Seasonal Guide to Herb Gardening

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Fall

  • Begin planting cool season herbs before the soil cools off. Plants that thrive in cooler weather are anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, feverfew, garlic chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, parsley, rosemary, salad burnet, sorrel, and tansy.

  • Most nurseries clear out their supply of herbs in the Fall to make room for holiday plants. You may find some nice herbs on sale. This is a good time to find ginger plants on sale, just plant them in your garden and next year you'll be treated to their unusual flowers.

  • Basil will begin to go to flower and is done for the year by November. Pinch back flowers and harvest the basil leaves while you can. African Blue Basil will last longer.

  • Give old woody herbs another good trim. Cut chamomile, chives, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, mint, oregano, salad burnet, sorrel, St. Johns Wort, thyme, and water cress almost to the soil line. Cut catmint catnip, feverfew, lemon verbena, rosemary, rue, sage, and tansy to half its original height.

  • Trim lavender heavily to remove woody growth.

  • Be sure to give your herbs extra water during warm Santa Ana winds. Prune back foliage damaged by winds.

  • Collect seeds from any herbs that produced them, eg. basil and garlic chives.

  • Order garden catalogs.

  • Rake up leaf debris produced by deciduous foliage and left from Santa Ana winds.


Winter

  • Winter in Southern California is when the temperature is just about perfect to go out and work in the yard. So take advantage of the cooler weather to plant cool-season herbs or short-lived herbs. e.g. anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel and tansy.

  • Chives, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, and rosemary can be planted year round.

  • Divide perennial clumps: mint, lemon balm, lemon grass, and oregano.

  • Prune back dead or damaged foliage due to winter weather.

  • Remove weeds from your garden before they flower and go to seed.

  • Lemon Verbena has deciduous foliage, tolerate its stems during the winter. In the spring you will be treated to fresh green lemon scented leaves.

  • Snails love the cool, wet winters of Southern California. Be sure to control them now before they multiply heavily in the Spring.

  • Feed and prune indoor herbs to avoid spindly, etiolated stems due to low light. Plant indoor herbs in a well draining potting mix, like cactus soil. Herbs like soil that holds moisture without becoming waterlogged.

  • Organize your garden work basket, garden shed, or garden supplies area.

  • Wash clay and plastic pots. Soak the pots in vinegar and then clean them.

  • Clean, sharpen, and oil your garden tools. Replace hack saw blades. Repair fences, paths, and trellis.

  • Clean out old fertilizers and insect sprays and dispose of properly.
    Go to www.oclandfills.com - House Hold Hazardous Waste Collection Center for more information.

  • Order seeds from catalogs

  • Seeds can be started indoors as early as late February or early March.

  • Use your fresh herbs to make a wreath or decorate for the holidays


Spring

  • When Spring arrives so do the potted herbs at Nurseries and Garden shows. So this is a good time to plant and replace perennial herbs while there is a good supply. The following plants should be in good supply; catmint, catnip, chamomile, chervil, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, St. John's Wort, sweet woodruff, tansy, tarragon, thyme, and winter savory.

  • Plant annual herbs, too. e.g. basil and summer savory.

  • Herbs can also be planted by seed as early as March. Nasturtiums, garlic chives, mints, and basil grow well from seed.

  • Give old woody herbs a good trim. New growth contains more essential oils and is preferred in cooking and potpourri.

  • Cut chamomile, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, mint, oregano, salad burnet, sorrel, St. Johns Wort, and water cress almost to the soil line.

  • Cut chives to 3 inches above the ground after blooming.

  • Cut thyme, sage, santolina, and southernwood by 1/3.

  • Cut catmint, catnip, feverfew, lemon verbena, rosemary, rue, and tansy to half the plants original height.

  • Prune lavender lightly and remove dead foliage by March or wait until July. Add mulch to the soil around lavender.

  • Fertilize your herbs with an organic fertilizer.

  • During the spring add compost or mulch to So. California soil, which is alkaline in pH. Compost and mulch will help to aerate the soil and lower the pH. Compost and mulch will also help the soil retain water. Do not add lime (Calcium Carbonate) to So. California soil because it will make the soil even more alkaline. Soils in the mid-west and mountain regions are acidic and need to be supplemented with lime to raise the pH.

  • Keep new plants watered well. California doesn't always get April showers.

  • Control snails and slugs, before they take over your herb garden.

  • Eliminate weeds, roots and all, before they flower. Weed seeds can last for several years.

  • At 12 noon on June 15th set your sundial for 12:00 to get an accurate time reading throughout the summer.

  • Use Spring prunings to make potpourri.


Summer

  • Some perennial herbs can be planted in the summer if watered well. Water plants before you remove them from their pots. The supply of potted herbs at nurseries will be thinning out. e.g. feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, St. John's Wort, tansy, and thyme.

  • Plant basil, if you haven't already. Traders Joes sells huge basil plants during the summer. Pinch back basil flowers to encourage more foliage and maintain the best flavor. Make and freeze some pesto sauce.

  • Trim orris root foliage to fan shape, divide rhizomes and replant. Grate harvested orris root before it dries. Once dried the orris root is as hard as a rock and impossible to grate.

  • Harvest mint and lemon balm.

  • Make herb jelly.


Updated 1-8-14