Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

October Planting Tips and getting your growing on!

Dear Folks,

Here in the desert gardens, we think of October as SPRING!!  It is the month when we do a good portion of our planting.  Basil is still going strong and many of the herbs are in full flavor, so I'm drying several - see below after the planting tips.  Also, sharing some fun things in the kitchen, Pumpkin spice milk for latte anyone?

It is the perfect month for planting fruit trees to give them all of the cool months to set down really good roots before the heat of late spring.

It is the best time to get in your perennial herbs to also get them established before the heat sets in.

A fun bit of facts about our "Monsoon" season which officially ended September 15th.  Ed Phillips wrote a nice article on it some years ago.  Click here to read up on exactly what our Monsoon is.


Spring!!! in the Desert - Heavy planting possibilities:

Bay, Greek (Sweet)
Beans, Fava
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Chrysanthemum, Shungiku
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit Trees
Kale, Ornamental
Lemon Grass
Lemon Verbena
Lettuce (arugula, leaf lettuce etc.)
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Oregano, Mexican
Peas, English and Sugar/Snap
Potato seeds (not seed potatoes - use seeds) ("seed potatoes" or cut pieces of potato should be planted Nov 1-Jan 1)
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French


Carnation (Dianthus)
Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
English Daisy
Evening Primrose (Oenothera Berlandieri)
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Johnny-Jump Up
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Scented Geraniums
Shungiku Chrysanthemum
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for October
"Spring in the Desert" - we call fall our spring because this is when we do most of 'heavy' garden work, trees, shrubs and cool weather edibles all go in now.
    The beginning of primary perennial planting season is now through February.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of February for a continuous crop through next spring.
    Garlic: Plant garlic cloves no later than October 31st to ensure full maturity of garlic heads in the spring.  Plant extra if you want ‘green garlic’ (used like scallions) through the cool months. The ‘green garlic’ can be harvested when the clove below the soil swells slightly.
    This is the beginning of bare-root planting season. Asparagus, raspberry, blackberry, grape, and strawberries may start showing up in your favorite garden nursery.
    If you have ever-bearing berry vines, cut them down to the ground after the fruit is finished. (This is easier than trying to keep track of which are the oldest canes — commercial growers use this practice.)
Aphids are a major problem with cabbage family - forestall infestations. Add a fingertip of Dawn to 1 quart of water. Shake, pour 1/4 cup down center of each plant once a week

Make and use a safe soap spray on aphids on other plants (the aphids like our cool nights too!).  1 teaspoon each of dawn and vegetable oil to 1 quart of water.  Spray every 5 days for a minimum of 3 repeats to keep them under control.  Neem spray is a good alternative.

Jerusalem Artichoke (aka Sunchokes) plants are sprouting and I can be harvesting them later on this fall when the flowers and plants start to fade.  The plants you see around them are one of my Greek Oregano beds, there is a peach tree in this bed also.

My eggplants (there are two there along with a pepper plant) are still producing and staying nice and healthy.  They sometimes winter over.  We will see.

The Listarda variety is just plain pretty and like many of these heirlooms they are more tender, and do not usually need salting to remove bitterness.  I also leave the skin on these.

I've been sun drying my herbs in the sun, because I want more ready for the winter.  I can pick many of these to use fresh, but when I'm in the middle of cooking and the air and soil are cold, damp and with no sun (these conditions cause the essential oils to retreat leaving the herbs with less flavor and even unpleasant), I need to have my own dried herbs handy. 

This is Greek Oregano.  I just realized I do not have any dried!  The other day I dried Mexican Oregano and Conehead Thyme.  Today I just set out my White Flowering Rosemary to dry.

FYI while Greek and Mexican Oregano can be substituted in recipes, the Mexican has a slightly sweeter taste while the Greek has a robust flavor we associate with Italian.  By the way, herbs labeled "Italian Oregano" are an inferior taste to the Greek.  Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens) is from a different plant family, a cousin of Lemon Verbena

Once the herbs are dried I fold the parchment paper and gently crush the stems to release the leaves.  I often save the dried stems to make types of "bouquet garni" flavoring bundles for soups and stews.  These dried leaves are now ready to store.

I have also dried fruit and made my own homemade bouillon by combining onion, carrot, celery, a bit of sweet pepper and several herbs then grinding to a powder after they are all dried.  Fabulous!

This time of year I am still drinking iced coffee.  I start once the temperatures get into the 80s in the spring and continue until they drop back down below 80 in the fall.  I treat myself to one of my cups of coffee adding a "Chocolate Ice Cube"!

I found the original idea on a Vegan site and had to make a version of my own.  They used bar chocolate, but I found cocoa worked better.  FYI these are a bit sticky even when frozen solid.  I remove them gently from the tray and store them in a large mason jar in the freezer.  You can read my blog post on it here with other ideas for using them.  The post also tells you how to make delicious ice coffee and not watered down type.  P.S.  My coffee tree is still doing okay. No flowers yet but it survived last winter so we shall see how it does this winter.

In a pan on high heat, put in cocoa, sugar and half of the milk.  Stir to get it melting and combining, then start adding the rest of the milk stirring constantly.  Do not let boil.  Put into an ice cube tray (I keep a separate tray for this and only wash with very hot water between use).

My Chocolate Ice Cubes
7 ounces of milk
1 ounce of water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 cup of Ghiradelli Cocoa (already has sugar in it


So I'm sure you have seen the ads by now from Starbucks teasing about PSL coming soon.  I LOVED pumpkin spiced anything once the air feels like fall, my brain switches from tropical to cozy.

Live so many other commercial things that I get a hankering for, I want a homemade version which is healthier and safer.  I went looking for recipes online and found a couple but they really were not "right" - not enough pumpkin and used "flavoring" stuff.  Below is my recipe and here is the link to my blog post on it and other uses for the pumpkin spiced milk.  If you are not growing your own pumpkins, Frys has an organic canned which I keep on hand.

My Pumpkin Milk For Drinks
This makes 1 cup (I make up big batches based on how many serving sizes are in a small can of pumpkin puree and adjust the other ingredients).

2/3 cup milk (I use whole milk, but you can use any milk product you prefer)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree* - make sure it is the 100% kind and not pumpkin-pie filling which has other things added
2-4 teaspoons of sugar (or any sweetener you prefer - I usually use 3 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (go ahead and play around with PP spice combinations that equal 1/4 teaspoon - ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are the usual components)
Optional:  Whipped Cream

Blend all ingredients except whipped cream well.  Store in the refrigerator and use as desired.

I am going to make up a batch soon as Deane wants to make a pumpkin spice bread pudding and it won't use the whole can. :-)  I am going to freeze the pumpkin spiced milk in cubes.  Might even try a coffee with both Chocolate and Pumpkin!!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sugar Peas, Drying the Bounty, and Fall Events / Classes

Dear Folks,

Have I mentioned recently how much I love sugar peas? :-)

First Sowing (September 1st) are up - about 2-3 inches high already

I do have a love-affair with this gorgeous and totally edible plant.  From the flower to the growing tip to the delicious peas from young and raw to older and cooked. they are a bonus to your garden soil and table. [This is what I am looking forward to with first flowers and pods coming in late November/early December.]

I successive sow the sugar peas about every 3 or so weeks through February.  A couple of years ago I did a whole blog post on my "Ode to Sugar Peas".  You can read it here.  So what are you waiting for, get sowing!

With the temps still in the "Hot" times I decided it was a good day yesterday to sun dry some of my Mexican Oregano and Conehead Thyme.  It only took about 5 hours from fresh cut to ready to store.  Chose cool, dark, dry containers and pantries to store.

I need to get some other herbs dried while we still have hot days.  85+ degrees, bright and dry-ish work very well, you do not have to wait until it is 100!

Sun drying is a great way to dry bulk vegetables, herbs and fruit, but the heat does remove some of the color and essential oils.

You don't need to wait for a hot day, you can dry in the refrigerator on a rack, paper plate or paper towel.  Our modern refrigerators mimic the "freeze-drying" process of commercial facilities by constantly removing the moisture from the leaves, thus "air drying" without losing color or essential oils.  Leaves dry in 1-3 weeks in the frig depending on the thickness.  Pictured is the rack I am using (I dried these in April this year).  The rack fits nicely on my top shelf in the refrigerator (NOT freezer), out of the way and easy to get to.  I put small-leaved varieties on paper towels to keep from sifting down.

Sharing Some Great Sites below - - -
GREAT AMERICAN SEED UP!!!  September 22 & 23, 2017

Get a ticket -- $7.50 -- to the Great American Seed Up where you can purchase seed in bulk, listen to great speakers

"Featured at the Seed-Up will be presentations and workshops with seed experts to spread knowledge about traditional and modern seed saving practices. Discussion topics will include: how to save and store seeds, planting and starting seeds, how to start a seed library, how to properly store your new seeds and how to grow a garden using your new seeds."

The Seed Up is a wonderful event.  I hope you can take advantage of it. 

. . .

Smiling Dog Landscaping in Gold Canyon hosts FREE classesCheck the list for the classes and dates.  Each class is free but limited to 15 and YOU must registerClick here for the information.

. . .

Two Sustainable/Permaculture folks newest posts below are links for Geoff Lawton and Lisa Steele (Fresh Eggs Daily).  I get their latest updates in my email and I think they are totally worth following if you are not familiar with either of them.

Geoff Lawton is a permaculture expert who has helped launch desert reclamation projects in many places and one in particular in Jordan is a true inspiration for us desert gardeners. Read up on this and more here.

I have been following Lisa Steele for a couple of years now and I am always so happy to see one of her posts show up in my inbox I just smiled before I even read it.  I have been wanting to get hens again for eggs and just have not made the jump yet.  I used to have hens and a couple of dairy goats - miss them A LOT, so while I am still making up my mind about getting some hens again, I enjoy Lisa's take and inspiration.  She has a new TV series and this link takes you to the current episodes.  FYI my computer is old and I found the Episode 3 out of sync of audio and visual, but you can still get a lot out each show.

I encourage you to subscribe to their sites.  You won't be disappointed.

. . .

And now for something fun and helpful, one of my nieces, Allison, is a very creative gal.  She is a trained pastry chef, but likes other creative avenues as well. Check out her etsy site.


Finally, my Lecture coming up October 7, 2017 at Mesa Urban Garden.

Have a great day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Garden/Kitchen Updates, Don't Miss Free Summit, My Next Lecture

Dear Folks,

Don't miss the Free 7 Day Summit to learn / add to your knowledge on growing, preserving, using your food plus other ideas and skills to help you and your family.  It is not just about being prepared for emergencies or disasters but about making real quality-based decisions.

More below (Back to Basics Living On Line Summit).

My Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin is galloping along and that picture was taken about 10 days ago!

I am really pleased with the way my seed planted Mango is doing.  While I have a purchased mango tree, I could not resist putting this seed from a store bought mango in the ground.  This picture was also taken about 10 days ago and it is about 11 inches tall.

Caper plants this time of year are blooming and fruiting.  I have a new batch of finished fermented berries.  Fermented Caper Berries are not the same as the capers you buy in the store, those are the unopened flower buds.  Both can be used in any recipe calling for pickles or olives.  Working with the berries gives you more quantity for the effort.

Just because,  I decided to start a batch fermenting the tender young leaves and see how they do as a pickled vegetable to add to salads etc.  I picked and rinse the leaves nearest the end of each branch.  I will let them ferment for about 3 weeks and see how they taste.  In the last frame of the collage, what you see are glass pickles weights made from the same type of glass as canning jars.

Fermenting is actually a brining of these type of vegetables an old fashioned way of preserving that gives you multiple benefits.  You have a long lasting vegetable in the refrigerator.  They provide the same kind of good healthy bacteria as yogurt, and they are are an easy preservation technique.  You CAN "can" them to make them shelf-stable but you lose the good bacteria.  Any vegetable and even some fruits can be preserved this way.  This is the traditional way of making sauerkraut.

Back to Basics Living online Summit September 10-16 - FREE!

This summit includes topics like I showcase here on my blog.  Grow your food, preserve it, use it, recycling like composting, how to harvest your own seeds and a host of other useful topics.

Here is the link to my blog post with more detail.

28+ Experts discuss how to use "old" ideas in your modern life.

A couple of points:

You need to register to receive the daily schedule.
IT IS FREE!!  for the 7 days.

You have the option to buy a library of the audios for your ongoing reference.
The price for the library has a "door buster" discount if you purchase before the summit starts.

Here is a list of the Speakers and their topics:

You receive several free bonuses for the free sign up.  They do not share you email.

 I hope you take advantage of this free 7 days of knowledgeable speakers.

. . .

My Next Lecture is October 7th,

Mesa Urban Garden

5 - 6:30 p.m.

I will be discussing multi-taking in the garden and seed saving.  Get more details by visiting the Facebook Page of Mesa Urban Garden.  Let them know if you are attending so they have an idea of numbers.

Thank you folks for supporting this wonderful Community Garden.

I am always happy to answer questions. You can leave a comment here or message me on facebook.

Have a wonderful day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Back to Basics Living On-Line Summit - September 10-16 - FREE!

Dear Folks,

Here is an opportunity to listen to, and learn from 28 experts in sustainability, Permaculture, preparedness and just plain taking back a bit more control of where your food comes from and how you can help yourselves and your family, even your neighborhood.

And, you don't have to leave home to learn!

Back to Basics On-Line Summit

September 10-16, 2017


Local Experts Greg Peterson and Kari Spencer are 2 of the 28 experts (see list below) who use old and new approaches to help you change the future by embracing the past!

Learn Canning Basics, How To Start A Homestead From Scratch, How To Use Mylar Bags, Jump Start Your Urban Farm, How To Save Seeds and much much more!

Sign up for Free 7 days of podcasts. 

Free Downloadable Bonuses for signing up!

You have an option of buying the complete series to have your own reference library.  This permanent library will include additional bonuses. 

Here are the experts and their topics:

Melissa K. Norris
Never Buy Garden Seed Again - How Our Ancestors Had it Right

Greg Peterson
Jump Start Your Urban Farm

Jodi Moore & Julie Weiss
How to Plan a Year's Food Supply

Angela Paskett
Practical Guide to Using Mylar Bags for Your Long Term Food Storage

Kendra Lynne
Intro to Canning Basics

Maat Van Uitert
Starting A Homestead From Scratch

Tammy Trayer
How To Embrace An Off-Grid Lifestyle

Sheri Ann Richerson
Introduction To Preserving Herbs For Winter Use

Paula Miller
Getting Back to the Basics for Fat Loss

Michelle Visser
Maple Joy In 8 Steps - From Tree To Syrup

Malcolm Saunders
Making Mead

Lindy Sellers
How To Make Vanilla Bean Infused Blueberry Jam

Leah Lynch
How To Generate Income Doing What You Love

Kelly Cable
DIY Everything

Kari Spencer
Keeping Backyard Livestock

Jennifer Saleem
Natural Skincare For Families

Corina Sahlin
Making Chevre Cheese

Cindy Miller
Discover The Benefits And Simplicity of Thermal Cooking

Anna Merhalski
How To Start a Homestead Hatchery Business

Bill McDorman
Seed Saving

Amanda Bealle
The Fundamentals of Frugality

Wanda King
Feasting On The Harvest

Rick Stone
Year Round Gardening

Sara Hathaway
Physical Fitness And Self Defense Preparedness

Paul Munsen
13 Ways to Utilize Sunlight for Delicious Efficient Homesteading

Carolyn Thomas
Make Great Homemade Bread Every Time!

Rick Austin
Secret Garden Of Survival

Starry Hilder
Buying Off-Grid Property & Setting Up A Successful Homestead

Jason Matyas
Producing Value & Income In Your Household

Sign up and receive free bonuses right away.

Folks, I've already signed up and am looking forward to listening to these speakers, how about you!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, August 28, 2017

National More Herbs, Less Salt Day - August 29, 2017

Dear Folks,

By now you should know I LOVE herbs in all their scent, flavor and glory.  They not only flavor our food, most of the culinary herbs have additional antioxidants, Vitamin C, along with other minerals and vitamins.

Some, like Rosemary, lift the flavor of all starchy foods so you don't miss large applications of salt.

Flavor first with herbs and spices before reaching for the salt.

And we can pretty much grow ALL of them here in the valley of the sun.  You just need to know whether they like their feet cool or warm.  They respond more to soil temperature than air temperature.

I know that fall is coming soon because the fig leaves are starting to dry and fall.  While technically not an herb, the fresh leaves, dried by you, make a nice addition to tea. (Fig LEAF is used for diabetes, high cholesterol, and skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo.--Webmd)

Herbs which like the fall are parsley, cilantro, dill, chervil, anise, and celery.  All can be seeded in NOW.

Here is the link to my post on September planting if you missed it.

Other gardening.  Sow sugar peas on September 1st.  I have several celebratory planting times.  October 1st for Garlic, January first for potatoes.  These dates are not cast in stone, but make good reference points to get these foods planted at good success times.  You can successive sow sugar peas every 2 - 4 weeks through February/March for a continuous harvest.

I have a simple little herb chart for $5 (PDF) which lists 48 herbs and when the best time for planting is.  It is available in the side bar here on the blog.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Around The Garden.

Dear Folks,

Some action around the garden.  Some from July and just recently.  I got back from one trip this past week and immediately harvested some of my caper berries, sorting them between  big and small.  I want to see how the brining (pickling) works for the two different sizes.  If the berries are too big they may never lose their bitterness.
After experimenting last year with fermenting (the brining) both the unopened flower buds (THE caper you usually purchase) and the berry I decided the berries were a better product.  More size for the effort.

Used like olives with the taste of the capers they are a great addition to any foods.  My friend Jacq Davis (Epic Yard Farm) shared a recipe on facebook for using the berries inside a meatball, which sounds so good I have to try it when they are done.

Visitors in the garden always bring smiles to our faces.  We have a new bunny - have not had a bunny around for about a year.  The Peach Faced Love Birds are in full force and chorus this year chattering away in the trees.  Not sure where they put their nest(s) but apparently it is close by as they show up regularly just talking away.

I set up a tray which captures water from one of our sprinkler setups and refreshes every two days in this 'foresty' area.  Note:  While much of our gardens are on less frequent watering sets ups 4 or 7 days, this forest area requires more because of the large trees and plantings.

Pictured is my Stevia in July.  This amazing plant has come back every year for about the last 5 - 6 years, can't remember how long, but it is a true keeper.  It occasionally throws off seeds nearby but this main plant just keeps on loving being in this spot.

I have a mango tree (Pina Colada variety) which I planted last year and am hoping for fruit this year.  Fingers crossed.  But in the meantime I purchased a couple of mangos last month and kept the seeds  One of the seeds split when I opened the exterior case but the other stayed together.  I planted both in my Banana area on July 14th and one came up and is really happy.  It is now twice as big as the picture shown (taken August 8th).  I don't know what this lovely will do, but hoping I found a happy place for it.

If you missed my youtube video on harvesting Sweet Potato, Eggplant and Fresh Basil, here is the link.

Speaking of Basil, if you are not familiar with Lisa Steels of Fresh Eggs Daily, she posted a nice video on using basil for your chickens and a nice tip on making a basil fly repellent jar for your outdoor dining.  It is a nice tip and I have all the ingredients to make it for our next outdoor gathering.

I will be traveling again and be back and answering questions after August 27th.

I am planning on doing more regular, short videos on garden and kitchen topics.

Don't forget to mark your calendar for my next Free Lecture at Mesa Urban Community Garden, October 7th.

You can find my gardening calendars and books for sale on the sidebar here on the blog.

Have a great time in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

September Planting Tips

Taken August 12, 2017
Dear Folks,

We are about half-way through our summer/monsoon time.  Time to start getting your fall garden in shape.

DON'T touch the tomato plants which are still doing well even if not producing.  You can give them a bit of a hair cut over several days starting the end of August to remove sun damage and you will get a fall crop of fruit.  The plants will start setting fruit as soon as our night time temps fall below 80 -- usually around the end of August.  Expect the first nice lower temps (some days falling below 90) by September 30.  Typically our 90+ days run from May 29 to September 29th. We can have the occasional 100 degree day even into October, so monitor the moisture needs of your gardens using the moisture meter.

Taken July 17, 2017
These pictures are of my Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin, an heirloom variety which had been grown at Monticello.  I found a happy spot for it this year and got the seeds in the ground on July 5.  The larger plant picture is from August 12th and the smaller was taken July 17th (the chicken wire "hat" protects the young seedling from critters until it gets going well).  It really enjoyed the rains and is now about 3+ feet across.  Keeping my fingers crossed on getting some fun new fruit.

SEPTEMBER PLANTING:  Anise; Beans (bush and pole beans in first week in September at latest); Beets; Bok Choy; Broccoli; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage; Cabbage, Ornamental; Caraway; Carrots; Cauliflower; Celery; Chard; Chervil; Cilantro; Cucumbers; Dill; Endive (and Chicory); Fennel, Leaf; Onions, Green; Kale, Ornamental Cabbage; Kale; Kohlrabi; Leeks; Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.); Mustard; Parsley; Peas; Radishes; Spinach; Turnips.

You can successive sow foods like leaf lettuce, kale, cilantro, dill, parsley, roots like carrots, beets and radishes every 2-4 weeks through February/March for a continuous crop.

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:  Calendula; Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons); Marigolds, including Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii) and Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii); Nasturtium; Scented Geraniums; Snapdragons; Sweet Alyssum; Sweet William (Dianthus)

TOMATO PLANTS which made it through the summer, give them a 1/3 - 1/2 hair cut (over several days) and receive a fall crop of tomatoes through first frost.  They will start to set fruit again when the night time temps fall below 80.

BERRY VINES - OCTOBER 1st: cut all canes, old and new, to ground after fruiting - commercial growers use this method.

Fertilize Fruit Trees Labor Day.

Sunburn Damage can now be trimmed a little at a time over several days.

Order your garlic and potato "starts" (heads and seed potatoes) for planting later on.  They can be stored in cool dry conditions until planting time.  October 1st for planting garlic - December 1-January 1st for potatoes.

I like for both garlic and potatoes --

Baler Creek also sells garlic

You can find my gardening calendars and books for sale on the sidebar here.

Have a great time in your garden and kitchen.
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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