Herbs for the Desert:Between Perennial Herbs and Culinary Plants
Herbs for Spring and Summer
After the last frost, herbs like basil, borage, dill and chives can be planted from seeds or plants. These plants prefer filtered shade, such as underneath a desert tree like mesquite or paloverde.
Herbs for Late Fall Planting
Fall in the desert is more like winter in other parts of the country. Planting herb seeds or plants in November is perfect for parsley, chives, culinary sage, and cilantro. Planting under a deciduous tree is perfect for winter herbs, as they will receive enough winter sun to flourish, and filtered shade in the early spring to slow bolting.
There are a few herb-like shrubs that live a long life, so find a permanent home for these varieties.
Rosemary is available as a shrub or ground cover and can take full or part sun. Some varieties of rosemary grow to large shrubs, so make sure you have enough room before planting.
Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longie flora) is a great substitute for traditional oregano, which suffers in the desert heat. Mexican oregano prefers afternoon or filtered shade. It grows to 3 feet tall and wide and is covered with tubular pinkish flowers summer through fall.
Mint will grow in the desert but needs shade and plenty of water. Mint is invasive, so either plant in containers or in a planting bed of its own.
Other Culinary Plants
True bay (Laurus nobilis) will grow to tree size in areas protected from hard freezes. It is very slow growing, so makes a good container plant. Give true bay filtered shade, and protect from hard frosts.
For choc-a-holics, chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) is a wonderful addition to your herb garden. The sunny yellow daisy-like flowers with chocolate colored centers smell and taste like chocolate. Provide chocolate flower filtered shade.
To make your kitty happy, grow catmint (Nepeta faassenii) instead of plain catnip. Catmint leaves smell great to people as well as cats and make a good tea. Catmint prefers filtered shade.
Lavender is a nice addition to your herb garden, but if you plan on using it for cooking make sure you pick the right one. Lavendula agustifolia is considered a good culinary lavender for the desert.
Having fresh herbs growing in your yard not only enhances your cooking but your health. Since you are more likely to use herbs if they are close to your kitchen, consider planting your herb garden near the house.