When it gets hot, hotter, hottest and it's breaking records, you might retire to an air-conditioned place until the temperature drops to a comfortable level.
What do our plants do? A good many die, others manage a summer siesta -- they stop growing, develop brown or wilted foliage and look like you've lost them.
Heat-sensitive annuals -- such as marigolds -- will likely perish. But if the brown foliage and dried flower heads are removed from most other summer annuals, and the plant is kept watered, recovery should occur when temperatures return to normal.
Meanwhile, the cool and comfortable gardener has some prime time to plan ahead to the September garden. This could be the time to plant the garden makeover you've been thinking about. Or if you've been thinking long and hard about an herb garden located near your kitchen, there is no better time to plant a kitchen garden than in the fall.
In the Lowcountry some of the most important culinary herbs are the winter herbs, those that remain green and growing through our colder months, and -- bonus -- survive the record-breaking heat, as well. In planning a kitchen herb garden, forget what you've read or heard about "full sun." In our special garden, "Eden," a successful herb garden with a mix of annuals and perennials, will flourish with six to seven hours of sun, more if the sun is filtered through tall trees.
Good drainage is essential and easiest to achieve with a raised bed. The dog days of summer are put to good use building a raised bed. First have a load of topsoil raked and bordered with railroad ties, stone or other hardscape material, followed by an addition of compost, manure or shredded leaves that is mixed in.
Then it's back into the air conditioning to plan what plants to include and where to place them. With paper and pencil, sketch the garden.
The tall perennial herbs first: rosemary, mint marigold, fennel and pineapple sage; perhaps a small and slow-growing bay tree. Perennial herbs of medium size that keep their shape are sage, lemon balm, chives and parsley. The popular perennial herbs with a spreading habit are oregano, marjoram, prostrate rosemary and thyme. Most herbalists prefer to grow the flavorful lemon thyme. Mints are best grown in pots to contain their rambunctious growth; these should be placed in part shade.
Winter annual herbs of dill, coriander (also known as cilantro) and chervile are best started from seed in late summer. The hitch here is that herbal seeds are difficult to findlocally this time of year. Remind yourself to buy them next spring or order by mail now. Once started and growing, allow a few plants to go to seed to provide the next year's crop.
I've often said that The Hilton Head Herb Society has some of the best cooks on the island within their membership. They feature an herb of the month at their monthly meetings and the light luncheon to follow consists of dishes made with this herb. Lavender cookies? You bet, and unusual soups that marry fresh vegetables and chili peppers with more than one herb variety.
I've been using herbs as a substitute for salt for many years. When Angel, our Shih Tzu, came into our lives and was put on a boring prescription diet, in no time I began experimenting with the addition of herbs to her food. She is a picky eater. We are pleased that with her supper she now eats carrots cooked with rosemary and green beans steamed with thyme and a tiny piece of bay leaf. It's so good, she has to share with me.