Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Beauty In The Garden, and Blending In.

Dear Folks,

Just some fun pictures from the garden yesterday.  I have a terrible time with lighting (sun, shadows) to catch the beautiful lavender, lilac or white colors, but these two both turned out so lovely I could not decide, so I'm showing you both!  Not the best tasting Oregano, but the beautiful flowers, oh my! Origanum laevigatum 'Hopley's Purple' Oregano
Blue is sometimes hard for me to capture, but I finally got what I think is my best picture yet of the Azure Blue Sage.  Another not so great tasting but these blues are stunning.  Salvia Azurea.

This pretty Red House Finch is probably surveying for the ripening fruit on my Acerola Cherry (Barbados) Tree.  We do share, I just try to grab my fair share of the fruit before the birds :-)

The critters which blend in range in the gardens.  This Desert Iguana is not exactly blending in, more like sunning itself on the just coming back lawn, but I am so glad s/he stopped because up until this picture I have been unable to get even a good LOOK at them they are so fast.   Mostly vegetarians they do eat some insects.  Glad they and the other lizards are in the gardens.

Now for real blending in "Betty" the Northern Bobwhite, the cute little quail we rescued when she was filled with Cholla thorns is quite the master as blending in.  She has decided to stick around and we are delighted, if not concerned about her future.  We just have to let nature take its course as they "covey" type birds are not usually loners.  This species is endangered



I hope you too are enjoying your gardens and "neighbors".


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, May 14, 2018

June Planting Tips, Around the Garden, and Thinking Ahead to July and August

Dear Folks, 

Getting into the hot part of our year in the desert garden, some new to gardening here may think there is nothing to grow or would be growing.  Not so, fellow gardeners.

--If you live in USDA Zone 9b and above this information is also helpful as it is not just about temperature, it is about daylight hours and the plants that love the warm long summer days.

If you sowed or transplanted your basil last month, it should be growing lushly, maybe even needing pinching for bigger leaves* and -- good news -- Basil LOVES THE HEAT!  As long as your soil is healthy, the plant(s) are in full sun and breezy areas and you water wisely (deep) your basil will reward you with abundant growth all summer.  Likewise your tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant should be producing or near producing.

*Pinch back basil to increase energy into bigger leaves and USE those flowers and what you have pinched.  I added my Dark Opal and Sweet Italian Basil to a grain salad I made the other day when we had friends over for dinner on the patio.

Tomatoes will take a break producing fruit after the night time temps stay in the 80s, but keep that plant healthy and it will produce again in the fall when the temps drop back down.

Squash, Peppers, and Eggplant will produce all summer long.  Peppers like some afternoon shade.

Use your moisture meter to determine if you need to change the frequency of watering adjusting to the higher temperatures.  Did you know you can actually over water when the humidity starts ramping up in July?  Again use that meter.
 

June PLANTING:

Cantaloupe
Corn
Cucumber, Armenian
Eggplant
Gourds
Luffa Gourd
Melons, Musk
Okra
Peas, Black Eyed
Peppers, Chiles
Potato, Sweet
Purslane

USING existing plants you can under- seed with:  Basil, Chives, Shiso, and Epazote

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Portulaca
Roselle, Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa) (not too late to direct sow seeds)
Sunflower
Zinnia

GARDEN TIPS for June
    June through August in the Desert Southwest is the equivalent of winter in North Dakota — you maintain what you have planted, taking special care of young or sensitive plants.


   With the exception of August when the heavy pre-fall seed “sowing” begins, it is a good idea to hold off on any major transplanting until the fall when the temperatures drop back to prime planting weather (below 90 daytime).
    Our Flower Mulching technique can be used to protect young plants by canopying the soil around them, placing the flowering plants very close to the base of the young plants.
    Heavy watering requirements may result in yellowing of leaves due to iron deficiency, especially of fruit trees (Chlorosis).  Apply Ironite or Green Sand before next watering to correct.
    Sowing corn for fall harvest, plant ONLY one variety at a time, so you can save some dried corn after harvest for re-sowing (2 varieties will cross).  You can sow corn twice a year.

    Begin looking into what you will be sowing mid to late July and Early August for fall growth.  If you want winter squash or pumpkin you need to count backwards from Halloween or Thanksgiving 90-120 days for sowing.  Also you can seed in winter herbs such as Cilantro, Chervil, Dill and Parsley in August and the seeds will germinate when the soil begins cooling.  You need to make sure the sown area stays moist.  Light Leaf cover helps.


In The Garden Now

Lots of fun things growing in the garden now.


Cantaloupe - I was a bit later than I wanted to be getting my seeds in the ground. Got some heirloom Petit Melon from a friend, but because I was late, I purchased an organic cantaloupe plant and after hardening it off, popped it into the ground near the emerging seeds.  Using one of my chicken wire hats to keep the critters off while they get going.

I have a baby cucumber and a baby crook necked squash coming on.

Many of the plants I started early were negatively impacted by the up/down weather. Some plants which should have really taken off earlier were delayed and some which should have been harvested already were also delayed by the increased heat. 

Global weirding at work! 


One plant I was really happy to see up is my Turmeric.  This will be the second and a half year of growth.  Last fall I harvested some roots for use, so happy to have that available in my garden.

Peanuts are doing great!  I am delighted with this new attempt to grow them and decided on a large pot, as they require space to be able to bend their flower heads down into the soil and I needed to keep track of that action.

Flowering in the garden are my hollyhocks and my celery.  I will be catching the celery seed for use in the kitchen AND re-sowing next fall.

What is fun about the celery is the one flowering in the picture is my "kitchen trash recycle" where I replant the bottom of an organic celery bunch.  I am still waiting for my red celery to flower.  This past fall and winter excessive heat delayed my celery coming up (it reseeds itself), so I buy organic when I need it and replant the base.  The picture showing it in a chicken wire collar for protection from the birds (not sure why they like to dig it up but they do) transplanted in November after soaking in a dish for a couple of days.  Fun in the garden stuff! 

The plants which I am most concerned about are my garlic.  The excessively warm fall and winter have delayed and may have stunted the garlic.  I barely have a few scapes from the regular garlic while the elephant garlic which did not bloom last year and I left in the ground, did produce scapes last month, so I will harvest those.

These very small and below normal size scapes on the regular garlic are just coming on now.  They should have been growing more than a month ago and I should be harvesting my regular garlic right now.  I am going to wait until the plants begin dying back and then pull them and hope for the best.


Last years crop never matured and interestingly unlike the elephant garlic which re-grew in place, never came back up.

So to explain.

Garlic requires prolonged chill - not necessarily freezing - to produce a head of cloves.  A normal planting / growing season here in the desert is plant October 1st or no later than October 31st to have the longest time in the ground and harvest around mid-May.

With the mostly commonly grown varieties called hard-neck, after a nice winter of chilly to cold weather the plants come up, produce a scape in the spring (between March and April.  You wait until the scape top reaches the height of the leaves and cut it off as the base. Then a couple of weeks later the plant begins to yellow and die back.  You carefully harvest and hang to dry in a shaded area and in a couple of weeks when the exterior is papery you have garlic which can be stored and used as needed.  As I noted, hoping for the best.

So much of my gardens are just a delight and producing, so I am happy with what the gardens have and are giving us.


Planting at the best times, usually creates wonderful bounty year round here in the desert or USDA Zone 9b+ gardens.



For easy reference on when to plant, you can purchase my perpetual calendar with monthly sowing/planting tips and garden maintenance information - click on the link here, there is a preview you can check out.


Have a wonderful day in the garden!
 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Harvest, Use, Preserve and Making Bouillon Powder!

Dear Folks,

Recent harvests from the garden and preserving through sun and refrigerator drying, have given us some great foods to enjoy now and then later.

Our Moro Blood Orange is still giving us nice fruit into May.  Rather than just eat one orange, we pick 2 or 3 and section, keep in the frig and snack on them through the day.

Peaches, tomatoes and Acerola Cherries are more of the lovely fruit we are gathering.  LOTS of tomatoes coming on from last year's vines which did not just give up but gave us fruit until about end of January and re-started putting on fruit again in late Feb to Mid March and we are reaping the bounty now.  The Acerola Cherries, one of the super fruits, is giving me several every day, if the birds don't get them first.  I've learned to pick not-quite-ripe to beat the birds as these are one of those fruits which continues to ripen after picking.  Our dear Florida Prince Peach is getting quite elderly (21 years old) but has given us some fruit this year.

So that is the "pretty" offerings.  Now for some gnarly but still great veggies.  Our Chantenay Carrot - one of my absolutely favorites for its outstanding flavor no matter the age or size - gnarly or pretty.  And one of the red beet varieties.  We had quite the time with all of the roots crops this year as the fall and winter excess warm weather delayed both the seed germination (they like their soil cool for germinating and growing) and good growth, so while I was checking regularly for good harvest size, I got distracted with other things in the garden and just let these go.  I still have more to harvest and cook up.  After trimming up, I roasted most of these and saved some of the carrot for my dried bouillon recipe (below).

I have a major concern this year that I will get a repeat of NO garlic, as happened last year due to the excessive heat and insufficient chill hours.  I did get "some" garlic scapes this week and with the tomatoes I am planning on roasting these together to make the base for a sauce.

So, garlic also needs chills hours to eventually produce the head of cloves we look for.  I got nothing last year, no scapes ever appeared.  I am a little more hopeful this year, however these scapes are under-sized.  We shall see if, when the plants start to die back, there is evidence of clove formation.

In the meantime, I harvested two not-matured-garlic and a huge leek.  I trimmed all, removing any hard core, kept the white bulb and a smidge of green from each (composted the rest).  I finely minced the garlic and finely sliced the leeks and put them on one of my trays to dry in the sun (garlic on the bottom).  I will jar up, label and keep for use when dried leek or garlic will do.

In the past, just an FYI, I have used a garlic press to extract the "meat" of garlic cloves and then sun dried them.  The consistency is more granular from the formed garlic cloves.


I harvested a bunch of my celery (red and green). I love growing this in the garden as I can just cut however many stalks I want without pulling up the whole plant.  These nice batch is ready to use fresh (I chopped in a salad) and drying in the frig AND for use in my bouillon recipe.

Here is some of the celery drying on my rack in the refrigerator.  This mimics the commercial freeze-drying process with the constant removal of excess moisture in a cool environment.

Now for the Bouillon.

I wish you could smell and taste the aroma and flavor of this blend of vegetables and herbs from the garden.  I started doing this a couple of years ago, after reading what EXACTLY is usually in bouillon powder or cubes and wanting to leave OUT the things I did not like in them.  I searched around for recipes, change a lot of the ingredients (things like chicken broth or beef broth powder - OUT) and thought about what I PUT into my own stocks/broths when I make them.  I wound up with about 2 ounces dried or approximately 2-3 tablespoons. Sounds like a little, right?  You will find if you choose to use this, a little goes a long way.  Think about the way you may choose to use dried rosemary or thyme in a recipe and use that measurement as a guide.  I use to help a soup along, I've used in salad dressings, only adjusting salt, sprinkled on steamed or roasted vegetables, and tossing foods like cooked grains or pasta with some.  Limited only to your imagination.

Ready to Dry.
I needed to make up a batch.

Everything in this mix is from my garden.  Carrots, I'itoi onion tops (a shallot like flavor), celery, sorrel and sweet potato leaves, basil, rosemary, conehead thyme and some sweet peppers.  I also added some slivered asparagus I had dried earlier.

You may be wondering about the "greens" in addition to the obvious carrot, celery, onion and herbs and why no garlic. [Note: you can see how much the mass has shrunk to dried state.  It is VERY important that you spread out things to dry completely dry so you do not have any mold issues.]

The greens give extra flavor and "fullness" to the blend and I think adding garlic to the base blend may limit use.  You can (and I do) add garlic to some of the ways I use this outstanding flavor. [Pictured in the collage is everything dried, piled ready to grind and then ground.

I do not like to lose any of the great flavor so I poured some water in the grinder and measuring cup, swished, and added to my stock "bucket" in the freezer, all ready for the next time I am making stock.  I put parings of carrots, celery, onion and chicken bones, pieces of herbs I did not use etc. in this bucket.  Makes a great tasting soup base.

Ratios for making your own.

Ratios are approximate - I used about 50% more carrot than the onion and celery (equal amounts of those).  For the herbs and greens about the amount called for in a recipe for soup or stew 5-6 sprigs total.

The celery provides some of the salt taste without adding salt as it is naturally higher in sodium than the other vegetables.

Because of that you should always taste first when using to flavor a dish before reaching for the salt shaker.

I hope you do try making your own. I think you will be delighted with the results.

Have fun with your harvests!


Reminder.  If you are interested in another opportunity to take advantage of the "Grow Your Own Food Workshop" videos and more you will need to register to be put on the list and you will be offered an opportunity to purchase access to all of the videos, but you can watch the introduction videos free. The Workshop starts May 16, 2018.   Click here.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Did You Miss The "Grow Your Own Food Workshop?" - You have another opportunity.

Saving Basil Seeds
Dear Folks,

If you missed the first showing of the Grow Your Own Food Workshop Free videos and an opportunity to purchase access to 20+ videos until next March, you have another chance.

I was very impressed with my co-speakers.  Watching the free videos lets you see each speaker in a short but informative "intro".  The full program has detailed how-tos, and can be purchased with access through March 2019.

Signing up for the free videos, will put you on the list of when they start (May 16th) and provide you with more details.

Grow Your Own Food Workshop


Over 15 Expert Gardeners teach:

Seed Saving
Companion Planting
Vertical Gardening
Composting
Growing Herbs
Raised Bed Gardening
Vermicomposting
Gardening Basics
Basics of Organic Gardening
Growing 3 Medicinal Herbs
Growing A Year's Worth Of Food
Growing Tropical Plants
Which Gardening Method Is Best For You
Getting Started With Hydroponics
Starting Seeds Indoors…and MORE!!!

. . .

Meanwhile . . .

Watch For My Monthly Planting Tips for June in one of the next blog posts!


Have a best day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Wild Weather Express Coming on Through! Seedlings Jumping Out of the Ground.

Roselle
Dear Folks,

Strap on your seat belts and have your moisture meter handy, you and the gardens are set for a while express ride from the 70s to the 100s in 4 days!

Today, Wednesday, May 2nd, our high is supposed to be around 71 give or take.  In 4 days, Sunday May 6th the high is expected to be around 103!!

THIS is one of those times where you may need to add additional water to your gardens. Check in the morning, not the afternoon before adding additional water.

The following week we will be in the mid-to low 90s all week with another projected 100 by Sunday the 13th, Mother's Day.

Pheweeeee!

The picture above is of another 4 day wonder.  On April 26th I sowed my Roselle seeds, which I had soaked overnight. The picture was taken April 30th!! 4 days after sowing.  This may be a record for the Hibiscus Sabdraiffa.  I have been growing this heat loving, amazing, beautiful and healthy food for several years.  In fact these seeds were 3rd generation, so this will be the 4th year from successive saved seeds.

Peanut
Another seedling which just amazed me is Peanut, Arachis hypogaea.  I decided to try growing peanuts in one of my big pots (18 inches wide).  Without pre-soaking, I sowed them on April 24th, and 6 days later they were breaking ground.  Just amazing.  Another heat lover, I think I tried peanuts several years ago and they did not produce and once I received this heirloom variety from Baker Creek and read the info on their site, I realized what I had done wrong before.  BTW  This variety is called Tennessee Red.

This very curious legume grows in a very specific manner.  The seed sprouts and then the plant blooms. THEN the flower head must be allowed to bend over and dig into the soil - without interference - and start the process of growing the pods under ground.  While I like to mulch my seedlings, the tips suggest you can do this, but you must remove all the mulch before the flower head forms so there is no blocking of the flower head digging in. I figure I can then mulch the growing plants as it will be 3-4 months growing before harvest.

Such a unique way of growing.

Finding these plants like Roselle, Sweet Potato and now Peanuts which love the summer heat is a true win/win for gardeners here in the desert.

My Pineapple Guava is just loaded with flowers this year, more than I remember seeing in the recent years.  This "candy flower" is something we look forward to, actually more than the fruit in November, as the petals truly are candy sweet.

Even though they are on a watering schedule I am wondering if the plant is doing "survival mode" extreme flowering due to our very dry weather.  A study attempted to explain this.  What it boils down to is some plants with drought conditions present, will flower early and possibly profusely to ensure reproduction.  The study mentions not only the early flowering but the response of the plant to not only the available water, but also the transpiration of moisture from the leaves.

I first noticed this several years ago when the Saguaro and Palo Verde were blooming far earlier than usual and I wondered at the time if it was a survival mechanism. I found references later on confirming that musing.

Always fascinating to see what impact weather has on our gardens.

I have 2 Moringa Trees in pots, still trying to figure where to plant them.  This is the second year they have flowered.  Last year they did not produce pods, maybe this year? :-)

The leaves and flowers are edible.  I nibble on the leaves from time to time but I do not want to harvest too much - I want to leave energy in the plant.

One of the few ornamental only plants I grow are Amaryllis.

This beauty is one we call "Dad's Amaryllis" as my father gave me the bulb back in the 1980s. This is one of the pups.  We look forward to them blooming every year, just so gorgeous.

I have another one that is red and white and is also a drop dead gorgeous flower - waiting for it to bloom this year.  I purchased that one several years ago at the Sun City Farmers Market.

Grow Your Own Food Workshop - another chance to watch free videos.

If you missed the GYOFW in April, the Workshop is being re-broadcast beginning May 16th.  Watch for the link here on my blog.

One last Thing - with the weather heating up, consider making some sun tea with your garden herbs and edible flowers. Having a beautiful and tasty cool drink in the frig when it is 100+, made from your own garden gatherings is a win/win. Pictured is a jar of green tea with Roselle petals, start and finish

If you have never made sun tea.  You need a very clean mason jar or similar, not plastic.  Any herbs or edible flowers, fresh or dried stevia leaves, and commercial tea like green or black, even a piece of fresh ginger or turmeric root.  You can add dried spices like a piece of cinnamon stick, allspice berries or similar.  Add cool water, cap and let sit in the sun for 6-8 hours.  Bring inside, strain, cool.  DO NOT add any sugar or honey while steeping in the sun.  It may get hot, but not hot enough to stops molds.  Add sweetener after you strain, the refrigerate. The exception is that you can add the herb stevia to the steeping tea.  When I have roselle petals fresh or dried I add them to the tea while steeping, gorgeous color and that tangy cranberry flavor.

Don't forget to drink more non-caffeine liquids as the weather heats up!!



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

National Herb Day! National Herb Week! Growing and Drying.

Sweet Basil and Bay
Dear Folks,

Saturday May 5th is National Herb Day.

National Herb Week begins Monday May 7th and ends on Mother's Day May 13th.

These National observance of our useful plants are annually on the first Saturday of May and the First full week of May.

I think this celebration of herbs ending on Mother's Day, is fitting as you could prepare some herbs, either as a bouquet or dried herbs for her to enjoy and use.

Some of my happy herbs right now (besides the Sweet Basil and Bay Tree) are:

Left to Right:

Syrian Oregano, Lime Balm, Greek Oregano, Myrtle, Lemon Thyme and Spanish Thyme and Lime Scented Geranium growing together.
























I dry most of my herbs when I can't use them fresh to preserve all that great flavor.

When they are small enough batches I dry in the refrigerator, on baking cooling racks.  If I have large quantities I dry in the sun using some dehydrator trays I picked up at a yard sale several years ago.

Of the two methods, the refrigerator drying produces dried herbs with more essential oils (flavor and aroma) and color preserved.  This is because our modern refrigerators mimic commercial freeze drying by constantly removing excess moisture from the chilled air.

Pictured are dill (I just put a pile of fresh next to the mostly dried prior batch), chervil, cilantro and I'itoi onion tops.























Here is a picture showing the type of rack and also showing the 1x2 piece of wood (also shown above).  There are 2 pieces of wood on the ends of the first tray, which allows me to stack the racks in my refrigerator top rack.  I selected the coated rack and the size to fit the top shelf just perfectly, so they are out of the way and can take as long as necessary to be perfectly dried before I put them in mason jars, labeled, in my dark pantry.

It is imperative that you make sure they are completely dry before storing or you risk mold - NOT a good thing.

In the frig picture both racks are stacked but only the cilantro is showing.  This picture is when I first put the herbs in - about 4 weeks ago.  The dill is not quite dry in the first picture above. However you can compare the dried cilantro in that picture to the one showing it fresh in this picture, as well as the fresh dill compared to the dried beside it.

Drying in the refrigerator can take anywhere from 1 week to over 4 weeks depending on 1) the size of the leaves and 2) the volume you are drying all at once.

Sun drying takes from 1 to 2 days depending on temperature and in some cases on a very dry 90+ degree plus day the herbs can dry in a few hours.

Here is a comparison of some of my onions I dried a couple of years ago.  Green tops and bulbs separated and chopped.  Fresh at the top and dried at the bottom.

If you are sun drying and they are not quite dried (remember they must be perfectly dried to store safely) bring them into the house overnight to avoid them reabsorbing moisture then put them back out the next day to finish drying.

Sun Drying your herbs, fruits and vegetables is a win/win - no electricity used and you take advantage of our natural sun and heat.  The sun drying works best on bright sunny days of at least 75+ degrees.  The hotter the better but you can use the cool days, it just may take the extra day to complete the drying.

One last thing.  If you grow your own vegetables along with the herbs - make your own dried bouillon powder, salt free.

I need to make some more myself.  The flavor in this is outstanding!!  Seriously.  Celery gives a bit of taste of salt, but the real flavor comes from combining some vegetables, herbs, onions (TIP do NOT include garlic - you can add later -- you want the flavor of the other components to stand out).  I have used it to make a soup stock, add to dressings and I have also coated meats etc. with it before roasting or grilling.

Click here to read my post on making your own dried bouillon.


Growing Herbs?  When to plant in the desert southwest or USDA Zone 9b and above.

I have a simple chart in PDF form which covers 48 herbs with some additional information on many of them.  I include some companion planting and pairing tips.

Click here to review and purchase.  $5.  There is a preview available. The pictures are all herbs from my gardens.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Around The Garden and New "Neighbors" Show Up.

Dear Folks,

While looking at a location for sowing my Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdraiffa) this year, this little guy (about 3/4 of an inch long) shot out across the soil!  If I had not been looking closely at the ground I would never have spotted him and probably stepped on him/her.  I have never seen a hatchling Praying Mantis before - usually much larger when I spot them.  It took me a bit to coax it onto a leaf to lift it up to a plant where I thought it would be safer.

The next "neighbor" showed up crisis mode and we came to its rescue, but first I want to follow up on my "Watering..." post the other day.

I mentioned in that post that I have at least one bed which is only watered once a week year round (rain does add some but not a lot), and while looking for a photo related to the "neighbor" I am about to discuss I realized this photo of another rescue last year clearly showed my chervil and cilantro growing in that once-a-week-watered bed - it was April.  This is "Bob" the Bobwhite who came to use for help with a string tied around his leg which almost strangulated the leg and was wrapped around the other one too.  After about a week of healing and getting stronger, he took off to hopefully parts safe and good for him.

So our newest "neighbor" - meet "Betty" the Bobwhite who showed up very early Tuesday morning this week.  Something was moving and I realized it was a bird and she hobbled over to me from about 8 or so feet away coming right to my feet, clearly in distress.  I picked her up thinking she might have a string on her leg (we think someone may be raising them nearby and these are escapees), but when I turned her over her feet and breast were filled with cholla thorns!!  The poor thing.  I started to pull them out then realized it should be a two person job, so I woke my Deane - not a morning person he showed up outside with different slippers on his feet - both of them for the left foot!! -- Humor aside he was able to pull the rest of the thorns out while I held her.  There was blood but she appeared to be whole, so we took her over to the bird watering dish. While Deane poured some seed down I dipped her beak into the water dish and she began to drink - I think she spent about a minute and a half drinking.  We think the thorns were in her for quite a while and she must have been dehydrated badly. [The picture was taken a little later - when she had gone back to the watering dish after ducking under cover somewhere.]

"Betty" was around off and on delighting us with her presence and we watched her go from hobbling to walking without difficulty very quickly.  Yesterday at twilight about 60 hours after her rescue she lifted off the ground like a Harrier Jet and shot out over the tree tops.  I was hoping to see her this morning, but she may have decided to go find other digs.  Wishing her safe life.

We think of our gardens as an oasis and quite obviously critters do also.

The other new "neighbor" is a bee type I've not seen in the gardens before AND our bee house - about 8 +/- years old is now being used.  About half of the "condos" are occupied.  I wondered if the new bee might be the major tenant but on asking and trying mightily to ID the bee, I have a couple of guesstimates.  One good, one not good and neither would occupy the bee house.  The Cuckoo Bee is what you might guess - a hive invader which takes over a honeybee hive and eventually kills is.  The coloring of the Cuckoo Bee does not seem to match my best photo - this new bee buzzes around like on a caffeine high.  They make the hover flies - which we have also (beneficial insect) - look like they did NOT have their caffeine fix.  So my best photo of the new bee which I am hoping is a species called the Longhorn Bee and is an independent ground nester and pollinator.  BTW The flower is on my Barbados (Acerola) tree and the tree is just covered in flowers and fruit coming on.  Had one of the cherries this morning, while trying to unsuccessfully get another shot of the bee.  So had a cherry instead!

Other Fun Things Around the Garden.

Caper Spent Bloom, new flower bud and from the spent bloom - at the left is the beginning fruit a berry like an olive.  Some of my friends and I growing capers think it is more productive to wait for the fruit to pickle than the buds.
















I have Jerusalem Artichokes growing in the ground in a patch and a pot.  The pot is filled with new growth.

















Cilantro is flowering.  I have been using even the flower tips in my meals, but time to let them go to seed for harvesting for re-sowing in the fall and also to use the spice.

















I have been checking my garlic regularly for sign of the scapes, the flower stalk and so far no sign on the two regular varieties.  I did cut the scapes from my Elephant Garlic a week or so ago.  I am concerned that our warm winter has once again caused the garlic to fail to send up a flower so I pulled two - one from each variety - to let dry and see what is usable.  If the cloves do not form, I may only get a large garlic bulb, which I would need to chop and dry or freeze.  This happened last year and the plants simply died back with nothing usable.  Keeping fingers crossed.   FYI I hang them in the shade of the trees to dry.

















Harvested some carrots, beets and more asparagus the other day.  This year's warm winter really delayed the beet and carrot growth, so I'm going to try another area next year to see if adding more direct sun access (there is a lot in the existing bed, just maybe not enough to compensate) might help with warmer winters.

















Happy to see my other Horseradish liking its new "digs".  Yes, that is a Poinsetta near by - I got several small plants in the little self-watering setups this past Christmas - gave some away, and transplanted my two (1 white (not visible in the picture) and 1 red to pots then they were doing so well, I put them in this bed which gets some shade in the summer.  So far they are loving it as the Horseradish is.

















My Honeysuckle if blooming and when I remember I pick a flower and sip the nectar.  Fun childhood memories. This vine was so vigorous I recently pruned it back a lot.  It shares a bed with my bananas and a mango (grown from seed - doing okay).

















I used the last of my Molokai Sweet Potato and made fries. Oh boy are they good.  I "cure" them in our laundry shed which works great because the hot water heater is in there keeping if warm and humid.

















Speaking of capers.  Did you know you can use the immature Nasturtium seeds to make a "poor man's caper" using whatever pickling process you use?  They are even nice added to a salad dressing for a bit of horseradish taste.  Caution:  Pregnant or lactating women should not eat these or at a maximum just a few - you know few means 3 right?

















Lastly in one of my prior posts I mentioned garden ornaments.  The first one is a small solar fountain.  Now I have a solar Chandelier!!!  I spotted this idea when visiting family over in Sun City and while out for a walk with my sis, I literally backed us up when I spotted something like this hanging in a front yard.  I wanted it badly.  So mys sis gave me one she had for a number of years not quite knowing what she would do with it.  My Deane had a deer-in-the-headlights look when I was explaining what I had in mind, but when I showed him the idea with one existing, but old, solar path light, he immediately took the wiring out and then we found some solar lights with a close enough color top to match the old bronze of the chandelier.

















We are tickled with this.  Now when the late afternoon temps are too hot to sit on the patio, we wait until night and enjoy the evening.  Is this cool, or what?  That is the solar fountain in the foreground. Should have moved the watering can for the picture. :-)

















I hope these inspire you to try new things in the garden.

You can find links for my books and calendars on the sidebar.

Don't Worry, Be Happy, Grow Food!



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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