Q. “It is nearly November. I live in the southern U.S. in Central Texas and I did not get any cool weather herbs planted yet, is it too late?”
A few tips for those who are planting late:
- Plant your herbs in an area of your garden where they will get plenty of sun
- Plant your herbs in containers that can be moved during really cold weather
- Cold wind can be as bad as a freeze – shield your herbs from harsh winds
- Mulch to keep the soil warm for your herbs
- Use your herbs regularly – this means you will be pruning them often to encourage more growth
- If you plan on a few of your spring herb carrying over for fall and winter, you will want to prune those plants a few weeks before the first frost, be sure to remove any woody or dead stems and snip off the upper leaves.
Now, as for a selection of herbs that grow well in cool fall months or in areas with mild winters (more or less like those we have in Central Texas) I have a few favorites, I would consider parsley (flat leaf Italian or curled), cilantro, chervil, chives, sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano, and mint.
Unlike warm-weather summer-grown herbs, cool-weather herbs can be sown directly in the garden a month or more before the last frost in spring for late spring harvest and again in late summer for fall harvest. But keeping in mind that we are talking about getting a late start here, there really is not time to start from seed – you will have to use transplants. I love to start my herbs from transplants anyway and any good nursery or big box store will still have a fairly good supply from which to choose.
By sowing or setting cool-season herbs in the garden up to a month before the last expected frost in spring, you are almost guaranteed to harvest these herbs at their peak of flavor. When temperatures rise in late spring or early summer cool-weather herbs will want to bolt—that is their stalks will elongate, develop flowers, bloom, and go to seed. Bolting tends to turns herbs bitter. But with a fall/winter planting you will be able to enjoy many months of wonderfully flavored herbs before the bolting begins.
Parsley is a hardy biennial herb commonly grown as an annual, but many of us can carryover our spring grown parsley into the fall and have a really well established, large plant by the time next spring rolls around. Direct sow seeds or set out six-week to eight-week old transplants about a week before the last frost in spring. Where winters are mild parsley can be sown in late winter. I recommend starting with transplants in both fall and spring. If growing from seed remember that parsley seeds are slow to germinate; soak them or freeze them overnight before sowing. Parsley can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Italian parsley with its celery and cilantro like leaves is more flavorful than curly parsley yet the curly variety remains more popular in the home garden – why not grow them both!?! Harvest the outer leaves or cut the whole plant down to a couple of inches above the soil and it will regrow.
For best germination, soak seeds in water overnight before sowing, but use transplants when you are starting this late. Cilantro leaves have a parsley-sage-citrus flavor. Cilantro seeds (aka coriander) has a completely different flavor altogether, more of a citrus and spice flavor.
Chives can be grown from seeds, transplants, or divisions. Sow seeds or set out six-week-old transplants about four weeks before the last frost in spring. Divide clumps every two to four years in spring or fall. Common, Garden or Onion chives have a delicate onion flavor with long leaves that are rounded and hollow, similar to a green onion. they will get a small purple flower with a wonderful peppery taste. Garlic chives have a mild garlic flavor and the leaves of this plant are flat like thick blades of grass. The flowers are white and are borne on long umbrella like flower stalks and they attract beneficial bugs like crazy! The flowers can be eaten as well as the leaves, and are sometimes used in Asian cooking before the blooms fully open.
I hope the information presented here helps! If you have any tips or best practices you want to share leave a comment below!