Savvy gardeners know late summer is the time to put in cool weather vegetable crops. Herb growers do the same but for a different reason. The searing heat of our Southwest summers shorten the useful life of many annual herbs. When in June the temperatures climb towards 100 degrees, many of them rapidly go to seed and die.
To compensate for our sizzling summer conditions we should think of most annual herbs as “two season herbs,” a smart practice made popular by Madeline Hill and Gwen Barclay of Hilltop Herb Farm. The first growing season is early spring to late June. The second season is late August through the first frost. By splitting the growing year and planting twice you can take advantage of the cooler weather for these temperate climate herbs.
I’ve included a chart with the eleven most popular annual herbs that will benefit from this technique. In addition to the above annual herbs, there are several biennials or perennials that are easy to grow from seed. Add catnip, fennel, Roman chamomile, and chives to your summer seed buying list.
|Days to Germination||
Seed Starting Tips
|Anise||7-14||Needs soil temp above 70º. **|
|Basil||7-16||Sow thinly. Needs soil temp above 60º.|
|Borage||7-10||Self-seeds easily. **|
|Caraway||14-18||A slow germinator. Plant in afternoon shade. **|
|Chervil||8-14||Do weekly sowing for regular harvest. **|
|Cilantro (Coriander)||8-10||Sow after Labor Day. May survive mild winters.|
|Cumin||8-12||Seeds lose viability quickly. Use only fresh seed.|
|Dill||5-7||Sow in early fall for winter long leaf production. **|
|Fenugreek||6-8||Germinates easily. Do weekly sowing for regular harvest|
|Pot Marigold (Calendula)||10-12||Cover seeds with soil.|
|Summer Savory||5-7||Easy germination.|
** Does not transplant well. Sow in place in your garden.
When starting them in a pot make sure the planting medium stays evenly moist. Water daily if need be and never let the seeds dry out. If growing in full sunlight, consider using shade cloth or row covering to prevent the sprouts from frying in the heat.
It may still be hot out there but cooler days are coming. Take advantage of this by sowing a second crop of annual herbs.