This is a good month to stay cool and peruse some books on gardening. That way you will be ready to plant when it cools off. Fall is the best time to plant and make changes to the garden for shrubs, roses, perennials and herbs.
Everyone should have some type of herb garden, even if it is just a few herbs in pots. Herbs are easy to grow and do well in Central Texas. All herbs can be planted in the fall as soon as the very hot weather has subsided, with the exception of basil. Basil cannot take a freeze, so wait until late spring to plant it.
All the other major herbs do best with fall planting, so do some research and decide what you want to grow.
I’ll try to make it a little easier by telling you which herbs I grow in my herb bed. These are all carefree, and most are not bothered by insects or disease problems. Most are also quite beautiful, and have the added bonus of great fragrance.
Trimming these herbs to keep them in a mounded shape is a real treat for the senses. As they grow, cut back any flowers unless you are growing them particularly for their appearance. This will result in fuller plants with lush foliage.
Here is a list of herbs that I have found grow well here:
Basil: Grow in frost-free months. Harvest the leaves frequently for best flavor and to help the plant produce more leaves. There are many types of basil besides the familiar Italian flavors, so try them all.
Chives and onion chives: You harvest and cook the leaves to add an onion flavor to your food. Garlic chives will give you a strong garlic flavor. They are so easy to grow that they can spread and take over an area if you don’t keep them in check. Trim off the flowers before they open.
Mexican mint marigold: This fragrant herb has a licorice flavor and smell. It is a substitute for anise. Since the flowers are very pretty I often grow it just for its lovely appearance and forget about using it for culinary purposes. It blooms at the same time that mums and other fall flowers bloom, with bright orange flowers. If you do not want it to spread, cut the flowers off before they go to seed, or you will have many more the next year.
Mint: Mints are so tough they are almost a pest in the garden. I just let them spring up here and there and chop down any that get in the way. They can do just fine in shade. Mints also come in a large variety of flavors and scents.
Oregano: This Italian herb comes in several varieties with variations in the leaf color. They are very attractive if kept trimmed nicely. If you let them wander, they will take over and choke out other things, so keep after them. This attribute also means you might see how they would look as a ground cover. Oregano is great grown in a fairy garden or miniature landscape.
Parsley and fennel: These two herbs are great for attracting butterflies, which use the plants as hosts for their young. If you see striped caterpillars, they are going to turn into beautiful butterflies, so don’t kill them. Parsley is an attractive herb for pots, and fennel, which is over a foot tall, comes in a pretty green and a purple variety. Fennel is a great seasoning for cooked carrots.
Rosemary: This beautiful, fragrant herb is my very favorite plant in any category. The scent is divine. Sprinkle it liberally over cooking chicken to add flavor and fill the house with a wonderful, enticing scent. Keep it trimmed according to the shape it is supposed to be — some are trailing and some are upright.
Sage: You can grow enough of this plant to season your turkey. It has beautiful purple flowers, but these are best clipped off if you are mostly interested in culinary purposes. Replace sage every three years or so when it gets looking ragged.
Thyme: Thyme comes in many leaf varieties and tastes. Explore them all. Keep them trimmed well or they will not look neat and the quality will decline. Thyme is wonderful for baskets, pots and fairy gardens.
Because most herbs will live for years, you need to prepare the bed well before you plant. Be sure that you give your herbs enough room to grow and not be too crowded. Crowding causes poor ventilation and can result in fungal diseases.
Water herbs from soaker hoses or drip irrigation whenever possible and keep water off the leaves. Mulch around each plant to keep moisture in and diseases out. If you follow these guidelines, you can have a great herb garden that will be a pleasure to you for many years.