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A close shot of two plant pots. A lavender plant is on the left, showing a few flowers. A small basil plant is on the right.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I got into some new hobbies over the past year. For a period of time, I was really into baking; for another few months, I started learning how to code my own video game. (It never went anywhere.) My latest interest goes well with the season; gardening. Specifically, growing an herb garden that can survive in hot, humid, sweatingly horrible Houston summers.

It’s not as hard as you’d think, and definitely not as hard as I thought. I’ve managed to keep succulents alive, so I was familiar with the USDA Hardiness Zone Map—a tool designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to divide North America into “hardiness zones” based on the average minimum temperature every year. Zone 11 is the warmest, with a low above 40 degrees Fahrenheit even in the coldest months, while Zone 1 drops below -50 degrees Fahrenheit at its coldest. Houston is located in Zone 9A, which spreads across most of southern Texas and marks an average low of 25 to 20 degrees—except the odd winter blast, of course.

While this makes it hard for some succulents to survive, I was surprised to learn that our hardiness zone is actually perfect for most herbs. We might still have to handle our weird Houston weather, but the average temperatures make sure that quite a few herbs thrive in our gardens.

A close shot of a peppermint plant.

Every plant is different, but some of the herbs that do well in Houston are pretty familiar: basil, oregano, sage, and lavender, just to name a few. (Check out Herb Gardening by Melissa Snyder for a more in-depth list of herbs and the zones they can handle.) However, especially for locations like Houston which can reach boiling temperatures in the summer, there’s always a right time to plant. Here’s a list of a few herbs that are best planted in April, right before it gets hot:

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Lemon thyme

Herbs are excellent for a location like Houston due to the amount of sunlight they need—most need between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight per day, which can work well on an apartment balcony or a backyard patio. If too much sunlight is an issue, you can move potted herbs indoors, or build a shade structure out of PVC pipe and outdoor fabric to place over your herbs in the hotter hours.

A few last tips I discovered while planting: regular watering is a must-do for herbs, especially those that sit out in sunlight. (My lavender is managing to survive just fine with water once or twice a week, but my basil tends to complain without water every other day.) When it comes to nutrients, herbs like plant food that isn’t too strong, but has a bias towards nitrogen, so check the percentages on the bottle.

If you’re interested in starting your own herb garden, Octavia Fields Branch Library is running a seed program where beginner gardeners can get a packet of herbs. It’s part of the Eat, Sleep, Upcycle program. (You’ll need to be logged into Facebook to see the video.) You can also call them at (832) 928-5500 for more information on the program.

Are you just starting out with your herb garden, or are you an experienced gardener with tips and advice to share? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

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This blog had so much information and it was really well laid out. Thank you for giving the advice that you did as I do not have a green thumb. I might just try to take it up as a hobby!

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