Garden Gate: Fall herbs

Joette Reger of Garden Gate

My patio is full of pots along the sides just choked full of different herbs. Hey, they are so easy to grow. And it is such a supreme treat, a real richness in life, to be able to walk out the door and clip an ingredient for a meal … truly better than a million bucks. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration.

It’s not too late to go and grab a few little herb plants if you can find them. Although gardeners stay active planting in the fall, many local big box stores just don’t have as much available. Look to the smaller nurseries in town and you may hit a jackpot.

The wonderful Texas Aggie website has a section authored by Joseph Masabni that’s a great resource for herb growing in our area. He simply defines herbs as plants that are used as flavoring agents. Common herbs used in cooking are culinary herbs that can really add zing to most anything that we cook (or drink). Other herbs are used medicinally, and others used only to bring beauty. We use both the leaves and roots of some herbs, and the good news is that we don’t need huge plants to provide for our dining needs.

You can grow herbs, as I do, in containers of any size or in your flowerbeds. Some adventurous types are adding herbs into the front yard “establishment” shrubs. No one will ever know that you have a marjoram plant in between the ligustrums. Also, your little raised bed fall vegetable garden can easily handle a few basil plants.

I think its better to keep the herb “garden” as near to the kitchen of your house as possible. Who wants to walk a mile for a clip or two of tarragon? It’s amazing what you can grow in a five-foot square area or 5 or 6 containers. Pick a sunny spot for your new herb babies. They need soil that lots of plants like, well-draining, rich in nutrients and watered regularly.

If you want to put off the herb garden until next year, that will give you a chance to peruse a few seeds catalogs. How fun! You can plan and dream about what’s going to happen in your yard in just a few months when it is springtime again. You can also go to the home of a good friend and beg them for some seeds from the herbs that they grew this year. Just harvest the entire seed head after it has dried on the plant. Allow the seeds to dry in a cool, protected location. Separate the seeds from the extra and store in a cool, dry place in jars labeled with the name of the plant.

My favorite herbs to grow are basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, chives and oregano. Here’s a little treat that uses lots of herbs that you may want to try.

Herb Dip

To 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, add 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Now add in 4 entire chopped scallion onions, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, basil, oregano or your favorite herbs from those containers just outside your door. Use your hand held or countertop mixer to blend. Eat right away or wait until those delicious flavors meld together in an hour or so and serve.

Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”