By Della Schultz, Mobile County Master Gardener, www.mobilecountymastergardeners.org
I grow herbs. I grow them very well, I might add! That wasn’t always the case. Here is my story.
My early recollection of herbs is from growing up in my grandparents’ home. There was a large mint bed at the back of the house under a spigot. It was my job on Saturday to pick mint for tea on Sunday and to turn the spigot to drip when we were having a “dry spell.”
Fast-forward to midlife, I decided it was time to grow the herbs that I used in cooking rather than use the dried ones that I bought at grocery stores.
One Sunday afternoon I was browsing at a local bookstore and noticed a book about herbs. On the front cover was a beautiful overflowing herb garden. Inside were more pictures of gardens and various size containers bursting with herbs. I bought the book.
During the next several months I planted herbs in the ground, in containers, from seeds and four-inch starter plants. Now is the time for full disclosure: my success rate was about 10%. What was I doing wrong?
Again, another Sunday afternoon I noticed a listing in the Mobile paper of the Gulf Coast Herb Society’s (GCHS) monthly meeting at the Mobile Botanical Gardens (MBG). I went to the next meeting and learned all about rosemary. I also learned that the beautiful book I had bought was written by a gardener living in Maine. This was not the book for a Gulf Coast wannabe gardener! I joined GCHS and have been a member for about 25 years!
I chose the title of this article “It’s Thyme for Herbs” not to be trite, but because thyme
is my favorite herb and so the thought is true. March is the time to begin planning, choosing, and planting herbs for warmer months on our Gulf Coast.
You will have success with herbs if you know when to plant, where to plant, and the moisture needs of the Gulf Coast area.
WHEN TO PLANT: These herbs thrive in the warmer months (April-September) and are best planted in the spring: basil, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, mint, pineapple sage, scented geranium, stevia, and Mexican mint marigold (a substitute for French tarragon that does not grow well here).
These plants/herbs will thrive year-round and can be planted in spring or fall: bay laurel, chives, some lavender (Goodwin Creek, Sweet), myrtle, and rosemary.
These herbs prefer cooler months (October-March) and are best planted in the fall: chamomile (German), chervil, comfrey, coriander/cilantro, dill, fennel (Bronze and Florence), marjoram, oregano, parsley, salad burnet, sage (Berggarten), sorrel, thyme (English, lemon) and Georgia savory.
WHERE TO PLANT: It is important to know if the plant prefers full sun, shade, or partial shade.
These herbs need at least six hours of full sun: basil, dill, fennel, lavender, lemon grass, oregano, stevia, pineapple sage, rosemary, sage (Berggarten), savory and sweet marjoram.
Herbs that will tolerate shade, particularly in the heat of midsummer: bay laurel, borage, chamomile, chives, comfrey, coriander, mint, myrtle, parsley and thyme, chervil and lemon balm. I always plant mint and thyme in pots that can be moved to a shady area during the summer.
MOISTURE NEEDS: These need regular watering when showing signs of dryness, but don’t overwater: basil, chervil, chives, comfrey, coriander/cilantro, dill, lemon balm, lemon grass, Mexican mint marigold.
These usually thrive well with less than regular watering and like well-drained soil: bay, borage, chamomile, fennel, myrtle, oregano, rosemary, sweet marjoram, thyme.
If you prefer growing herbs in pots, their moisture needs will be increased. This is especially true if clay pots are used. I prefer the whiskey-barrel type resin pots that are about 13”- 24” in diameter. They are not heavy and can easily be moved around the yard if more sun or shade is needed later. Be sure there are adequate drainage holes for any pot you choose. Herbs do not like “wet feet.” At Mobile Botanical Garden’s Plantasia (March 17-18, 2023), Master Gardeners and Herb Society members will be available to answer questions and assist with purchases. While you are there, visit the formal Herb Garden at MBG that GCHS maintains.