September 20, 2006

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Cilantro can be planted October through December for winter harvest. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)

  Cilantro the herb with an attitude

By Chris S. Corby

It is hard to think of cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) as an herb suited to fall culture since we associate it with spicy Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine like frijoles, pico de gallo and hot sauce.

The fact is, cilantro, which is also used in oriental cooking where it is known as coriander, is not only suited to cool weather, but it must be grown in the fall if you are interested in a bountiful harvest of fresh leaves. If you are only after the seed, go ahead and plant it in the spring. But rest assured that it will quickly bolt and go to seed.

We like to plant cilantro October through December for harvest through winter and into early spring. Unless you own a Mexican or Oriental restaurant, remember a little goes a long way, so plant short rows 4 to 6 feet. Or plant it in pots or other containers. Then bring the containers inside as the cilantro is needed for cooking.


There are several varieties of cilantro, the only significant difference being the height and bloom color. Whichever one you select will produce the pungent foliage and seed used in cooking.


Plant cilantro from seed where you intend to grow it (it does not transplant well) in well-drained, fertile soil in full sun. Scatter seed sparingly as it is easy to germinate. If your planting is a little crowded you can use the thinnings as you go. Otherwise, harvest the lacy, secondary leaves as needed. Cilantro does not dry well so try to use it fresh if possible. The seed which forms later can be saved and used to flavor soups and other dishes.

If your soil is sandy or thin, try adding a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost to your planting bed prior to planting. Otherwise, the fertilizer left from your spring garden will be enough to have a good crop of cilantro.

Cold Tolerance

Cilantro is very tolerant of cold conditions. It can easily handle temperatures in the low to mid 20s. If a severe cold snap is expected, cover your plants with a fiber row cover or a blanket of leaves that can be pulled back once the cold temperature subsides.


Cilantro has very few pests. In fact, some think its pungent aroma scares some bugs off. Its Latin name coriandrum means "bug," referring to how closely the fragrance of the mature seed resembles the smell of a stinkbug. The only insect problem we have noticed with our cilantro is some slight leaf damage that did not require any action.


One of the best ways to enjoy your fresh cilantro is to add it to a slowly cooked, simmering pot of pinto beans. Just be sure to wait until the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking times to add the cilantro. If you add the herb any earlier in the cooking process the flavor will cook out.

Reprinted from Texas Gardener, November/December 1999.

Even dog toys can make excellent faux tomatoes when properly painted, said editor Bracken. Here he attempts to duplicate the intricate coloring of the hybrid "soccermato."(Photo by Chris S. Corby)

  The lighter side of gardening:
Why my face is red but my tomatoes aren't

By Michael Bracken

"Any moron can grow tomatoes in Texas," my overly helpful neighbor told me as he leaned over the back fence. Unfortunately, I'm not just any moron.

The last thing I successfully grew was my collection of lawn flamingos. My wife didn't mind the first one, but when a going-out-of-business sale at the dollar store allowed me to purchase 37 more for only $4.95, my wife cried fowl. She made me keep them in the garage with my collection of concrete garden gnomes.

Finding an appropriate location for the tomato garden wasn't difficult. I selected a bare spot in the backyard where nothing had grown since the tragic incident when I set the lawn mower to dredge. I never realized a lawn mower could cut deep enough to strike natural gas, and now I have a row of little yellow flags permanently embedded in my back yard, and the gas company visits once each month to trim a 12-inch-wide swath just so I won't go near it again.

My neighbor, gardening's Good Samaritan, provided me with a dozen tomato seedlings he'd cultivated in his bedroom the previous winter. Under his watchful eye, I dutifully planted each of them in my new garden, only jumping out of my skin twice when he yelled, "Root side down!"

The young plants grew like weeds, spreading faster than I could have imagined even in my wildest fantasies. Within a month, my garden was a tangle of vines, and I felt triumphant until I realized that none of them bore fruit.

Rather than admit that I'd failed yet again, I considered my options. I had a gross of ping-pong balls remaining from a special purchase the summer before the closest I'd ever come to taking up a sport and I knew the source of my salvation.

After my disastrous experience with lawn-painting (see "Fashionable gardeners say pink is the new green"), I'd installed grow-lamps in the garage so I could see what I was doing. The lamps were so powerful and used so much electricity that the DEA once raided my garage only to find my flock of flamingos reduced to a tangle of supporting rods and a pink puddle of plastic goo.

With my sunglasses on and my garden gnomes huddled under a beach umbrella, I spent two hours carefully painting two-dozen ping-pong balls in various shades of unripened-tomato green. In the middle of the night, after watching an 18-hour Gardening Guy marathon, I attached the ping-pong balls to the vines with fine-gauge wire.

"Those are some mighty big cherry tomatoes," my neighbor said the next day. He was leaning over the fence from his yard because I wouldn't let him get close to my garden.

"Cherry tomatoes?" I said. I thought he'd given me beefeater vines, and I had already painted two-dozen tennis balls to replace the ping-pong balls when the time was ripe.

"You'll have to tell me your secret," my neighbor said. "I've tried everything and mine never grow that big."

"Beginner's luck," I insisted, and then excused myself before his clue phone started ringing.

I needn't have worried. Two nights later a blue norther tore through town, knocking down tree branches and sending my "tomatoes" sailing into the next county, where a stunned suburbanite awoke to find his front lawn littered with broken shingles and green ping pong balls.

My neighbor commiserated with me over the "loss" of my first tomato crop, and then let me know he was wise to my deception when he said, "First time I'd ever seen tomatoes on Morning Glory vines."

I spent the rest of that day in the garage with my puddle of flamingo goo and my collection of concrete garden gnomes wondering what to do with two-dozen tennis balls painted like half-ripened tomatoes.

Maybe I'll just save them for next tomato season. After all, I'm not just any moron.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

"If you want your spinach seeds to germinate well this fall," Jessica McKinney writes, "lightly firm the soil over the seeds. Then, be certain to fertilize your spinach regularly throughout the growing season using a water soluble, high-nitrogen fertilizer properly applied."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and keep your head in the shade! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Texas bluebonnets will germinate faster if you scarify the seed coats before planting.



'Pam Puryear' Turk's Cap, one of several plants being introduced by Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, at this year's Fabulous Fall Festival October 7. (Photo by Greg Grant)

  Upcoming Garden Events

The Herb Association of Texas and the Antique Rose Emporium will host A Celebration of the Herbal Harvest: A Focus on Culinary Herbs, September 22 through 23, San Antonio. The event will include a road trip, cooking classes, herbal refreshments, lectures and a vendor fair featuring locally grown herbs and related products. To register or for more information, contact Beth Patterson at (830) 257-6732 or e-mail

The Garden Conservancy will host a tour of five private gardens in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., September 23. The tour is self-guided. The conservancy will also sponsor similar tours in Galveston, October 14 and Austin, October 21. Admission to each garden is $5, no reservations required, rain or shine. For more information, visit or call toll-free (888) 842-2442.

The Arbor Gate will sponsor "Kindergarten for Rose Lovers...Learn About Teachers' Pets!" presented by Mark Chamblee on Saturday, September 23, at 10 a.m. Admission is free. The Arbor Gate 15635 FM 2920 Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851 or visit

ArtScape, September 23 and 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is the Dallas Arboretum's first ever fine art show and sale. The two-day art fair is a family-oriented event that will kick off the Dallas Blooms Autumn festival. ArtScape will feature artists from around the country, the Tour de Fleurs race, the Ultimate Tree Houses exhibit, entertainment and many exciting classes. ArtScape will complement Ultimate Tree Houses, a juried exhibit of 12 tree houses that will be on display throughout the garden. In addition, this year's event will kick off with Tour de Fleurs a 10k, 5k and 1 mile fun run. What a great way to start the weekend! For additional information, please email

There's a new music scene coming to the San Antonio Botanical Garden. On Saturday, September 30, Gardens by Moonlight will offer popular, high-charged live music performances from 7 until 11 p.m. Gardens by Moonlight will feature a rare San Antonio performance by the Grammy-winning band "BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet." Joining BeauSoleil at the top of the bill is former San Antonio resident Monte Montgomery. Also performing are Seth Walker, Wilber Beasley and Body & Soul, The Ron Wilkins Quartet, Django's Moustache, Mariana Scuros-Ornelas, and Buttercup. Under the fall moonlight, visitors can indulge themselves on a variety of culinary treats ranging from cold Asian salad to barbequed shrimp on a stick. Drinks include sodas, wine, imported beers and others beverages. While the music plays, Gardens by Moonlight guests can wander through the unique areas of this vibrant San Antonio institution. Visitors can experience the formal gardens, the exotic conservatory and stroll along the newly renovated Texas Native Trail, exploring the Texas Hill Country and the East Texas Piney Woods surrounding the small lake. In the Lucile Halsell Conservatory area, exquisite granite sculptures of renowned artist Jesus Moroles are displayed. In the Formal Gardens, Roger Colombik's 35-foot bronze ship sculpture and four bronze and stone vessels can be viewed. Beautiful lighting adds to the glowing spell of the evening, capturing the bright white blooms and aromatic scents of night blooming flowers jasmine, moonvine and brugmansias. Advance tickets for Gardens by Moonlight are $12 per person and are available September 11 through September 29 at area Starbucks and the Botanical Garden's Garden Gate Gift Shop. Tickets are $15 at the gate; $12 for Botanical Society members. Tickets are non-refundable. The gates open to the public at 7 p.m. There is free parking at the Garden, plus free parking at Terrell Plaza, 1201 Austin Highway, with free and frequent shuttle service to the Garden starting at 6 p.m. In case of inclement weather, a rain date is set for Sunday, October 1. The San Antonio Botanical Garden is located at 555 Funston @ North New Braunfels Avenue. For more information, the public can call the Garden at 210-829-5100 or visit its website at

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will sponsor the annual Hidden Garden Tour September 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rockport. Enjoy touring Rockport and the surrounding area and tour some of the area's private gardens plus Green Acres Demonstration gardens. Bus tours will be available for $15 and tickets must be purchased ahead. Self-guided tours are $10. A plant sale will occur at Green Acres on the day of the tour. Green Acres Demonstration gardens, located at the Aransas County Extension Office (611 E. Mimosa behind Monroe's Furniture on Hwy 35) is the start of the tour on September 30. Maps and additional tour information for the Hidden Garden Tour can be obtained by contacting the Aransas County Extension Office at (361) 790-0103.

Malcolm Beck, the founder of Garden-Ville ands a master practitioner in the field of organic growing will speak at at informational luncheon October 1 at The Inn at Dos Brisas in Brenham. Mr. Beck began his career in sustainable agriculture as a family farmer in the 1950s, raising and selling organic produce near San Antonio, Texas. Later, he turned to helping others find alternatives to conventional agricultural methods and materials through his business, Garden-Ville. Beck has contributed many articles to American Horticulturalist and several garden handbooks, and hasd written several books, including The Secret Life of Compost, Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening, The Garden-Ville Method and The Texas Bug Book. For more information on how to attend this lecture, call (979) 277-7750.

The SFA Mast Arboretum's annual Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 7 at the Stephen F. Austin State University Intramural field on Wilson Drive, between College and Starr in historic Nacogdoches. A great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials, grasses and groundcovers will be available. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate and contributing editor/columnist for Texas Gardener magazine, will introduce his pink 'Pam Puryear' Turk's Cap, 'Buttercream' Lantana, and the 2006 Texas Superstar, 'Henry Duelberg' Sage. Many of the rare Aromi hybrid deciduous Azaleas will be offered as will a good number of the rarely available, Texas native, Southern Sugar Maple (Acer barbatum). Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and educational programs. Please help support these great Texas treasures. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit

Castro Garden Club's "Fall Tour of Homes" in Castroville will take place October 7, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets will be available September 1 and can be purchased in advance by writing Castro Garden Club, P.O. Box 10, Castroville, TX 78009. Tickets will be sold the day of the tour at the Landmark Inn State Historic Site. Ticket price will include admission to the Landmark Inn State Historic Site, courtesy of The Friends of the Landmark Inn, to visit the newly renovated Gristmill. Proceeds from the tour will benefit Castro Garden Clubs special projects. Admission: $12.00 per person. For more information contact: Priscilla Garrett, (830) 931-2262; Bonnie Keller, (830) 931-2614; or Joan Menard, (210) 677-8979.

Ernesto Velez Koppel of Colombia will lecture on his country's flower industry October 11 at Texas A&M University. His talk is the second in the Distinguished Lecture Series on International Floriculture. Koppel is the Association of Colombian Flower Growers and Exporters board of directors chair. The lecture series is sponsored by the Texas A&M horticultural sciences department's Ellison Chair in International Floriculture. The presentation will include background on what led to the formation of the Colombian flower association, known as ASOCOLFLORES, its current activities and its plans for the future. Koppel also will describe the group's global impact. For further information, contact Tammy Landry, program coordinator, at or (979) 845-7342.

The McLennan County Master Gardeners and the Carleen Bright Arboretum will host a Texas Superstar seminar Sunday, October 15, at 2 p.m. at the Carleen Bright Arboretum in Woodway (east of Waco). Jerry Parsons, horticulture specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension in San Antonio, will be the featured speaker at this free event open to the public. For additional information, contact Barbara Vance at (254) 741-0000.

The Austin Herb Society celebrates Herb Awareness Month in October with HerbFest, Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, located in the Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd., off I-290 between Brodie Lane and Westgate Blvd. No entrance fee for shoppers, free parking. For additional information, call (512) 468-9126.

The San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host the groups' annual symposium Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas, October 19 through 22, San Antonio. The symposium will feature guided tours to natural areas, seminars on native plants and a special program on cooking with native plants. For more information, contact (210) 733-0034, (830) 997-9272 or visit

The Johnson County Herb Society will hold its Herbal Thymes Show and Symposium, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cleburne Senior Center, Cleburne. The event will feature speakers, demonstrations herb plants and related products. For more information, contact Esther Chambliss at (817) 263-9322 or visit

The 2006 Annual Garden Tour in Victoria County will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 through 29, showcasing five gardens at historic homes in Old Victoria. Imagination will be fulfilled beyond garden gates with the theme "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate" in fall and pre-Halloween garden settings. Highlighted garden plants will be catalogued in educational materials and for plant sale identification on the weekend of the tour. Guided tours at $18 per person are scheduled from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Sunday. Individual garden tours are $5 per garden. Workshops will be conducted on culinary cooking and holiday decorating from the garden for additional fees. For further information, contact Victoria County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581.

The Texas Gourd Society will hold its 11th annual "Show and Tell" at the Waco Convention Center, Waco, November 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The two-day show will include gourd artists, seminars, demonstrations and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 free. For more information, visit

The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 676-4326 or visit

  Herbs for Texas a valuable resource

While Herbs for Texas includes a wealth of information about herbs, it also includes information about trees, shrubs, vines and ground-covers with edible and/or medicinal properties. In this fully illustrated, easy-to-use guide, Howard Garrett and veteran herbalist Odena Brannam offer expert advice on growing nearly 150 herbs suited to Texas gardens.

 $31.97 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of September and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber Row Cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ●