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GARDENING

NATURALIZING BULBS FOR SPRING GARDENS

Looks Good, Tastes Great: The Time is Now for Culinary Planting
By Linda B. Gay, Horticulturist and Gardener | Photos by Linda B. Gay

Sure, everybody gets spring fever and wants to do some gardening when the cool temps begin to rise. But did you know that fall and winter are really the best times to garden with herbs? Most culinary plants (herbs) are actually happier and perform better in the cooler months here along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Planting young herb transplants helps them get established, and they are more likely to go further into the coming summer if planted now. It's the summer heat that usually does them in, not the cold weather. Surprising, right? Even if the leaves get frost-bitten in a freeze the roots are strong and the plants will recover.

For example, cilantro has a short-ish life cycle. It only lives to produce seeds, also known as coriander. Once the seed producing cycle occurs the mother plant dies off. The warm weather is what makes it bloom.

The same goes for dill and fennel. The cool weather slows their seed production, therefore rewarding gardeners with nice, fat mounds of spicy leaves all fall, winter and into spring.

Parsley, as well, thrives in the cooler months. It’s often used as a border plant because parsley plants only make tight, round 12-inch mounds, making them both ornamental and edible.

Chives won’t freeze and are used in many recipes. They go dormant in the summer, but don’t be surprised if they pop up again after Halloween next year.

Sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano, likewise, are great cool weather edibles. These will actually take our hot summers nicely if planted now.

Mexican mint, marigold, lemon grass and most mint varieties are completely winter hardy. Just cut them back all the way after winter. They will return dependably after it warms up a little.

Bay laurel is an evergreen, meaning it’s safe to plant it anytime. Just remember the plant is actually a shrub, so leave some room for it to get big.

Start planting now, and have a delicious winter. Remember, work less, enjoy more!

Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques, Inc. can be found at 502 West 18th Street, 713-862-7444, www.joshuasnativeplants.net

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