisine up another notch after partnering with Mississippi State University to restore the program’s overcrowded herb garden.
The garden still features many common herbs, such as sage, oregano and thyme, but it now includes several varieties of each one. In the works are plans to add fruit trees and other plants that will broaden students’ knowledge of the preparation and presentation of food.