Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, July 14, 2017

August Planting Tips, Summer Greens and Around the Garden.

Dear Folks,

I'm sure that the idea of planting in August -- actually sowing seeds -- seems counter intuitive given the heat and humidity, but if you want fall foods like winter squash you need to understand the way the desert areas grow.

Seeds like either warm feet or cool feet and they germinate based on this concept.  Basil will not, for instance, germinate in cool or cooling soil.  We take control of production by starting seeds off in flats in the house or greenhouses where we control the environment.  But given natural preferences by the various edible plants, they germinate when the conditions are right for them, meaning soil temperature and moisture content of the soil.

Pictured are greens for the salads I made, fresh from the garden the other day:  Starting at the top clock wise is sorrell, roselle, Egyptian spinach, celery, two types of sweet potato leaves and some sweet basil in the center.  These greens are great and healthy substitutes for lettuce as they all love the heat, except celery.  In the case of the celery I have a pot in an afternoon shaded area in which I sowed a bunch of lettuces and celery seeds this base winter and I treat them as a kind of Micro-Green bed, cutting as needed and the celery has hung in there.  Sweet potato leaves, on the other hand, LOVE the heat and will provide you with a lot of greens during the summer, then give you the tubers in October/November.

Sow seeds in August in beds where you can keep them slightly moist.  Some will germinate mid-August, some may take a month, but they will give you a jump start on fall gardening.  Cover seeded areas with a fine mulch (crushed leaves) about 1 inch should be good, then sprinkle every evening.  When they start showing leaves, water deeper and then begin backing off the watering frequency to encourage deep roots.

AUGUST PLANTING:
Large selection of seed-only plantings. -- Anise; Beans, Snap (bush and pole); Bok Choy; Broccoli; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage; Caraway; Carrots; Cauliflower; Chervil; Cilantro; Corn; Cucumbers; Dill; Fennel; Greens, all; Kale; Kohlrabi; Lettuce; Luffa Gourds; Mustard; Onions, Green; Parsley; Pumpkin; Purslane; Squash, Winter

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:  Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii); Nasturtium; Portulaca (Moss Rose); Stock; Sweet Alyssum

PLANTING CORN: One variety per season, plant in blocks (not rows) 6 inches apart. Can be planted with beans and squash (Three Sisters).

SUNBURN damage:  Like frost damage - do not prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.


I used the greens to make salad, one to enjoy right away and the other to save for later, using the mason jar method.  (The usual way to do this jar salad it so put the dressing in the bottom with chunky ingredients in the bottom, then layering the lighter stuff on top, so it does not get soggy.) 

We have been enjoying our bananas!  Everyone we have shared this wonderful variety with (Blue Java aka Ice Cream Banana) has declared them the best.  They have a creamy some say vanilla flavor which is just amazing.  Don't be put off by the color of the skin, they have a different color hue than the store bought cavendish, and the birds sometimes get to them a bit before we harvest the bunch. 
This last bunch (thankful we have one more to harvest) had several "doubles".   We ate or shared more than half of the bunch shown here before I remembered to take a picture!

We have been delighted that a covy of quail has been showing up.  A lot of "teenagers" in this group. Normally we only see a pair with babies.  This has been a real treat to see them frequenting the yard.  In the picture are a pair and their 2 babies.  I have to take the pictures through the window to keep from spooking them.  They are getting a bit more used to the idea that we put out seed regularly.

A NOTE:  I will be traveling quite a bit in August, so I won't be posting as frequently but will get the September planing tips posted mid-month.

One last neat cooking idea.  I am waiting to have more squash blossoms to make something like this, either pancake or I may try my hand at rustic tortillas.

I purchased these squash blossom tortillas at the farmers market a couple of years ago, put them in the freezer and forgot about them!!! (That's me!)  So when I found them I decided to do our Sunday eggs on top of them with a slice of cheese between the egg and tortilla.  Yummy!  Squash blossoms are a nice treat, crispy and refreshing eaten raw, or filled with something and cooked.  Many plants put out an abundance of male blossoms initially to attract the pollinators, so you should have spare ones to try using them like this.  Remove the stamen before using. 

You can purchase my gardening calendars and books on the sidebar here on the blog. 

Enjoy your garden and its rewards.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Where Do You Store Your Root Vegetables in the Desert Garden?

Dear Folks,

Where "Do You"  store root vegetables in the desert garden, when conventional spring houses and root cellars are not as easily doable?

Answer:  In The Ground!

I partially dug up one of my sweet potato beds I did not harvest from last fall.  Pictured are some of my eggplants too.

So what is the deal with leaving root vegetables in the ground until you need them?  They stay fresh, may get bigger, store better than in your crisper, and you don't have to figure out what to do with pounds and pounds of something all at once.  If you are wondering about taste -- overall if you choose heirloom quality root vegetables to grow, they maintain their flavor over a long in-ground season.

Sunday I decided on using some of the sweet potato for breakfast and the combination of the sweet potato and eggplant with dinner.

Sunday is the day we have eggs and bacon as our special treat.  While we enjoy soft fried egg on toast I frequently come up with something special to put the egg on. Sometimes it is oatmeal with herbs and cheese in it.  Last month I cooked up diced potatoes, topped with cheese and place the egg over it.

I diced up the sweet potato, added some of my sun-dried onion to soften and cook with it, topped it with Parmesan Cheese, and the egg.

One with egg, other waiting for egg
I cooked up 4 strips of bacon - reserving two for dinner and we enjoyed a filling and tasty breakfast.  I buy no-nitrate added bacon and usually microwave it if I don't want some bacon fat, to remove the extra fat.

For Dinner, I sauteed the diced eggplant and sweet potato along with more of my dried onion, a half a teaspoon on turmeric  I'm trying to add more turmeric to our meals for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant helpers (plus great taste)

I topped the veggies with the reserved crumbled bacon and served with chicken.

While conventional spring houses and root cellars are difficult in the desert garden, have you tried one of the alternative methods like digging deep holes with containers for storage?

Pioneer History Museum has a reconstruction of a root cellar and spring house.  Pretty cool the way they demonstrate how they were made/used back in the 1800s.  Pioneer is a great historic recreation museum.  If you have never been, check it out.

. . .

A Note Folks:  I will be traveling quite a bit in August, so I will only have a couple of posts to share (including monthly planting guide), but will be back to posting at least weekly in September.

NOW through August 1st is the time to plant your Three Sisters seeds and plants like pumpkins.

Have a wonderful week!

You can purchase my planting calendars and books through links on the side bar here on the blog.

Please share this post with friends and family.  Thank you!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why small pots/containers kill in the desert summer heat.

Dear Folks,

Why am I posting a video of an annual valley tradition of frying an egg on the road?  Because the thermometer shows the temperature of 162.5. [Picture is a still from the video.]

Regularly and constantly I try to help folks understand just how HOT pots and containers can get in our summer afternoon heat.  This applies to the top 3 inches of exposed soil.

I was wondering when the annual fried egg picture / video would show up this year and went searching and found one from last year and "Bingo" I thought - this is perfect for showing just how REALLY HOT surfaces are in our summer afternoons.

WHY Small pots kill plants.

This is THE TEMPERATURE range (actually up to 180) for any exposed surface in the summer afternoon here.  Sidewalks, asphalt, sides of containers, block walls etc.

https://youtu.be/0MPNgCo9auk
 


I hope this helps you understand why your cute pot or very small and shallow container garden is going to cook your food plants before you get them harvested. 

You put a plant in a 1 gallon black pot in the middle of your garden, and you quickly learn just how making adobe bricks works.

When choosing a pot make sure it is at least 20" across.  When building raised beds, make sure the depth is at least 18 inches and a minimum of 2 feet wide x 2 feet across.

And ALWAYS plant at least 6 inches in from the sides to allow the soil to insulate the roots.

Use mulch even in containers, but keep 2 inches away from the base of the plants to keep snails, slugs and sow bugs from the tender plants.

You can purchase my books and planting calendars through the sidebar here on the blog.

Like my facebook page.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

If You MUST Transplant in Hot Temperatures, Use a Wicking Bottle!!!

Dear Folks,

Just a short post here to illustrate using a wicking bottle (poor man's version of those pretty but useless glass blue bulbs) to stabilize and get good growth on a transplant.

The point is to water the gardens regularly BUT to also add several of these bottles of water for the first couple of weeks to ensure the plant's roots start to settle in.  Then gradually expand out the days between adding a bottle.  Choose a day when the garden is watered to add the next bottle as you increase the number of days between adding the next bottle.

What I did not show in the video is I added more mulch around the plant and placed the "chicken wire hat" (see other videos on my channel on using chicken wire hats) around the plant to protect.

If you are wondering how the papaya did, unfortunately I took the "hat" off to soon and later on a critter broke the main trunk and the plant never recovered.

My Youtube Wicking Bottle Video

If you are not familiar with how this works, the wet soil and full bottle of water creates a vacuum.  When the soil begins to dry it "wicks" the moisture out of the bottle to re-wet the soil.

The plastic bottle may actually collapse if the vacuum is really strong.

You can use any bottle, wine bottles make good options and can be re-used.  The plastic bottles can also be re-used if the vacuum does not crack the plastic.

Sometimes you can always plan ahead for when you get a much coveted plant, so give the wicking bottles a try to give your treasured plant a better opportunity for success.

My books and gardening calendars (48 herbs and also the month-by-month calendar) are available for purchase in the sidebar.

Have great day, keep cool and enjoy your garden bounty!

One more helpful tool for your bees and butterflies and other pollinators in this hot weather.  A dish filled with beads or pebbles to let them get a drink without drowning.  They may leave your pool alone.

Place the dish in the shade to keep from heating or evaporating too fast.  There even some better ideas pictured on the internet.  Pet watering dishes with bottles to auto-refill (like the wicking bottle principle) with the base filled with pebbles. Cool creativity to help our pollinators!



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, June 16, 2017

July Planting Tips and Looking towards Fall. Fun Roots to Grow!

Dear Folks, 

The Pre-Monsoonal Heat Blast is here and I'm talking planting, actually sowing seeds in July!

MOST of the planting in July and August is by seed for fall production/harvest. Consider this: If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in. If you do not have a bed prepared or in mind for planting now, start preparing the soil ASAP if you want an early fall growing start. 

JULY PLANTING:

Sunflower,  Roselle/Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), and amaranth seeds anytime in July.

If you have not planted your sweet potato slips yet get them in the ground no later than first week in July for best harvest potential in the fall.  Remember you can eat the leaves during the summer for a lettuce substitute in salads, sandwiches etc.  (A recent study reported the leaves may have even more good things for you than the tubers!)

WEEK OF JULY 16TH Seeds Only Planting: Anise; Cantaloupe; Caraway; Chervil; Cilantro; Corn; Dill; Fennel; Luffa Gourds; Musk Melons; Parsley; Peppers; Pumpkins; Squash, Winter. See My June Planting Tips for June Sowing and about gardening density.

Sow seeds under existing plants where possible to help keep the seeded area cooler, moister and out of site of the birds.

These cool soil loving plants will germinate as the soil begins to cool later on.  Sowing now, in the ground, gives them a jump start and by-passes transplant issues later on.

[Pictured is my chervil seedlings, seed was sown August 1st and I spotted these Sept 25th.  I planted inside a cardboard tube collar with mulch around the outside.  This was two years ago.  Last year the plants re-seeded and the seedlings were up by the end of September, again reacting to the cooling soil.]

IF YOU are transplanting this time of year use leaf-type mulch to keep the soil surface cool around "but not touching" the transplant  -- keep about 2 inches away from base of plants to keep the pest bugs away from the tender stems.  The mulch should be at least 2 inches deep.

You should harden off the plant(s) by exposing to direct sun for an hour the first day (then back into shade, but NOT inside) and increase by an hour each day until it is in the sun for about 4 hours, then transplant.   
Ginger, Turmeric and Horseradish - if you want to try growing these, get some nice healthy roots, even better if they have some buds on them.   Find a mostly shady, healthy, well drarining spot in your garden and plant the ginger or turmeric about 2 inches down, the horseradish as deep as the root covered by 1-2 inches of soil.  My patch pictured is in the shade of a large citrus tree (north side) and gets a bit of sun first and last thing of the day. These have re-sprouted from last year's planting.

WATERING: Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.   You can actually over-water in the height of our Monsoon season, so make sure you use the water meter.

Ginger Re-Sprouting - June 15th
Chlororsis can occur (yellowing of leaves leaving the veins bright green) caused by too much water causing the soil iron to bind with other minerals making it unavailable to the plants.  Add ironite or green sand and the leaves will return to normal in about 2 weeks.

SUNBURN damage:  Like frost damage - DO NOT prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.


July is a good time to think about the Three Sisters (Monsoon) gardening concept.  Corn, beans and squash.  The beans can be Tepary (bush) although traditionally the Native People planted vine beans which grew up the corn stalk, while the squash covered the ground, keeping it more weed free, minimizing water needed and providing an all but complete diet.    They also planted sunflowers on the outside to draw away pest bugs.

Start Planning For August Sowing!  What do you want growing in your fall/winter garden.   Many root vegetables should be planted successively (do you really want 10 feet of carrots maturing all at once?).  Some roots vegetables can take 100+ days (Parsnips) but you have shorter maturity types of carrots and beets.  Head plants like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can also take 100+ days.  So Plan And Plant (sow) accordingly.   Consider sowing every 2-4 weeks through February for most of the non-head varieties.  Get your seeds for head varieties in by late September to ensure all that cool weather for growing healthy plants.

Stay cool, drink water and enjoy your garden.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can purchase my planting/sowing calendars and books through the sidebar links.  These calendars are for the desert southwest, deep south and all areas USDA Zone 9b and above.  Planting times are as much about day light hours and soil temperature as air temperatures.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

National Herbs And Spices Day - June 10th

Dear Folks,

Today is National Herbs and Spices Day!

I'm re-sharing my post from April on how I dry my herbs from my garden.  Two ways:  In the Sun and In The Refrigerator.

[Pictured in jars are dill and cilantro and drying are Chervil and Parsley.]

I have jars and jars of my own dried herbs to use individually or together in our meals.

Click on this link to read the entire column on drying.  Drying herbs and more.

Besides just simply using basil or oregano in your meals, think about making your own signature blend(s).

Then take the creativity to the next level and make your own dried bouillon - incredible taste and NO SALT.

I discuss the bouillon in the drying herbs post but the above link takes you through the whole process from drying to grinding.

There is an easy way to make your own blend.  Your own blend will be uniquely you if you follow this simple method because it is all about your sense of smell.

Put a dried or fresh bit of herb in the palm of your hand, rub to release the oils in your hand.  Smell it, if it smells good to YOU, it will taste good to you.

Next add another herb to the first, rub together and then give a sniff.  If it still smells great, add another one, and another.  Putting 4 or 5 herbs and spices together will give you a blend uniquely yours.

Not sure where to start?  Start with Thyme.  If you look at packages of blends on the grocery shelf, you will find thyme is almost always included because it is considered an "anchor herb" in blends, around which everything rotates.

I created my own proprietary blends some years ago and the ingredients ranged from just 3 up to 17!  So the options for you are limited only to your sense of smell and taste.

In honor of National Herbs & Spices Day, be creative and make your own great aromatherapy in the kitchen!


Not growing enough herbs in your garden?  Purchase my PDF Herb Planting Chart for the Desert Southwest and USDA Zone 9B and above. It covers 48 culinary herbs you can grow and use yourself.  The link is in the upper sidebar here.  There is a preview available see "preview" under the picture when you click on the link.

. . .

There are still 2 more days to purchase the new PDF e-bundle on handling everything from emergencies to homesteading and sustainable practices.  Click here.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

New e-Bundle PDF offer - Sale open through June 12th

Dear Folks,

The Self-Reliant School folks have a new e-bundle you may find very helpful.  $29.97 which is 90% off the total value of $309.67 for 30 e-books and additional bonus offers.

If you are trying, or interested in trying, more Do It Yourself projects around your home, this prepper e-bundle is for you.  It is not just for emergencies, but more self-reliance with some real money saving concepts.

This $309.67 value of 30 e-books, plus bonus offers, is just $29.97 for the PDF downloadable files.  You have the option to purchase on a flash drive or you can purchase both the downloads and the flash drive.

This e-bundle sale is available through June 12th

Alternative cooking techniques and recipes
Seed saving and gardening
Edible and medicinal wild plants
Creating a wholesome, healthy food storage
Learn about bushcraft and primitive survival
How to build the ultimate bug out bag
The blueprint to a first class first aid kit
Preparing for extreme weather
Plus learn how to do more things yourself, manage a small homestead, and much much more!



The list of e-books is on this link with titles, authors and descriptions.


SRS is donating $1.00 from each sale to a Veteran's support charity.  Gary Sinise Foundation.

Some of the bonus offers are (books listed first then bonus offers and purchase options):

Sun Oven - $164 off a Sun Oven package
Trayer Wilderness Academy - 1 month membership free
MadeOn Skin Care - Free bug block (just pay shipping)
Seeds For Generations - 25% off seed purchase - Beyond Off Grid - 50% off Beyond Off Grid course & 25% off DVD + online access pass
Pioneering Today Academy - 1 month membership free


FYI - I do not have a book in this bundle, however, I thought it worthwhile enough to share with you..

 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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