In the Garden:
Tropical South
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Rosemary likes it dry but will tolerate our soggy summers if provided with good drainage.

Crisis Time for Herbs

Some herbs suffer during our soggy Florida summers. The most difficult to save are parsley, lavender, savory, and tarragon. Catnip, lemon balm, some mints, lamb's ears, scented geraniums, and thyme tend to limp along until fall. Artemisia, curry plant, feverfew, rue, and salad burnet also can be difficult, but you'll soon get the knack of pulling them through or find the disease-resistant varieties, such as 'Powis Castle' and 'Silver King' artemisia. Arugula, borage, dill, violas, and nasturtiums are annuals that die when summer begins, some to self seed and return again in the fall.

Pamper Herbs Through the Summer
You may want to wait until fall to buy these summer-sensitive plants. If you do buy them now, plant them in containers in partial shade for the summer. Morning sun and afternoon shade works best. If you have a place with protection from heavy rains as well, such as on the edge of a porch or carport or under the eaves, all the better. Don't be surprised if the plants don't spread much until the cooler weather starts. It isn't your fault.

If you already have these heat-sensitive herbs, you probably noticed that they were quite happy right through the drought. Now a good mulch will help prevent soil-borne fungi from splashing back onto the leaves. Weed and prune some of the surrounding plants to give them good air circulation.

If you are just starting an herb garden and those are the herbs you want most, keep the bed mulched over the summer and wait until fall to plant, or even plant a cover crop now, such as southern peas.

Herbs to Plant Now
If you want to get started growing herbs now, just select from the long list you'll find in my book, Herbs and Spices for Florida Gardens: How to Grow and Enjoy Florida Plants With Special Uses
. These include aloe, basil, bugleweed, butterfly weed, cardamon, comfrey, cilantro, elderberry, eucalyptus, garlic chives, ginger and pinecone ginger, goldenrod, lemon grass, peppers, pineapple sage, roses, rosemary, ornamental sage, and many others.

Herbs are among the easiest of plants to grow, they just require different methods and different timing in our tropical climate. Don't feel bad if you do lose a few of these plants over the summer. So do I. So do most people. You can always buy new parsley plants in the fall and enjoy a good nine months of beauty and production, much more than northern gardeners get for their money. And next summer, you can try again. Every year something surprises me with success.


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