Once the temp hits 96, in the shade, most garden crops won't set fruit. The peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers already growing will continue to do so, but few new ones will appear.
That's when I turn my attention to things that grow in pots, which can be easily watered and moved to shadier spots to beat the Houston heat.
5. Oregano This herb thrives in the heat. It just needs some well-draining soil, little or no fertilizer, and just enough water to keep it from drying out. I just snip a few sprigs, strip the leaves, and mince it up for Italian food or a weekly batch of green chile sauce.
4. Mint Spearmint, peppermint, and Cuban mojito mint (hierba buena) grow like weeds most of the year. They fade in the summer sun, so pots need to be moved to partial shade, and if possible, morning sun. Keep the sprigs trimmed back to keep them from getting leggy; they'll grow back quickly. It's actually hotter in Houston than Havana in the summer, so hierba buena need lots of shade and water.
3. Parsley Parsley prefers cooler weather and rich, well-draining soil, so give it lots of water and protect plants from the harsh afternoon sun. Parsley plants last two years, so if you see flowers, use the leaves quickly, or let Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars eat it up, and plant a new one elsewhere.
2. Green Onions You know the other half of the bunch of scallions that turn to green slime in your refrigerator? Instead, trim an inch off the tops when you buy them and plant in a pot outside. They will droop, and then form new shoots. When the onions grow enough, yoink them back out, and strip off the outer layers before washing.
1. Basil Basil is native to India, so Houston heat is like home. This aromatic prefers well-draining soil, loves the sun, and develops flavor from stress. Fertilize sparingly, and pinch off any flowers, a quarter inch above a node, to keep it growing leaves instead of seeds.
Summer plants in terra-cotta pots will need extra water, or, taking a cue from Prince Charles, plant them in plastic pots inserted into more attractive earthenware.
Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords