Herbs: An Overview

When thinking of gardening, cooking, eating healthy, one cannot get away from the beauty and necessity of herbs.  Regardless of your goal- to grow healthy food for you and your family, to attract butterflies, to make your gardens beautiful or to simply delight your senses- herbs fit the bill.

For the most part, herbs are perennials and hardy.  Even in our erratic weather patterns in Texas, herbs have performed very well for me and have brought me much satisfaction and joy.  As with most fresh food, when you have tasted the flavors of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and more- you can never go back to the herb dust you can purchase off the shelves in the supermarkets.  The taste is just so amazing.  And by fresh, I also mean the herbs harvested and dried by your own hands.

And just to clarify a few terms:

Herbaceous– means that a plant dies back to the ground in winter, but comes back each spring.  You can have plants that are not herbs but are herbaceous and Herbs that are not herbaceous!

Perennial– a plant that returns year after year, can be evergreen or herbaceous.

Below is a tip sheet that will help you get stated in the wonderful world of herbs.

Many more articles on particular herbs and gardening are located in the Herb Category and in the Organic Gardening Category.

basil in the crate

Herbs- From Garden to Table

What To Plant Where

A large majority of herbs are perennials and biennials, so they will be with you for quite a while when choosing herbs:

  1. Consider their origin- did they come from wooded areas, desert areas, wet areas etc. and group like plants together.
  2. Consider water requirements of each plant
  3. Consider growth habits: height, cold hardy, heat tolerant, upright or rambler, etc.
  4. Consider their function:
  • For culinary use- what and how do you cook
  • Attract pollinators or repel insects
  • Or just for looks
  • Medicinal

Each of these points will help you determine where in your garden to locate the plants.  Obviously, a water loving herb does not need to be planted with Rosemary and Lavender as these herbs prefer a very dry climate.  If you consider these aspects before you plant everyone will benefit.

What Herbs are good for our area of Texas

  • Thyme- creeping lemon*
  • Sage- Salvia Officinalis*
  • Italian Oregano*
  • Lavender- English and Fern Leaf*
  • Parsley
  • Citronella
  • Basil- all kinds
  • Aloe Vera
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mints*
  • Salad Burnett *
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Grass
  • Catnip
  • Stevia
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Garlic (plant in September)
  • Roses

The list goes on as there are so many, but these will get you off to a good start!

*- good for planting in fall as they grow all year long

 Now To Table

  1. Use Fresh- simply snip and use- sprinkle chopped herbs in your dishes while cooking or on top as a garnish.
  2. Dried
  • Cut and tie in bundle (rubber bands work great!)
  • Hang to dry or dry in oven on low or a hot car
  • Grind and store- chop in blender, store in jars in a cool dark place like a pantry.

Herbed Oils or Vinegars-  place herbs in clean jar and cover with oil or vinegar and let steep for 3 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark place.

A Writer’s Day

Today was a perfect day.

I woke up happy.

Spent time with God on my balcony.

Reflected on a sweet evening with daughter #2.

Did my workout.

Snuggled with a grandbaby.

Worked a couple hours at my paying job (transaction coordinator)

Worked several hours and wrote 5000 words at my dream job. (Writer)

Marked chores off my list.

Cooked dinner

Took a walk with the love of my life in the fog and misty rain.

Completed the week’s homework assignment.

Soaked in a hot bath.

I mean, it really doesn’t get better than this! I wanted it documented so I can reflect on it when the day isn’t so perfect.

I don’t want to blow by the sweet everyday moments that add up to a beautiful life.

What To Look At In Galveston

I have the pleasure of living in the East End Historical District in Galveston. This is the original spot where the city grew up first.

We even have ruins that a pirate called home.

With such an old place comes beautiful and diverse architecture. I walk about 20 miles a week with my husband and I never grow tired of looking around.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Best Belongs At Home

So often, we give our best to our boss or our coworkers or our church family and we are so spent when we get home that our family gets the leftovers.

Leftovers are, 9 times out of 10, gross. Nobody wants leftovers, certainly not on a regular basis.

If we want a thriving marriage, then we must give our spouse our best. The world can take the leftovers, not the one who means the most to us.

For The Love of a Library

Do you remember the first time you went to the library?

I don’t, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t go to the library.

In school, the days we went to the library were my favorite.  I love getting new books.  I changed schools a lot and being the new kid is tough.  The library was like a portal that connected me to the worlds I liked to escape to when transitions were too hard.  The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary were the same regardless of my address.  Sweet Valley High never stopped having drama and I could giggle and dream of having a twin no matter which school mascot was on my t-shirt.

As I have gotten older, I have come to understand that libraries are a privilege and that most of us have philanthropists to thank for having access to a free public library.

I call Galveston Island home these days.  Galveston is such a unique city, so old that we had Native Americans watching the Spanish conquistadors landing their ships!  How cool is that?  The city itself wasn’t founded until 1839 but the port was established in 1816.  However, the island had seen many ships come in before then.

Galveston is not the oldest city in Texas- it is not even in the top 10- but Galveston did have the first public, free library in Texas.  That is thanks to a savvy businessman named Henry Rosenburg.  When he died, he endowed the city with funds to start the library and it bears his name today as the Rosenburg Library. 

The library is home to several historical society, a huge children’s library, and enough books to keep me busy until I die.

So, the next time you come to island- go see Henry and enjoy the legacy he left behind in the form of a library.  The next time you visit your local library take a moment to be grateful to the people who made that gem a reality.

Proper Care and Feeding of Mums

With fall having just begun- even if you haven’t felt it yet- the urge to decorate for all the holidays grows strong!

The most popular plant for fall decorating is the Mum.  With the happy little faces in an array of colors, its easy to see why. 

Mums are easy to get- but not easy to keep looking beautiful.

Here are four things you can do to keep your pretty plants looking their best.

  1. Consistent water.  This can be tricky because the plants dry out so fast.  One reason for this is because there may be as many as four plants in one pot.  The nurseries will pot up multiple plants to get the pots full and big fast.  So, one way to help with this is to put a tray under the plant and water every day.  Also, many times the posts are in full sun on concrete or a porch.  Heat is reflected from these surfaces so the plants will use the water faster.  Water in the morning to avoid fungus.
  2. Fungus- by using a fungicide on the plants you will keep them healthy.  Follow the directions on the bottle.  Most fungicides are a liquid and are sprayed on the plants. Choose an organic fungicide. A homemade fungicide is 1 tsp baking soda mixed in 1 gallon of water.
  3. Feed the plants.  As I mentioned, there are serval plants competing for moisture and nutrients in the pot.  By using a liquid fertilizer weekly, you will get more growth and more blooms. Organic fertilizer like compost tea is best.
  4. Dead head the plants.  Dead heading a plant is to remove the spent blossoms. Mums are no different than other blooming flowers.  They are working to make seeds.  To get more blooms, pinch or cut off the faded blooms.  This will encourage new growth and more blooms.
Pretty Yellow Mums

If you follow these tips, your mums can easily last October through November- maybe longer.  Once the season is over, you can plant the mums in the garden.  They are perennials.

Flowers I Pass

When I moved to Galveston, I was determined to make the most of every spare minute and spend those spare minutes on the beach.  I have been successful this far.

From my home, the beach is just under a mile from my doorstep. So, if I have a morning that allows me a walk before work- I go.  If I have a lazy afternoon that allows for a walk- I go.  If I need a walk to clear my head- I go.

Not only am I rewarded with sand between my toes and at the roar of the sea in my ears, my eyes feast on so many beautiful blooms along the way.

Here are some from my last walk:

Morning Glory

Morning glories!  These wild little devils can give gardeners fits!  They come up volunteer and drop about a million seeds and strangle any civilized plant in the reach of their little tendrils.  BUT they are so beautiful!  I love them!

pink crinium

crinium

Crinum Lilies come in ALL shapes and sizes in Galveston, they are a living part of history in the town.  With different blooming times, there are always beauties to admire.

Pride of Barbados Blooms

pride of Barbados

Pride of Barbados, also called the Mexican Bird of Paradise.  This large shrub/ornamental tree is a tropical beauty.  I had never seen these before and I thought they were Mimosa trees before the blooms appeared.  These pictures don’t really do them justice, I will have to try again!