Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Around The Garden Garlic and Peppers, More Pictures and Reminder About Free Seed Share and Lecture.

Dear Folks,

When is garlic not "the" garlic?

When it is Society Garlic or Elephant Garlic (but that is for another post).

The gorgeous orchid-like, lavender flowers of the Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), comes in a plain or striped leaf (I have the striped) variations.  This is a perennial member of the larger Amaryllidaceae family.  The "family" includes onions, garlic, leeks and Amaryllis.

Society Garlic is a strong garlic flavored plant.  The leaves and flowers are used not the roots.  It grows in clumps and should be separated every few years.  It will thrive in dappled shade, but can tolerate more sun.

The name comes from a feature people have reported -- no garlic breadth!  This lovely plant is worth adding to your garden, even if you prefer true garlic.

This spring I got two new-to-me sweet pepper plants from Suzanne Vilardi (of Vilardi Gardens) a very unusual and rare with a very long name Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Pepper from Hungary.  ("Paradicsom" short name.)

I gave the plants a challenge by planting in one of my large pots with a southern exposure.  They settled down but it took all summer (I planted late) and now are pushing out a lot of fruit.  A "pumpkin" or "scalloped" shape they are meaty and sweet.  I am trying to decide if I will try stuffing them with something or just use in salads and pastas when they are fully ripe.  Most of these are about an inch and half or slightly bigger.  Reportedly they can get up to 3 inches across.

I am trying to establish a larger amount of sweet peppers in various areas of my gardens to give me a more consistent harvest.

Sun/Shade Tips.  While the peppers need the sun and warmth it is clear to me from my plants responses, that they appreciate some afternoon shade.  While they grew well in the middle of the summer, fruit not shielded from the sun by the leaves got sunburn.  This is particularly true for the fatter bells and this Paradicsom because they tend to fruit high on the stems, while my Lipstick/Gypsy peppers are more pendulous and hang below the leaf canopy.

I have prepared the bed where I will plant out my garlic on October 1st.  If you want head garlic in the spring, you need to plant no later than October 31st to ensure all the winter chill/cold necessary to force the garlic to produce clove heads.

It looks like a muddy bog right now and that was intentional.  I dug, sifted a bunch of gravel out of it, it was flooded and leveled.  This particularly area gets flooded for watering, so it is necessary to have it level.

I will plant very close together to have "green garlic" to pull through the winter for cooking.  Green Garlic aka Garlic Scallions is used just like a green onion/scallion - only garlic flavored.  Pulling every other plant during the winter gives me this great green garlic and slowly expands the area for the remaining plants to grow fat clove/filled heads.


Free Seed Share at the Mesa Farmers Market this week.

Free Lecture at the Mesa Urban Garden, MUG, Mesa's public community garden.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Around the Garden - September 24, 2016 - Pumpkin, Ginger, Turmeric, Watermelon, Sage & Roselle

Dear Folks,

My garden like any garden has its ups and downs.

I am always happy to see the mostly-ups in our gardens and the rewards.

The male flower of the "Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin" is huge, and I finally spotted some female flowers yesterday and keeping my fingers crossed.  After the first seeds I planted did not take I replanted amongst my purple sweet potato plants and they took off.

Pumpkin-Sprouted-after 5 days
Just in case, I decided to push the planting limits and just replanted some seeds 4 days ago near my Bradford Watermelon.  We shall see.  I got the seeds for this heirloom pumpkin, one which was grown at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, from Baker Creek Seeds.  Reportedly a pumpkin tasting like sweet potato, maybe planting it with my sweet potato will make for a happy union. :-)

One of the "downs" - my huge (5+ feet across) Common Garden Sage has died back.  This old plant, probably 9+ years old has been a part of my garden and one I enjoyed harvesting.  The one bright spot is a piece of it is still alive. I won't try to prune back until later in October.

Sage goes slightly dormant in the summer and can be over-watered.  However this may be a case of competition because of all the tree roots around it, in addition to other herb shrubs like Rosemary.  I will see what I have when I begin to prune later.

Meanwhile, I put some more Ginger in the garden in a new place (August 20th) where Turmeric (planted July 6th, up August 5th) liked its location very much, thank you!

This is the observation part of gardening in the desert, or anywhere else for that matter, it is what it takes to be more successful.

It is important to learn the characteristics of your garden.  It is your living friend and benefits from your keeping in touch with it regularly. :-) -- Catherine

In the case of these tropical root crops, they like dappled shade here in the Valley.  The problem with the original locations where they did well was the ebb and flow of the garden shade.  We had to take our a tree and a huge banana plant over the years which exposed the original location to far more sun than the ginger liked.  As a result the Ginger struggled each of the last couple of years.  I will be moving the old plant (while seeing if there is a harvestable root) to this new location.  If all goes well next year I should have a nice harvest of ginger.

The real pleasure of our garden this month was the official harvest of our first Bradford Watermelon.  I can't say enough about this awesome fruit.  The entire fruit is edible, the white part tastes like a cucumber, crisp and slightly sweet.  Right now I am testing the viability of the seeds.  I hope to have a 1st generation desert grown Bradford next year.

This one weighed around 20 pounds.  There is one more which I am letting go until the tendril dries out. This first one could have gone a bit longer before harvesting, but I just could not wait because it passed the 'thump' test.

I am also going to bake some of the skin with a bit of oil and salt when I harvest the last one.  The Bradford, known for its extremely tender skin and fruit (cuts like butter) was "lost" for decades because it could not be shipped.  Thankfully the modern family members chose to share the seeds and other products.

. . .


Free Seed Share Next Friday, and Free Lecture Next Saturday. 

One last plant growing in the garden.  My Roselle are about 5 feet tall now. Buds showing.  I should have open flowers within 2 weeks, followed by the delicious and gorgeous flower calyx.  Hibiscus sabdariffa is an outstanding plant in the warm weather garden.  The entire plant is edible, including the leaves.  The tangy lemony/cranberry flavor is mostly found in the burgundy cayx, but the leaves have some of the flavor too.  Use it raw - I added to a BLT sandwich the other day along with sweet potato and Egyptian Spinach leaves* - in salads and some traditional recipes pickle the leaves for later use. A high Vitamin C source from an incredible food plant.

* Regular lettuce varieties do not grow in the warm weather here in the desert, so I have been experimenting with using warm/hot weather lettuce options with great results - and taste!

Links on my website for my calendar and books

Did you miss my podcast interview on Herbs with Greg Peterson at the Urban Farm?

Check it out here.

Have a great time in the fall garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts! 

 Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Events Coming Up: FREE Seed Share and Lecture - Two Days - Get Your Growing On!

Dear Folks,

My three-times-a-year FREE Seed Share is next Friday, September 30th, 9 a.m. to Noon

I started this several years ago because I want YOU to get started, or add to, you gardening, growing some or more of your own food in your own backyard (or community garden bed or school garden).  I plan this free event to coincide with the next sowing season here in the Valley of The Sun.

Mesa Farmers Market
20 East Main (NEC of Main and Center)
Parking is available coming in from Pepper Place.  All parking is available on Fridays

You do not need to bring any seeds to come and pick up some.  If you have seed you harvested from edibles or packages of NON-GMO or Organic feel free to contribute, but it is not necessary.

I will be there to answer questions.

FREE Lecture - Saturday, October 1st, 4:30 p.m.

Fall - "Planting Like It Is Spring" in the Desert Garden!  

Many gardeners familiar with growing food in the desert treat fall like Spring for the abundance of varieties to plant and grow successfully.

Fall is the time to plant many of the perennial fruit trees and bushes, perennial herbs such as Rosemary, Oregano, and Thyme and all of the cool weather loving greens, root crops, and peas, along with cool weather loving herbs like dill and cilantro and edible flowers such as nasturtiums, hollyhocks and the pansy family.

Catherine, The Herb Lady will talk transplanting, successive sowing, and how to get the most out of your fall through spring garden.

Mesa Urban Garden (MUG)
NEC of Hibbert and 1st Avenue (south of Main Street)

A local Girl Scout Troop will have some seedlings for sale and free material will be available on a first come-first serve basis.

RENT a bed while you are there!  MUG has two sized beds for rent to get your garden going if you live in an apartment or otherwise do not have a gardening area.  The beds are all set up with great soil and a watering system.  All you need to do is plant!

I hope you can make it to one or both of these events.  The next events will be after New Year's.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Free Mail Shipping on My Books and Calendars

Dear Folks,

My Publisher just emailed me a discount code on print books and calendars. Codes are case sensitive


This promotion is for free mail shipping, or 50% off the cost of ground shipping. Good Through Monday, September 26th

Folks, I try to get any discount codes I am sent out to you as quickly as possible, as I have no prior alerts when they will be sent out.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pests In The Fall Garden, The Role of Ants, and Some interesting Links, plus my Interview Podcast

Dear Folks,

It is that time of year when the nights cool and while we are enjoying it, so are some of the pest bugs.  The aphids, mealybugs, leaf miners, horn worms etc. come out.  The plants are energized by the cooler day time temps and so are the bugs who want to eat them.

Pictured to the right is an aphid infestation back in March (Spring and Fall are the major invasion times because of the warm days, but cool nights.)  I had a similar invasion on one of my pepper plants and treated it with Neem spray.  In March I used a hard hosing followed by the home made safe soap spray - recipe below*.
While it looks like this plant (my Lemon Queen Sunflower) could not recover from something like that, it went on to grow healthy, and is still flowering today.

This morning while crusing the garden looking for photo-ops I spotted mealybugs on one of my pepper plants.  Mealbugs are a form of scale insect and, like aphids, they suck the life out of the plant stems.  Sometimes the damage is minimal and sometimes they can completely compromise the overhealth of the plant.

I could just scrape them off, but in this case I notice a LOT of ant activity around them.  Ants "shepherd" both mealybugs and aphids, protecting and nurturing them like a ranch raises cattle. It is a little hard to make out the ants, in the low morning light this was the best my camera would do.

Ants are nature's clean up crew in our gardens and sometimes you see them on flowers, collecting some nectar.  However, if you see a LOT of ant activity look for aphids or scale/mealybugs and be proactive.  You can scrape off scale, but not aphids.  I chose to go with a spray.  I ran out of my Neem and found an alternative Organic spray which seems to work fine.  It is a mixture of essential oils, plus wax and oils.

To adequately control aphids you need to spray every 5 days for a total of 3 times minimum to ensure you take care of adults, hatchlings and eggs that will hatch out

Next up are leafminers and the ubiquitous hornworm of the Solano family of plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc.)  The hornworms are big - this one was about 3 inches long and I discovered it while picking off the leaves of one of my pepper plants infected with leafminers.

Leafminer damage is generally more cosmetic than severely damaging to a mature plant, but still I don't want to let them get really going.  Just pick off the leaves and toss - do not compost.

Deane and view the hornworms differently.  He destroys them and I relocate them (this time to the dump trailer where it can have a possible chance to morph into the Sphinx Moth which is a major pollinator of desert cactus).

Limit sprays where you can pick off the bug or in the case of the leafminers the whole leaves.  This helps to keep sprays away from possibly hitting the good guy bugs.

Accept some damage in your gardens to "ring the dinner bell for the beneficial insects to show up".  If there are no visible pests then the beneficials may not come to your rescue when you really need them.

Also keep something blooming in the garden at all times.  The beneficial insects also need nectar.

I collected some interesting links this week to share with you.

Edible Pastic Wrap for foods

Shared by Geoff Lawton - Counter top compost system with a difference

Mark Lewis interviewed on podcast - Desert Forager - Mark shares his knowledge learned from his grandfather passed down to him through many generations of native experience.  You can find Mark at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market on Saturdays.

My interview by Greg Peterson of Urban Farm.  There are several optional links.

IN THIS PODCAST: Catherine shares with Greg some of her tricks that she has figured out for growing herbs in her garden in Phoenix. She explains how she learned about new herbs by asking her farmers market customers about their heritage, and how she experimented to expand her knowledge and skills. She talks about some of her favorites including nasturtium, stevia and Syrian oregano. She teaches Greg how to pick herbs for the best enjoyment and how to make a personal blend.

Main Link at Urban Farm



. . .

My 2017 Calendar and More

You can find my 2017 Wall Calendar at Amazon.  This is a "book" form, stapled down the center so you can use it at your desk or punched and hung on the wall.  Click on my author name to find Amazon's listings of my other books.

You can also find all my publications at my publishers page.  The 2017 Calendar is available in 3 forms.  The stapled form as at Amazon, a PDF which can be read on any device you have which has Adobe Reader on it and the standard spiral bound and punched wall calendar.

I hope you have a truly enjoyable time in the fall garden.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Friday, September 16, 2016

October Planting Tips

Dear Folks:

Planting at the optimal or best time for each variety increases your success rate and bounty.  My Roselle  (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also known as Flor de Jamaica is sown in the spring (mid-April when the soil has warmed) to give the plants the benefit of all of the warm weather to grow.  Pictured are the beginning flower buds and the plants are about 4.5 feet tall now.  I should have a great harvest of the gorgeous cranberry colored and flavored calyx in late October/November. By the way, while waiting for the flowers, the delicious leaves can be used in salads or pickled.

I know the seasons are starting to change now - it was a low of 65 yesterday morning and right now I am drinking my first hot cup of morning coffee in 3 months (I switch to iced coffee when the weather heats up).

So, thyme for my monthly planting tips.

Remember you can have all my tips in one location with my 2017 Month-By-Month planting calendar.  Now in 3 versions to suit your needs.


Spring!!! in the Desert - Heavy planting/sowing 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
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 November 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.

FREE Seed Share - September 30th

FREE Lecture - October 1st

Have a great time in the fall garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts!

Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Podcast Interview and Video on Wicking Bottles

Dear Folks,

I was recently interviewed by Greg Peterson of Urban Farm on the subject of herbs - of course :-) and specifically about growing them in the desert garden (and USDA Zone 9B and above) plus more.

I hope you enjoy this podcast and check out Greg's other informative podcasts and more ways to get your growing on!

I mentioned Suzanne Vilardi in the interview.  Suzanne's is one of the premier growers of edible seedlings in the valley.  Check out her website and find her wonderful transplants here.

I am pleased to share a podcast interview. Greg Peterson of Urban Farm


Yesterday I finally posted a short youtube video on using a poor man's version of the wicking bottle to stabilize a new transplant.  Wicking bottles can also be used while vacationing to ensure your beloved house plant does well while you are gone. [Pictured first is right after I transplanted, watered and then inserted the filled water bottle in the ground.]

The IMPORTANT component of a wicking bottle success is that you MUST water the area or pot well before inserting the wicking bottle. [Pictured is the plant and bottle now empty 24 hours later.]

The bottle watered slowly over 24 hours.  This bed will be watered on Thursday on its normal 7 day cycle.  I may give the plant another interim watering around Sunday or Monday before next Thursday's watering if needed (if we do not get rain).  I will monitor the plant to make sure it is stabilizing properly, and then allow it to go with only the 7 day watering cycle to ensure deep roots.  The cage is to keep the critters off until the plant grows bigger.

Here is the link to the video.

In the podcast my 2017 Wall Calendar is mentioned.  Here is the link to the 3 versions available now.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, subscribe in the upper side bar link, to get all my posts! Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.