HERBS AND HERBAL TEA
Herbs are plants that are used as flavoring agents.
The common herbs used in cooking are referred to as culinary herbs.
Whether mild or savory, herbs impart a delicate flavor to food;
while the stronger or pungent herbs add zest to foods. These herbs
are attractive and varied so their ornamental value is also important.
The ornamental value of herbs enables them to be
used in flower beds, borders, rock gardens, or corner plantings.
Some herbs are annuals while others are perennial, coming come
up year after year. You can locate annual herbs in your annual
flower garden or vegetable garden. The perennial herbs should
be located at the side of the garden where they won't interfere
with next year's soil preparation.
You'll care for your herb garden much the same
way as your vegetable or flower garden. Select a sunny, well-drained
location. Apply a slow-release fertilizer at the rate of 2 pounds
per 100 square feet.
Water as necessary during dry periods. Generally,
about 1 inch of water per week. Mulching will help conserve soil
moisture and also reduce weed growth. The mint herbs prefer moist
soil so they will require more frequent watering.
Annual and biennial herbs can be established by
planting the seed directly in the garden, or by starting seeds
indoors for later transplanting. You can save seed produced by
the herb plants for next year's crop or obtain seed from your
local garden center or seed catalog.
To save your own seed, harvest the entire seed
head after it has dried on the plant. The seeds should then be
allowed to dry in a protected location that is cool and dry. After
the seeds are thoroughly dry, thresh the seed from the seed heads
and discard the trash. Store in labeled jars in a dark, cool,
Some herb seeds such as dill, anise, caraway or
coriander can be used for flavorings.
Perennial herbs can be propagated by cuttings or
by division. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years in the early spring.
The plants should be dug up and cut into several sections. You
can also cut 4 to 6 inch sections of the stem and root them by
placing the cuttings in moist sand in a shady area. In 4 to 8
weeks, roots should form on these cuttings. Herbs such as sage,
winter savory, and thyme can be propagated by cuttings. Chives,
lovage, and tarragon can be propagated by division of the roots
The leaves of many herbs such as parsley and chives
can be harvested for fresh seasonings. On these plants, gradually
remove some of the leaves as you need them. Don't remove all the
foliage at one time. These plants will produce over a long period
of time if they are well cared for.
On rosemary and thyme, clip the tops when the plants
are in full bloom. Usually, leaves and flowers are harvested together.
Basil, fennel, mint, sage, summer savory, sweet marjoram, tarragon,
and winter savory are harvested just before the plant starts to
Chervil and parsley leaves can be cut and dried
anytime. Lovage leaves should be harvested early, during the first
flush of growth.
After harvesting, hang the herbs in loosely tied
bundles in a well-ventilated room. You can also spread the branches
on a screen, cheesecloth, or hardware cloth. If you are only using
the leaves, spread them on flat trays. Keep dust off the herbs
by using a cloth or similar protective cover that will still allow
moisture to pass through.
Many of the herbs we grow today are from the Mediterranean
region of the world so hot, dry summer weather suits them perfectly.
All too often gardeners lose herbs because they don't have good
enough drainage (they really do best in a raised bed) or because
they don't have them in the right exposure. Most require sun.
a few others, such as mint, will grow well in shade or partial
The following is a list and description of some
of the commonly used, adapted herbs for our area:
BASIL - This is one of the easiest of all herbs
to grow. It is rather strong, but it's delightful when chopped
fine and mixed with butter. In addition to the standard green
forms, there are purple-leafed basil and lemon-scented basil.
Basil is quite tender, so you can expect to lose it at the first
sign of frost.
CAMOMILE - This herb makes one of the best herbal
teas. There are two varieties--English and German camomile. The
dried blossoms of either variety can be used to make tea. You'll
need to experiment with the amount you want to use, but try pouring
boiling water over about 1 tablespoon for each cup, steep for
about 10 to 15 minutes, then filter this through a tea strainer.
CATNIP - This herb is interesting to grow, especially
if you have cats. The cats like to roll all over the catnip as
well as any surrounding plants, so you'll probably find it's best
to grow this herb in a hanging basket. Although it is sometimes
used to make a hot tea, catnip's main attribute seems to be known
only by cats.
LEMON BALM - This herb is a member of the mint family and it can
be a very rank-growing plant. The leaves have a strong lemon odor
and make a delightful tea, or use them to flavor regular teas.
Because of its extreme vigor, it's probably best to grow this
plant in a confined beds or in containers.
MARJORAM and OREGANO - These herbs are quite similar,
although marjoram is considered the milder of the two. They're
both easy to grow and can be used year-round. Except during extreme
winters, they generally look better in fall and winter than in
mid-summer, when growth begins to slow. Oregano is the familiar
herb used in pizzas, and one plant would make lots of pizzas.
MINTS - There are many varieties of mints. Spearmint
is one of the most popular and easiest to grow. Peppermint is
more difficult to grow. There's a pineapple mint, an apple mint,
an orange mint (so vigorous it soon becomes a weed) and many variations
of these basic fragrances. All mints appreciate moisture and do
best where they get afternoon shade. A good place to plant spearmint
is at the base of a downspout.
ROSEMARY - This herb comes in many forms-- from
a bush that grows up to 4 feet tall, to a low-growing groundcover
variety. The fragrance is rather strong but rosemary is typically
used with many meat dishes, especially chicken.
Now, here is a sampling of the many herbs that
can be grown in this area. Parsley, chervil and chives are best
planted in the fall for winter growth.
Basil - Many varieties and flavors are available.
The most common in Sweet Green Basil. More unusual varieties are
Lemon, Cinnamon, Licorice, Globe, Purple Ruffled, Japanese Sawtooth,
Holy, Cuban, and Thai. Not all of these are used in cooking. Basil
is the herb to use in all tomato dishes. Add fresh chopped leaves
to vinegar, crushed garlic and olive oil to make an excellent
dressing for sliced tomatoes. Add to pork, roast chicken, scrambled
eggs, eggplant and squash dishes. It's easy to grow from seed.
Chamomile - Generally, chamomile is available from
Fiesta brand spices in the form of dried flowers known as Manzanila.
It makes an effective tea for calming the nerves. To hide the
bitter taste, add lemon and sweeten with honey. It's an easy plant
to grow from seed that you'll find at nurseries. The tea can be
used as a hair rinse. Roman Chamomile is a low growing ground
Catnip - Catnip is one of the mint varieties, and
has an affect on cats. Some love it, some hate it, few ignore
it. For humans, it can be made into a calming team. It's best
grown from transplants. Grow in hanging baskets to keep curious
Chives - This is the smallest member of the onion
family. Chives are easily grown from seed or transplants. Use
in any way that you would use onions. It's a perfect topping with
sour cream on baked potatoes. Add to cottage cheese, omelets and
sauces. Chives are a good garnish for almost any dish.
Coriander - This herb is also known as Cilantro
or Chinese Parsley. It's well known in this area because the leaves
are used in Mexican cooking. It is always available in the produce
section of the grocery store. The leaves have a very strong, "clean"
flavor. Use only young leaves since the older ones tend to be
too strong. The seeds have a flavor similar to orange and are
used in pastries, sausage, cooked fruit. The seeds are also an
important ingredient in pickling spice and curry powder. Easily
grown from seed, you can sometimes find it growing wild in this
area. Sow seeds every few weeks to have a steady supply of young
Dill - This is one of the easiest herbs to grow
from seed. It will easily become a weed if the seed heads are
allowed to dry on the plant. Use dill in picking, or add it to
cottage or cream cheese, most vegetables and fish. The dried seed
can be added to bread dough for a caraway-like flavor. Also add
dill to vinegar to make salad dressings. The large green caterpillars
that love to eat dill will turn into swallowtail butterflies,
so plant enough for both you and them.
Lemon Balm - This herb is a member of the mint
family and can be started from seeds, cuttings or roots. Once
established, it will spread and self-sow, so give it plenty of
room. Use the fresh or dried leaves to make cold or hot teas.
It's a good addition to fish dishes.
Marjoram - A woody cousin of Oregano with a more
delicate, sweet flavor. There are several varieties and forms
such as Sweet marjoram, Winter marjoram, Pot Marjoram, and Creeping
Golden Marjoram. All forms can be used in cooking. Use marjoram
in any dish that you would use oregano or sage. Add to roasts,
stews, stuffings, gravies, and spaghetti sauces. Great for roast
pork and chicken. It is best grown from transplants or root cuttings.
Mint - One of the hardiest and easiest herbs to
grow. Grow from cuttings, roots or transplants. Mint can be grown
from seed, but it's sometimes difficult. Mint comes in an almost
endless variety of types -- Peppermint, Spearmint, "Mint-the-Best",
Applemint, Grapemint, Watermint, Orange Bergamont Mint, Pennyroyal
Curly Mint, Pineapple Mint, and on and on. Mint plants cross-pollinate
easily, so hybrids abound. Spearmint and peppermint are most commonly
used as culinary herbs. Mint is used to make teas -- both hot
and cold. Also add it to green peas. Make a sauce of mint leaves,
vinegar and sugar to serve with roast lamb. Most of them are tough,
hardy plants for this area.
Oregano - The name oregano has been given to several
unrelated plants that share the same or similar flavor. The most
common two in this area is Origanum vulgare, a low spreading Oregano
used in Italian or Greek cooking. The other is a bushy shrub we
call Mexican Oregano ( Lippia graveolens, or Lippia palmeri).
Both are available in local nurseries. Even the common, native
Doveweed is an excellent substitute for oregano. Oregano is a
basic ingredient in Italian and Mexican cooking. It can be used
to season all meats, stuffings, stews, soups, spaghetti sauce,
and pizza. Use dried leaves for best results.
Rosemary - This is a hearty, tough plant that thrives
in our hot dry climate. You can also find it available as a landscape
plant at nurseries and garden centers. One of the oldest herbs
known to man, it has a long history of uses. There are many varieties
and forms, all of which can be used in cooking. Rosemary is a
natural for pork and poultry dishes. Use a branch of Rosemary
as a basting brush for barbecued chicken. Place a few rosemary
leaves on top of roasts or baked chicken. Rosemary is a strong
Parsley - Without a doubt, parsely is the most
widely used yet least eaten herb in the world. Millions of pounds
are used to garnish everything and then promptly thrown away.
This is a shame because parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Parsley comes in two forms: the flat leaved or Italian parsley,
and the curled or French parsley. There are many hybrids of each
and you'll find them available as seeds or transplants. Seed is
slow to germinate, but worth the wait. Parsley can have problems
with root maggots in this area. It's a biennial, producing leaves
the first year and flowers the next. Not only is parsley a garnish
for any dish, it is also excellent dipped in a batter and deep
fried. Brown with butter and garlic for a sauce to baste grilled
Sage - This is another herb that doubles as a durable
landscape plant in this area. Very drought resistant, it can be
killed by over- watering. Sage is best started from transplants
or cuttings, but also can be started from seed. There are many
varieties of sage available, including Garden, Golden, Blue, Pineapple,
Tri-color, and Clary. All can be used in cooking. Sage leaves
should always be dried before using. It is a must in stuffing
for poultry. Roast it with pork, or add it to butter for sautéing
chicken. It goes well in egg and cheese dishes. Try a little crumbled,
dry sage over a bowl of black-eyed peas. Dried leaves will keep
their flavor for years.
Thyme - With over 400 species available, this herb
is another valuable plant to use in beds, rock gardens and as
landscape accents. The varieties that are available locally include
Common, Woolly, "Mother-of-Thyme", Lemon, English, Silver,
and Golden. Thyme goes well in most meat dishes, poultry, fish,
soups and vegetable dishes. Add a pinch of thyme to 1 tablespoon
of honey and add to drained cooked carrots and onions. Thyme is
a key herb used to make Cajun gumbo. Thyme, along with Sage, Rosemary,
Marjoram, and Oregano should be considered the basis of every
For more cultural information about herbs, see the cultural information
section of this website:
Herbs and Herbal Tea
A well-known singer touts in a television commercial,
"I love me, that's why I'm caffeine free". She joins
many other men and women who have shunned caffeine drinks for
decaffeinated coffee, the "uncola" and the very popular
herbal teas. Although they're called "tea", they contain
no tea from its traditional source-- the tea plant (Camellia sinensis).
Instead, they are made from the leaves, flowers, seeds or other
parts of any of a number of herbs. What's really fun about them
is that it's easy to make your own!
Herbal teas have been around for a long time--as
far back as when man thought to combine herbs with hot water,
and certainly long before teas were shipped to us from the Orient.
They have been treasured for their taste and for certain healing
qualities attributed to them through the centuries. Today their
popularity is resurging as a healthy and tasty drink.
If you like to experiment, try these herbal teas.
Chamomile tea, made from the chamomile flowers,
has long been a popular hot beverage. But teas made from calendula,
hibiscus, goldenrod and rose flowers are equally as good.
Herbal leaves are the basis for most teas. Depending on your preference,
you may want to try the annual herbs, such as borage, dill, marjoram,
basil, coriander or summer savory. Or use the perennials such
as beebalm, catnip, horehound, mints, rosemary, thyme or sage
or the biennial caraway. Feel like something lemony? Use lemon
balm, lemon verbena or lemon grass. Like licorice? Try anise or
fennel. For something different, try the cucumber taste of burnet.
For added zip, you can add a dash of orange or lemon peel, cinnamon,
cloves or blackberry leaves.
To make herbal teas, start with 1 tablespoon of
fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. You can adjust the amount
as you try different combinations and find what amount works best
for your taste. Using a non-metallic teapot or individual cup,
steep the tea in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes, then strain and
enjoy! You can purchase pots and cups in specialty China shops
that are made for brewing fresh tea and contain strainers.
Creating an Herb Garden
Whether you pronounce it "urb" or "hurb",
an herb is a plant that has a place in or near every garden. In
addition their flavor, many of the plants have a rough sort of
beauty and character, with a pleasing aroma and historic value.
Aside from their traditional uses, herbs should be appreciated
for their ornamental qualities. The wide range of foliage colors,
textures, decorative flowers and attractive plant forms also contributes
to their appeal.
You can construct an herb garden in a traditional
"knot" or "wheel" design, or plant a design
of your own creation. But a unique design is not necessary. Herbs
can be successfully incorporated into the landscape with other
plants. Use them as fillers, in a rock garden, as ground covers,
as low hedges or edgings, or grow them in containers either outdoors
Herbs are easy to grow if your meet a few basic
requirements. Most herbs do best in a sunny location. The herbs'
essential oils, which produce flavor and fragrance, are produced
in the greatest quantities when herb plants receive 6 to 8 hours
of sun per day. However, some herbs, particularly those in the
mint family, seem to do quite well in a shaded area, though they
prefer light shade over heavy shade. Their requirements also include
adequate moisture and relatively fertile soil, which rules out
locations where tree root competition would be a problem. Any
good garden loam will prove to be satisfactory for most herbs.
A soil pH of neutral to slightly alkaline is best. Well drained
soil is essential, and poorly drained soils should be improved
with the addition of sand and organic material. Once established,
most herbs prefer dry soil and require water sparingly. Only a
few herbs, such as mint, angelica and lovage do best in moist
Fertilization is usually not necessary except for
the heavily harvested herbs such as basil, chives and parsley.
Too much water and/or fertilizer will produce lush foliage, but
not enough of the essential oils. Therefore, they'll have little
flavor or fragrance.
Except where seeds or roots are the end product,
the leaves or tops of most herbs should be harvested when they
are fresh and green, usually before or during full bloom. When
cut at this stage, plants will continue to produce new shoots,
thus prolonging the harvest.
Herbs are dried by one of several methods: hanging
upside down in bunches, or spread thin to dry on racks. Dry them
in a cool, shady spot to retain color and oils.
The most commonly asked question about herbs is
when to plant them. Most of the herbs can and should be planted
now. If the particular herb that you want to plant is susceptible
to cold, it will still have time to produce before the first hard
freezes of December. Most herbs are cold tolerant but perform
poorly in the extreme heat of summer. For that reason, at least
in our area, you get more-for-your-money if you plant now. BE
SURE that you have uses for the herbs you plant--otherwise you
can rename the herb; it will be called "weed"! Live
long and prosper while enjoying your herbal life.
People who grow herbs and want to save some for
winter should harvest after flower buds have formed but before
they bloom. High concentrations of oil in the leaves make flavor
most intense at this time. After flowering, plants produce seeds
or woody stems, thereby weakening their flavor.
Harvest herbs on a warm, dry morning after the
dew evaporates, but before the sun is high in the sky. Perennials
such as rosemary and thyme should be picked with care, leaving
about 2/3 of the leaves intact. If clipped conservatively, they
will yield greenery throughout a mild winter. Rinse picked herbs
in cool water and discard damaged leaves.
Here are some methods for preserving herbs:
FREEZING - Delicate annuals such as dill, basil
and chervil have volatile essential oils that won't survive drying.
To keep their flavor alive, freeze them instead. For large-leafed
herbs like basil, pick the leaves off the stalks and pack around
12 leaves in small plastic freezer bags.
Pack sprigs of small-leafed herbs such as dill
and tarragon. Parsley and chives can be frozen too, though both
will live in the garden through winter in many parts of Texas.
Use frozen herbs in the same proportion as you would fresh.
DRYING - Drying is effective only with those herbs whose oils
do not readily vaporize, such as oregano, mint, sage and a few
others. Though drying in bunches is the traditional method, it
is not the best.
Herbs will dry more evenly if you place a single
layer on a muslin-covered ventilated rack in a dry, airy room.
Allow 2 to 4 days to dry completely. To dry seeds, put them in
a dry place, cover with paper and leave them 10 to 14 days.
When herbs are dry, remove the leaves and store
away from light in tightly covered containers. Home-dried herbs
have more flavor than ones commercially prepared and packaged,
but even so, they are best if used within 6 months.
Overall, dried herbs have more flavor intensity
than fresh. Use ½ to 1/3 the amount of fresh herbs called
for in a recipe.
HERB VINEGAR - Perhaps the easiest way to preserve herb flavors
is in vinegar. If you have enough cuttings, stuff a jar full,
crushing them with a wooden spoon. Fill the jar with white, cider
or wine vinegar. This method will give the vinegar a highly concentrated
flavor of herbs.
If fewer cuttings are available, use 6 tablespoons
of chopped herbs to 1 pint of vinegar. Steep in a brightly lit
area, but not direct sunlight, for 2 weeks. Use vinegar on vegetables,
salads, meat and anything else you would season with salt and
HERB BUTTER - Blend 2 to 4 tablespoons of finely
chopped herbs into a stick of softened butter. Shape into a roll,
cover in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight freezer bag.
For more about herbs and herbal recipes, see:
and the recipes at:
For information about pest control on herbs, see:
and the information at:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR
FIRST WEEK OF OCTOBER, 2002
QUESTION: A friend has a passion flower vine which is bearing
fruit. She said she will give me some seeds from it but does not
know when to pick the fruit , to get the seeds. How do you know
when the fruit is ripe and how do you do it to get the seeds and
ANSWER: Leave the fruit on the vine until the outside
skin becomes light tan, orange/yellow or pink depending on the
variety of the passion flower vine. It will also shrivel up some
and the skin will become tough. Remove the seed from the fruit
and let them dry in a cool dry place. Then, store them until next
spring in a cool (cold), dry, place such as the garage. You can
then sow them anytime between February to May. Prior to sowing,
the seed should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours to speed
up their germination.
Sow them in a seed flat or in individual pots in
a good quality, moist potting soil or seed starting medium. The
seed should be covered by about 1/4 inch of the soil. Cover the
container with clear plastic wrap and place it in a warm (65 to
75 degrees) location until the seedlings appear. Keep moist, but
not overly wet, and do not let the temperature go below 65 degrees.
Do not plant them outside until all danger of frost
QUESTION: Suddenly, all the leaves on one of my large, old pecan
trees are brown. I think it happened rapidly, within just a week
or so. It's been a hot summer, but I have been watering the lawn
around the tree. The other pecans in the yard are okay. There
are no visible bug infestations, and no evidence of toxic substances
(everything else nearby is healthy). Any ideas?
ANSWER: More than likely, the stress from the drought
weakened the tree sufficiently to allow the invasion of a fungus
called cotton root rot on the root system. Essentially the fungus
destroys the roots and the tree dies overnight. When a tree dies
from cotton root rot, the dead leaves continue to hang on the
tree. If the leaves dropped off the tree when it died, then it
may have just been the dry weather. If the dry weather killed
the tree back, then it should recover when it rains again, although
major limbs will be lost. If cotton root rot is the culprit, there
is no cure. The tree will need to be removed. It is best to not
replant a tree in the same site since pecans are fairly tolerant
to the fungus. Hopefully it was just the dry weather.
QUESTION: I have been clearing cedar from a 2-acre lot near Hwy.
281 and Hwy. 306. I am starting to feel guilty about some of the
old growth. I am interested in the history and behavior of the
tree. Some appear to be over 100 yrs old and more than 30-feet
tall. Is this the same species that forms a brush so thick you
cannot walk through it? It looks like the same stuff but sure
grows differently. I have several big old oaks that are doing
poorly because 8 or more large cedars that are 6 to 10 inches
in diameter were growing in the drip line right up through the
branches and other oaks that I could not walk up to because they
were surrounded by young trees 1 to 3 inches thick. There is lots
of new growth everywhere. Which came first-the oak or the cedar,
and how did the oak get this big if cedars can choke them out?
I have 200 feet of Rebecca Creek frontage and the cedar bushes
were starting to encroach on the cypress trees along the creek
bank before I assassinated them with a brush cutter. In counting
growth rings, can a cedar get multiple rings in one year from
dry or wet extremes? I have one that would vary from 70 to 120
years of age, depending on how I count these minor rings.
ANSWER: Dr. Jerry Parsons forwarded me your question.
I am Mark Peterson, Regional Forester for the Texas Forest Service,
and I will be your guide through the interesting and confusing
world of Juniperus ashei, commonly, but mistakenly, called "cedar"
in these here parts.
History and Behavior
Don't let any local tell you that junipers were
introduced. The fossilized pollen records go back at least 25,000
years. Besides, if they were introduced, where did they come from?
They're not called "Chinese" or "European"
Junipers are an early successional species or a
"pioneer" species. These species are drought tolerant,
fast growers, and relatively short lived (although they can live
up to 100 to 120 years). In other words, they have evolved to
rapidly re-vegetate a disturbed area. Disturbed areas include
those with recent fires, soil exposed by construction or floods,
and heavy grazing.
Before Europeans arrived, the juniper population
was kept in check by fires, both natural and those set by Native
Americans, and by dense grass. During the past 150 years, fire
suppression and fenced grazing has allowed the junipers to expand
their ecological niche.
Junipers have few major pests. The ones that I am
familiar with are root fungi, bark beetles, bagworms, and spider
Are the different forms the same species?
The answer is yes, although just east of Austin,
there is a mingling of J. ashei and J. virginiana. The ones that
are more tree-like are probably the result of branch-shedding
by fire, shade, or previous mechanical removal.
Which came first - juniper or live oak?
The answer is both. Live oaks are reproductively
rhizomacaeus, that is, they reproduce by root sprouts. Over the
years, ranchers have favored live oaks, but they seldom removed
all of the juniper when they were "chopping cedar".
Therefore, although many times live oaks had a head start because
they could grow quickly from small root sprouts, enough junipers
were around that they could compete equally with the live oaks.
Furthermore, junipers can establish a stand quicker and thicker
than can live oaks. So, sometimes live oaks won; sometimes the
junipers won. However, live oaks had an advantage because ranchers
had a prejudice against junipers, and were constantly removing
them until only very recently.
Some of my large live oaks are suffering?
The answer is maybe. Many people forget that we
had 3 decades of abnormally wet weather in the '60's, '70's and
'80's. Only now are we getting back to "normal". Therefore,
the large live oaks may only be reflecting recent weather patterns.
On the other hand, live oak also is considered an early- to middle-successional
species, and therefore does not tolerate dense competition. Generally,
if the live oaks can be above the junipers, and not be totally
surrounded by junipers, they tolerate them.
At this point, let me also DESTROY a common myth
regarding junipers. They ARE NOT "water suckers". They
are, in fact, extremely drought tolerant. They do, however, prevent
precipitation from reaching the ground because they intercept
a high percentage of the rainfall. Therefore, it is important
to thin junipers in order to increase soil percolation.
Multiple annual rings?
The answer is that many species produce what are
correctly called "false rings". I don't know if junipers
can produce false rings, but to be 10 inches in diameter and have
rings indicating over 100 years old sounds very suspect to me.
The tree would probably be dead from competition before it reachd
New US Fisheries & Wildlife Department guidelines
allow the removal of ALL juniper from non-habitat (i.e., open
parklands/savannahs with less than 35% cover and pure stands of
juniper with less than 10% hardwood) and all juniper less than
10 feet tall in probable habitats (i.e. steep slopes and along
small streams). Special attention should be paid to "releasing"
red and live oaks, that is, removing juniper from in and around
My further recommendation is to keep some of the
largest or best- looking junipers in the non-habitat area, BUT
at approximately 50 to 100 feet spacings. This equals 17 to 4
trees per acre.
The bottom line is that if you want to reduce juniper
in an area, then you must physically or chemically cut or burn
to encourage more grass, which in turn reduced juniper germination.
--Mark A. Peterson
(Follow-Up) QUESTION: So how far apart should the
trees be spaced?
ANSWER: I hope that I didn't mislead you regarding
juniper spacing. I was speaking of general spacing per acre. Juniper
does, in fact, make a fine privacy barrier. If you want to plant
a few mountain-laurels for variety, then so much the better.
With respect to habitat, except for providing food
and shelter for 3 to 4 birds species, and acting as shelter for
all wildlife during cold fronts, juniper does not contribute greatly
to wildlife. Thinning juniper does, however, increase the diversity
of plant species, and thus, increase animal and insect diversity.
QUESTION: I have hackberry and chinaberry trees growing along
my chain link fence. I would like some privacy in the winter.
What kind of bushes can I plant with these trees?
ANSWER: Depending on the height that you desire,
any of the evergreen hollies would do fine. See the list of recommended
landscape plants for South Central Texas which you can find at
this PLANTanswers web site:
QUESTION: My fiancee is an organic herb farmer whose main crop
is sweet basil. He has more than 4,000 bushes at the moment that
he hand-tends. We were advised last year to try a strong grade
of vinegar to spray on Johnson grass in order to control it. He
has no big problem with other weeds. Well, it's that time of year
again when the rains, etc., have created a condition (field too
wet to plow) where the Johnson grass is overwhelming and we want
to pursue the tip for using vinegar that we were given last year
via this website. (John Dromagle of Garden-Ville, I think was
the source) The problem is we don't know what percent acidity
vinegar to use, what kind, or where it can be obtained. Do you
have any more information about using vinegar? Please advise.
The farm is located about 8 miles West of Marble Falls.
ANSWER: I spoke with Garden-Ville founder Malcolm
Beck about his formulation of the product named Organic Weed Control.
It is made from an acetic acid (99 %) solution mixed at a ½
acetic acid to ½ feed-grade molasses. Regular vinegar is
only 9 % and will not be effective. If you could find a vinegar
with 12 to 20 % acetic acid content, you could use it undiluted,
mixed with enough feed-grade molasses to color the solution and
obtain the same result as the 99 % acetic acid product which is
mixed half-and-half with feed-grade molasses before use. Remember
that this product will solidify when temperatures go below 54
degrees F., but it is doubtful if the product would be used during
such cold temperatures anyway. Garden-Ville sells the Organic
Weed Killer for $14 per quart and $45 per gallon. Please realize
this product is a contact, burn-back herbicide which will not
kill the underground portion of the Johnson grass -- so reuse
is required after re-sprouting has occurred. A glyphosate herbicide
such as Roundup, Ortho Kleanup or Finale are systemic (goes into
the plant's system) and completely kills the Johnson grass. Glyphosate
could be applied with a wick or rub-on applicator to the foliage
only of the target plant and not damage surrounding vegetation
or be up taken into adjoining plant material. Garden-Ville sells
these wick applicators for use with the glyphosate herbicides.
The glyphosate herbicide would be cheaper and much more effective
over the long run than would be the acetic acid herbicide. You
decide what you want to use or maybe do test blocks for the sake
QUESTION: You are probably my last chance of finding a particular
vine. This may not be your area of expertise, but I don't know
who else to ask. When I was 12 years old, my grandmother had a
vine that produced purplish flowers shaped like a Dutchman's pipe.
It also produced pods that held millions of tiny seeds. I still
have some of these seeds but they are so old (I am 34 years old
now) that they don't look like they're suppose too. The vine grows
in the summer and dies back from cold. It's a beautiful coverage
plant but no one knows what I am talking about when I go looking
for it. According to my mom, my grandmother was the only one who
ever had it. I don't know where it came from, but she grew it
here in Florida. She's long-gone and the house was sold and no
one has any information on this plant.
ANSWER: I forwarded your e-mail to Paul Cox, Assistant
Director of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Here is his reply:
"I suppose this is probably one of the Aristolochia
sp., with the common name of Dutchman's pipe! A. durior is the
most commonly cultivated, although down there, they could grow
the more dramatic A. elegans. Elegans is available through most
mail order catalogs that specialize in funky tropical plants,
such as Glasshouse Works. Durior often is sold by perennial plant
nurseries. These are good butterfly plants, being favored by the
Glasshouse Works has a web site where you can order
a catalog. It is located at this URL:
Seed for the Calico Flower (Aristolochia elegans)
are sold by Park Seed. They have a web site from which you can
request a catalog. Find them at:
You can view an image of the Aristolochia elegans
at this web site:
QUESTION: For the past several years I have been looking for a
wax bean that will grow on a pole like the Kentucky Wonder green
bean. I have a small garden and also, don't relish the idea of
poking my hands in anything I can't see under! You just never
know what you will get into. I have checked the catalogs and asked
around and haven't come up with anything. Do you know if they
even exist or if there is someone working on this plant? Also,
I can't seem to locate any Grow-web around here. I understand
it can be ordered but I don't know where one goes about getting
ANSWER: I don't know if there are others, but Johnny's
Selected Seeds has a yellow wax pole bean called Goldmarie in
their catalog. They have a web site where you can order a catalog.
It is at this URL:
I do not know where you have looked for the grow
cover (Grow-web), but it should be widely available in the nurseries
and garden centers. If you cannot find it, here is an address
where it can be purchased: Indeco Products Incorporated, P.O.
Box 5077, San Marcos, Texas 78666 Telephone: 512-396-5814 or 1-800-782-7653
QUESTION: Do you know of any way to prevent female persimmon trees
from bearing fruit?
ANSWER: No, not really. In certain years, a late
season freeze will kill the flowers and therefore prevent fruit
formation. However, there is no spray approved for knocking the
fruit off the tree. Water stress will usually cause the fruit
to drop, so you could withhold water after bloom. Ethylene-producing
products would cause the fruit to drop, but none are labeled for
use. So your best bet may be to get rid of the tree!! Wish there
was a better answer.
QUESTION: I have 2 English walnut trees that are showing spotted
and dark leaves. No nuts have been produced this year as we have
had a dry summer. There are also webs that have some sort of larvae
inside. Can you help with some sort of info about what I can do
to keep from losing the trees. The leaves are falling off the
trees probably due to dryness. This dark and spotty condition
seems to be worsening with each year. No one around here seems
to know anything about this variety.
ANSWER: I would say that you are right in thinking
that the dry weather has hurt the walnut trees. However, I do
not think that the trees will die. English walnut trees are very
tough and durable once established. The trees need at least 1
inch of water each week to prevent this type of damage.
To make matters worse, in wet years there are certain
disease problems that will also cause the leaves to blacken and
So, your best bet to keep the trees healthy is to
keep them well watered and fertilized. You need to apply 1 pound
of nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium sulfate) per 1 inch of trunk
diameter and apply 1 inch of water per week. If you cannot provide
this much water, any amount that you can give the tree will be
beneficial. Remember to put the water at the dripline of the tree
so that it absorb it. Don't put it at the trunk of the tree.
It is not uncommon for fall webworms to feed on
walnut trees. They are easily controlled with a Bt product.
QUESTION: I've been trying to find out the technical term for
the strings on bananas. Can you help me?
ANSWER: If memory of plant anatomy serves me well,
the "strings" that often adhere to the pulp after peeling
a banana are the remnants of the vascular bundles (veins, if you
prefer) of the fruit. You will notice that on an overripe banana
(i.e., one with brown to black spots), these "strings"
adhere to the pulp, while they tend to remain attached to the
peel of bananas that are at the peak of ripeness before the peel
QUESTION: I would like to know if the variety of Sage, "Blue
Sage" is an edible variety. I have looked in several books
about herbs but can't find any information about specific uses
for this variety.
ANSWER: The salvia that is commonly called blue
sage is Salvia azurea pitcherae and is normally used as an ornamental
perennial. It is also available as Salvia azurea grandiflora which
has a larger flower. I do not know if it is edible, but do know
that it is not commonly used as a culinary herb.
QUESTION: We planted a Shumard red oak last fall. The tree is
approximately 3 inches in diameter and 12 feet high. We noticed
that it has borers. It has lost about 35% of the bark on the trunk
and has 4 borer holes. We know it's borers because we actually
pulled 2 adults out of the holes. The tree doesn't appear to be
dying, yet. The leaves are green but have brown edges. We have
sprayed it with a borer killer and sealed the trunk with a tar
sealer. We have also watered it a lot. Our question is, should
we dig it up and start over, or wait until next spring to see
if it's going to survive? Once a tree has gotten borers, is there
any hope for it?
ANSWER: Generally speaking, borers that attack trees
are secondary pests. In other words, the bark is usually damaged
by a freeze or weed eater, etc., which allows entry for a borer
into the tree. So your tree was probably damaged before these
borers moved in. Since you indicate that 35 % of the trunk was
damaged and you have now treated for them and sealed this area
as well, I think you are in good shape. The biggest problem you
have with the area is getting it to heal back over so the tree
will not break at this point. Once this area is healed over, the
tree should be fine. The browning on the leaf edges may be due
to severe drought. So, I would leave the tree and hope for the
best. I really think it will be all right. Remember to keep it
watered well and fertilized next year.
QUESTION: How deep and how wide is the root system on a Bradford
Pear Tree? How far apart should we plant them? What root stimulator
do you recommend? Would there be a risk in planting near a septic
line? How often do they need to be watered in dry weather?
ANSWER: Most tree roots are in the top 1 to 2 feet
of the soil. However, there will be support roots deeper. I would
plant the trees at least 15 feet apart. They can be planted closer
if you want a tree hedge. Some also plant them in groups. Basically,
you are looking at a small tree-- 15 to 20 feet high and with
a similar limb spread. They are usually taller than they are wide.
I am sure the roots will congregate around the septic lines, so
it will be important to put the copper product in the system once
a year to help keep the roots out.
October can be a prime planting month if you are
planting container trees. The trees would need water at least
once a week in extremely dry weather. If you plant them in October,
you will not need to water them much until they leaf out next
QUESTION: I am a culinary student at Johnson & Wales University.
During a lecture about produce, our Chef / Instructor explained
that the only fruits that will continue to ripen, once removed
from the vine are Avocado, Mango, Kiwi, Apple, Papaya, Banana,
and Pears. He explained that the reason they are able to continue
the ripening process is that they all had a reserve store of starch,
that could be converted into sugars.
Our Chef / Instructor noted that he was curious, as to whether
these fruits had some other common traits which would account
for why they were the only ones that did have reserve stores of
My question for you then, is what, if any common traits do these
ANSWER: I have your request for information on fruit
ripening and Cornell University has several professors in the
Department of Food Technology or Pomology who can describe fruit
ripening "Climacteric" for you. Yes, in general there
are 2 types of fruit when it comes to ripening--climacteric and
non-climacteric. The non-climacteric will not continue to ripen
after harvesting; these include strawberry, oranges, most peaches,
nuts, citrus, grapes, and others. The climacteric fruit release
a hormone gas, ethylene, which stimulates the rapid conversion
of starch to sugar. Once the ripening is triggered, more ethylene
is released and ripening accelerates. The classic climacturic
fruits are banana, avocado, pear, apple, some plums, and others.
A common academic question for some is what comes first, ripening
or ethylene gas, in climacteric fruit.
--George Ray McEachern
NOW, ANOTHER ANSWER TO THIS SAME QUESTION: The premise
is flawed because of a misunderstanding of the terminology of
maturing and ripening. All fruits become physiologically mature
"on the vine" and most also ripen "on the vine",
with ripening being commonly considered to be the process of conversion
of starches into sugars, i.e., the attainment of good eating quality.
Mango, kiwifruit and papaya are very much like peach and nectarine
in that they will ripen to good eating quality on the tree. However,
the demands of marketing dictate that these fruits, like tomato,
be harvested after they have matured but before the ripening process
has been completed-thus, final ripening occurs in transit to market
and final consumption. As such, the final quality of these fruit
does not quite achieve that of tree-ripened fruit--because of
detachment, the fruit can only ripen, and soften, with those constituents
which it contained at harvest.
All fruits soften and otherwise begin the decay
process after harvest. I am not certain that apple will continue
to ripen after harvest, as I think it merely softens (and otherwise
starts to breakdown and decay).
Avocado, banana and pear fruits mature on the plant,
but will only rarely ripen on the plant. In the latter two fruits,
ripening is accompanied by a change in color and firmness of the
peel or rind, a softening of the pulp, an increase in sugars and
volatile components (odors and flavors) and other biochemical
Avocado, however, does not become sweet during ripening and it
does not undergo any color changes--the fruit merely softens to
good eating quality.
For the record, both mango and banana are rather
commonly consumed green, both mature and immature, in parts of
the tropics, raw in the case of mango and cooked in the case of
Finally, if a reserve of starches were the commonality
of which you speak, how do you then explain such edibles as potato,
yucca and others?
In summary, maturation and ripening occur simultaneously,
or nearly so, for the majority of fruits, including the mango,
kiwifruit, apple and papaya of your list, while the two processes
are separate in time for avocado, banana and pear. There are no
apparent commonalities between even those three, as they represent
vastly different origins taxonomically.
--Julian Sauls, Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist in