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Janet Laminack: Herbs good for kitchen use, landscaping

Horticulture

You’re not supposed to pick favorites, but herbs are my favorites when it comes to plants.

I became a fan of herbs for their multi-sensory qualities when I was working with people with disabilities in a sensory garden. Herbs are usually fragrant, many are edible and some have interesting texture to the eye or even to the touch.

Herbs are most commonly used in cooking but many have medicinal qualities. Herbs also have interesting stories and lore surrounding them. For example, rosemary is said to prosper in gardens where women are the head of the household. Use that information as you wish.

Herbs are also great for the beginner gardener because there are many that grow well here. Also, fresh herbs tend to be expensive to buy in the grocery store, so they can be very rewarding for the frugal foodie.

And herbs are a healthy alternative to add seasoning and flavor to your food for anyone looking to cut back on salt, butter or fatty-flavor enhancers.

Herbs also can easily be added to existing flowerbeds; in fact, some may already be in your landscape. And if I might be biased, herbs tend to consistently look a little more attractive than the average vegetable garden. So if you are interested in growing some edibles, especially as a beginner, consider incorporating herbs into the full sun portions of your landscape.

So let’s talk about three herbs that work well here.

Basil is at the top of my list because it is so tasty and it likes the Texas heat. It is an annual here, which means that it only lives for one season. Some people have basil re-seed in their garden year after year, but I have never been that lucky.

Basil should be planted when all danger of frost has passed because it is very sensitive to cold temperatures. It does grow easily from seed, but I tend to buy all my herbs as small plants (transplants) to put out in the garden.

Basil can be used fresh in many recipes and you can easily dry it yourself to save and use for the winter. To harvest, prune it back or remove leaves, but do not remove the whole plant; keep it growing all season. In fact, basil does better if it is consistently harvested and not allowed to flower.

The next herb I’d like to mention is thyme.

Thyme is a small-growing perennial for us, which means that it will overwinter and live for several seasons. It should also be trimmed back to be harvested and can be easily dried.

Thyme does flower and makes an attractive addition to your flowerbeds. Thyme (and basil for that matter) comes in many different varieties. You can find different scents or flavors of thyme such as lemon, lime, coconut or different colors and even textures such as woolly thyme. There is a whole world to explore when you start delving off into the different varieties.

Rosemary does fantastic here, so you decide whether it’s our climate or our strong women that make that happen.

Rosemary is a perennial woody-evergreen shrub. It makes a beautiful addition to a landscape and I’d recommend growing it even if you don’t want to use it in the kitchen.

There is also prostrate rosemary that grows like a ground cover. Rosemary is very drought tolerant; in fact, I’ve noticed a little stress in mine after all the rain we received this spring. Rosemary can get fairly large, 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide, so make sure you give it plenty of room.

If you are interested in learning more about herbs, the Master Gardeners have an “Herbal Branch” group that meets monthly on a Monday morning to learn about specific herbs. The public is welcome to attend; give us a call or check our website for more information.

For those of you already growing herbs, don’t miss the annual Denton County Fruit, Vegetable, Herb and Flower Show at the Denton County Historical Park at 9 a.m. Saturday.

This is a free event open to all residents of Denton County to bring in their produce or flowers or herbs as part of a friendly competition with cash prizes and ribbons awarded. There are adult and children divisions.

If you have something that you are growing, please consider entering it. Or just stop on by and see what your neighbors have been able to produce in the floods of 2015. Details and rules are available on our website at dcmga.com, or reach us at 940-349-2892 or master.gardener@dentoncounty.com.

 

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.