Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

More Herbs, Less Salt Day! August 29th, Thyme to Get your Growing On & Food Security!

Basil & I'itoi Onions - Flavor Champions!
Dear Folks,

Tomorrow, Monday, August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day! [Pictured are Sweet Italian Basil and I'itoi Onions - flavor champions in food - who needs salt!!]

FYI the leaves peeking out of the picture are my Roselle bushes.  In about 2 weeks I should start seeing the flower buds forming, yay!!

My favorite less-salt illustration is a baked potato.  The salt and butter are the things that makes it taste great, right?  How about this option.  Split the hot potato open, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and top with a bit of chopped fresh or dried rosemary.  I will bet you may not miss the salt and butter at all.  Why?  Rosemary, like many herbs, "pops" the real flavor of the food, particularly with starchy foods like potato, it just "lifts" the real flavor of what many think of as bland food.  Give it a try.

Today's post is more far reaching than the title.  I am hoping you take away not only the idea of using herbs to flavor your food first, before adding salt, but to also seriously understand why it is import you grow those herbs yourself along with vegetables and fruits.

Food insecurity is a basic challenge not just those who are "poor" or under-educated.  If you loose your job, or are unable to work, you are now confronted with the same challenge.

If you missed my September planting tips post here is the link.

Beet seedlings - 1 week from sowing.
We are right at the perfect time to start or add to your garden.  Sow (wait to transplant until late September and then remember to harden off before transplanting) seeds for all the wonderful cool-weather lovers.  My first sowing of sugar peas, beets, carrots and radishes are already sprouting (sown August 21st). I will sow the next batch in about 2 weeks (I'm sowing about 3 weeks apart this year). [Pictured beet seedlings Sunday morning 1 week after sowing.]

Thyme - we gardeners and writers always love to use the herb name for 'time' because it is funny and a point.  In cooking, blends of herbs and spices frequently use thyme as an anchor flavor.

I have several varieties of thyme growing in my gardens: Lemon thyme - a wonderful fragrant and edible ground cover (pictured), Conehead thyme a gorgeous relative of Syrian Oregano, which does not look at all like the Oregano but has an amazing flavor combo of oregano, savory and thyme, and Spanish Thyme a thick-leaved relative of the house plant "creeping charlie".  The first two are hardy perennials and should be transplanted in fall or winter into full sun locations.  The Spanish Thyme is a tender perennial which needs frost protection in the winter and will do well in a dappled shade spot in the garden

To inspire you, here is a picture of a sample harvest I brought along to a lecture at Boyce Thompson Arboretum in March 2015.  Everything you see in the picture is edible and from my gardens.  Herbs to edible flowers, and even the banana leaf -- great for wrapping fish and meats on the grill - imparts a fruity flavor to the food along with whatever herbs you added to the wrap.

Unsure?  Ask me questions!  I am always happy to help you on your journey to growing some or more of your own food.

Keep A Garden Growing.

Economic jitters, crazy political decisions (crazier politicians) and corporate decisions about jobs can mean many things to many people, but mostly it can frequently mean food insecurity.  Where is the next shoe dropping?  Growing your own food is a win/win for you and your family.

AND here in the Valley we have 365 days of food options from the garden.

"Grow Food Not Lawns" has become a rallying call to ditch the ornamental plants in favor of edibles.

My new meme addition to my writings is:

Mono-Skill-Mentality.  Definition:  The belief and practice of learning only ONE skill/job to get your through life. -- Catherine, The Herb Lady.

I'm sure you know of someone, or have experienced yourself, the heart-breaking realization that your job just disappeared, the one you so thoughtfully went to college or training for, the one (and sometimes second) job that was going to fulfill all the needs of money, security and maybe status.

Along with the idea that you only need one skill set to get you through life, goes the concept that you can always hire/buy the other product or service from someone else.  That falls apart quickly if you have no job and consequently no money.

While you are secure in your current job, seriously, seriously consider a 2nd or 3rd skill set!  Mechanic? Take some business courses on management AND look to expand your vehicle specialties.  Lawyer?  Learn the basics of journeyman electricity.  Carpenter?  Take some cooking/chef courses.  The same precision of cutting wood can be translated to cutting vegetables and meats.  Nurse/Doctor?  Take ups sewing, knitting or crocheting to make things for sale or trade.

AND always, always tend a garden.

My all time favorite quote (with my addition) on why we all need to have more than one skill set.

Unemployment [economy or inflation] is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden. ~Orson Scott Card

From my blog post on the subject of being not only capable but prepared if the bottom falls out of your world.  "While Dealing With Life - Keep On Tending Your Garden."

If you are a doctor, lawyer or chief of some-company it would still behoove you to learn or re-learn a necessary skill or trade (and yes doctors you have a skill, but it would not hurt to learn how to raise chickens so you have eggs to trade).
Carpentry or wood-working
Simple electrical work
Tending livestock

Skills or trade can certainly be high-tech, but consider what else besides high-tech would be tradeable in a difficult situation.  If the power is out knowing how to hook up a computer is useless, but knowing how to provide a sewn or knitted blanket is not.  Knowing how to cook over an open fire or any kind of a grill - and cook anything you need is useful when you do not have electricity.

. . .

NEW!!  A PDF of my 2017 wall calendar with a bonus!

Just released is a PDF of the calendar with all the month-by-month planting times, tips and maintenance AND I added tips on pairing herbs and spices with different foods to maximize the taste and benefits.  More Herbs, Less Salt!

Both the PDF and wall version have early bird pricing, good through Midnight September 14th.  20% discount off of the SRP.

The spiral bound 2017 wall calendar early bird pricing is $15.96 (SRP $19.95)  NOTE:  the Spiral bound calendar does not have the herb/spice pairing tips.  The format, unfortunately does not provide for the 'extras' I would love to include like recipes!

PDF files (Adobe's Portable Document Format) can be read on any device (computer, tablet, smartphone) which has the software - free - on it.  Many of my readers use their smartphones for everything, so why not have the calendar available too!

The PDF 2017 calendar early bird pricing is $7.98 (SRP $9.98).

The next free seed share at the Mesa Farmers Market is September 30th, Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More details to be announced.


My next FREE seasonal lecture at Mesa Urban Garden is October 1st.  Details to be announced.

Watch for more information on these two events when the details are finalized.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Starting Fall Sowing, and Around the Garden! August 2016

Dear Folks,

Yesterday I sowed some sugar peas, carrots, beets and radishes to kick off fall sowing in the garden.  I am using my cardboard tube and chicken wire hats to keep the critters off the seeded areas.

First up, though is a bee visiting my "Lemon Queen" Sunflower.  Every single critter loves the sunflower and so do I!  A light, but bright yellow color, with a head about 5 inches across, this is just a wonderful sunflower.  I got the seeds from Baker Creek.  If the birds leave me any I will try to harvest some. Although these 'domestic' sunflowers don't always breed out true it will be worth it to try.  Sow sunflower seeds February through July for a bloom most of the year.

I am keeping my fingers crossed on the heirloom "Bradford Watermelon" growing and getting bigger by the day.  This "newly found" southern beauty is reported to have the sweetest taste and a very, very tender rind which made shipping it impossible.  Wish me luck folks.  If I get to harvest ripe and ready I will harvest the seeds, and add to my seed bank.

Using my chicken wire hats and paper towel tubes I planted 3 sugar peas around a pole for later climbing.  You can find my two short videos on using the "hats" on my youtube channel.  Once the peas getting going well I will ease the "hat" off.

Next I used a chicken wire hat as a row cover to shield my carrots, beets, and radishes.  I planted just under a foot of each seed.

I will do successive sowing of all of these seeds every 2-3 weeks through about December for a continuous crop.

My 2017 Month-By-Month Wall Calendar is out, with an early bird pricing AND the publisher just put out a discount of 25% that is good through August 24th (11:59 p.m.)

Edible Landscaping 2017 Calendar Desert Southwest & Deep South

The DISCOUNT code is case sensitive -- AUG2016

Do you have family who want to garden more successfully in the desert southwest or USDA Zone 9b and above?  This calendar makes a great gift.  AND you and they can start using right away, the monthly gardening information can be used going into our fall and winter.

We are nearing the end of our Monsoon  (shifting in winds) which means cooler morning and overnight temperatures.  It also means your tomatoes will start to set fruit again as soon as the nights stay below 80 degrees.  Early September you can start pruning, over the coarse of several day, the sun burn from plants like tomatoes.

Cooler nights also means the aphids will begin (if they have not already) showing up and you need to be very, very diligent in watching for them.  Hard hose off and then use the safe soap spray (1 teaspoon each dawn and vegetable oil to 1 quart of water) or Neem spray to control them.   Repeat the spraying every 5 days for a total of 3 times, then monitor regularly.  Live and egg bearing aphids are both possible.

Flea Beetles also may show up and they are harder to keep under control.  Dust plants with DE and repeat if the plants get wet from rain or irrigation.  You can see flea beetle damage because the leaves look like they were shotgunned.  They can kill a young plant.  Mature plants can weather damage better.

Have a great week in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2017 Gardening Calendar - Publisher Discount - Hurray!

Dear Folks,

My publisher just released a DISCOUNT - good until AUGUST 24th 11:59 p.m.

25% off books and calendars

The code is case sensitive


This is a good deal if you are shopping for gifts - 25% on top of the Early Bird Pricing of 20% off.

Edible Landscaping 2017 Wall Calendar

Remember - you can use the information NOW for the coming fall months planting tips and help

Month-By-Month sowing/planting, garden maintenance and tips for USDA Zone 9b and above.

FYI - I never know in advance when my publisher will release a discount offer -- I try to let everyone know asap.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2017 Gardening Month-By-Month Wall Calendar Is Out! Early Bird Pricing!

Dear Folks,

My 2017 Month-By-Month Wall Calendar Is Finished!

All the timely/seasonal gardening info you need to be successful in the desert and USDA Zone 9b and above.  Get your herbs, fruits, vegetables and edible flower growing on!

Earl Bird Pricing is in effect Until Midnight September 14, 2016

SRP is $19.95 BUT the Early Bird Price is $15.96

Know any family in the desert southwest or deep south who needs a little help?

Whether here in our wonderful Valley of the Sun, or in the Gulf, interior or Coastal areas USDA Zone 9b or above, it is more than the air temperatures or heat, it is about daylight hours and soil temperatures.

Some of the beloved foods like peas and kale like their feet cool and are happy with short daylight hours, while tomatoes and basil love their feet warm with long daylight hours.

If you are just considering starting or extending your garden, the 2017 calendar can be used this September and forward for all the seasonal planting/sowing and maintenance information, and then all of 2017 too!

What are you waiting for?


Calendar Link

Have a best day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

September Planting Tips, And, Sowing with "Collars" and "Hats"

Dear Folks, 
September Planting Tips

September is a heavy sowing rather than transplanting time until near the end of the month, when you can do both. However, when transplanting be sure to harden off your seedlings before putting them in the ground. Our temps do not regularly fall below 90 until around September 29th.

Prepare soil for perennial planting -- edibles need superior draining soil, work in compost or well-rotted manure -- NEVER use fresh manure unless the garden will sit for 6-12 months before planting. If your soil is already healthy, you can ad a light dressing of compost or well-rotted manure.


First picture shows 2 collars made from paper towel or bathroom tissue tubes. These collars keep the soil pests like sowbugs, snails and slugs from your new seed/seedling.

Cut a 3 inch piece and bury half in the soil, nest the seed in and lightly cover with soil and water well.

ALL seeded areas need to be kept moist by sprinkling/watering every day until you see the seed break ground, then you can cut back on watering to encourage deep roots.


I've written about chicken wire hats before. These keep the birds and other critters off you seed areas and young seedlings.  Show in the 2nd picture is a "tube" hat.

They physically discourage them, while permitting all other necessary natural activity.

After a while you can remove the hat as the birds etc. have forgotten they are there. Why? The chicken wire physically stops them but they can still see through. Unlike bird netting which is both a physical and a visual barrier, so as soon as you remove the net they think dinner is served.

I have two short videos on my youtube channel showing how to use the chicken wire hats.

Make good use of your water meter during this temperature transitional month.

Labor day is when we usually fertilize our fruit trees (again on Valentine's day and then again on Memorial Day).

We can look forward to the fall temperatures and reduced moisture. Except for the storms we don't see day time temperatures below 90 from May 29th to September 29th. Getting seed in now sets the cool weather lovers up for germination at the right time.

Give your tomatoes that survived the summer a hair cut, working over several days, trimming off damaged stems. The fruit will start to set again once the night time temps stay below 80.

Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of November or December for a continuous crop through next spring.

Some of the longer maturity vegetables need to be sown EARLY. 90-120 day maturity foods like Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Celery, Leeks, and Parsnips all need to be in the ground for 3-4 months before you can harvest them.

Berry Vines/Canes - October 1st: cut all canes, old and new, to ground after fruiting - commercial growers use this method.

Beans (bush and pole beans in first week in September at latest)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)
Cornflower/bachelor Buttons (Centaurea Cyanus)
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Onions, Green
Kale, Ornamental Cabbage
Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.)
Marigold, Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Marigold, Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Peas, English and Sugar / Snap Peas
Scented Geranium
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum Majus)
Sweet Alyssum
Sweet William Aka Pinks (Dianthus Barbatus)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  I had the worst time with formatting this post for some reason so I apologize for any issues. I would be happy to answer questions.


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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pre-Pesto and Who Else Loves Sunflowers.

Dear Folks,

The basil is going gang-busters in the garden and I had some left over from cutting for the farmers market.  I kept meaning to make up a batch of pre-pesto and just got side-tracked until yesterday.

So, what is pre-pesto?

Basil (or other herb) blended with oil of choice and frozen for later use.

Many, many years ago I read of a restaurant which had their own gardens and always wound up with herbs left over at the end of the day.  They started making 'pre-pesto's with either single herbs or combinations and stored them in the refrigerator for later use.  They hit on a wonderful always ready condiment which could be finished as traditional pesto -- add garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan Cheese -- OR used as an addition to any dish they were preparing.  They went further an came up with non-traditional combinations such as rosemary and walnut oil.

In the collage, I show a large batch of fresh leaves and tender stems*.  I ground them down in my small food processor with avocado oil and the result was an 8 ounce jar, topped with a thin layer of more oil to keep oxygen out.  I freeze this and because of the oil in the paste I can scoop out what I need, tamp back down in the jar and put back in the freezer.

* The tender stems and flowers can all be used.  To find the tender point, use the asparagus break method.  Bend the stem and the round point is the where you cut, keeping the tender parts and either storing the more woody stems for stock and soup making or compost.

I hope you find some fun combinations of herbs and oils for use from your garden bounty.

I LOVE SUNFLOWER!  And so do some our garden "neighbors."

Over the years we have seen the Lesser Goldfinches perform their acrobatics, the Goldfinches and sparrows, and now the Peach Faced Lovebirds!

We have seen them occasionally in the gardens, but they never stay long, until this variety of sunflower attracted them.  Probably what helped in their loving it is that it is more sturdy (except we had to prop up with boards from the rains loosening the soil around their natural shallow roots) and with larger seeds.  The variety is "Lemon Queen" and I love it.  Obviously so do this attractive visitor whom we call the "Cheepy Guy" for their parakeet type call.

Peach Faced are a non-native escapee from 30-40 years ago.  The Arizona Fish and Game studied their impact on native species and determined they pose no threat and so they have continued to live and reproduce valley wide.

Their colors, including their blue back, which you can't see in this picture, remind me of the dwarf Bird of Paradise which blooms in my front yard.  So pretty!

They often nest in palm trees.

Wikipedia on the Peach Faced Love Birds.

 In The Garden:

This week I will start putting in the first successive planting of sugar peas, carrots, beets and radishes, to get a jump start on the fall crops.  I will seed in every 2-3 weeks in 1-2 foot sections at a time, to keep the goodies coming.

I hope you have a wonderful week in your garden and kitchen,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Baby Watermelon Fell Off Plant - What To Do? & Sun Drying Garlic

Dear Folks,

I'm back from vacation and cruising through the garden to see what happened while I was gone. While nudging the huge watermelon vine of an heirloom variety I'm trying I seed tiny baby watermelon.  Nudge the vine a little more (it is trying to get on to the lawn) and off drops a baby melon that was going good.  DARN!

Initially I was just going to compost it and dropped it temporarily back onto the ground.  Then I thought, it looks like a zucchini - should I try and cook it up?

I did some research on the internet and found references to cooking it, many with notes that the immature fruit can be bitter. Well, okay, taste it.  It tasted like zucchini.  Bingo!

Granted it is kind of small, but Deane loves all squash sauteed so, I added a bit of red bell pepper for color and volume and it turned out great.

Moral - any member of the cucumber, melon, or squash family baby (immature) fruit can be eaten. :-)

I decided it was time to dry some of my garlic (harvested a month or so ago).

When I have sun dried my garlic before I used the garlic press to squeeze the small bits out.  That worked 'okay' and it is great to use but the bits kind of clumped together so it is hard to measure for use.

This time I decided to peel, trim and slice the cloves.  What you see is 3 heads, drying.  Now when they are completely dried I can use slices in cooking or grind a couple in my spice grinder for powder or granules, giving me options on how to use this wonderful herb.


I am working with the Mesa Urban Garden to set up my next lecture there on Fall Planting.  Watch for the time and date.

On my website you can find links (Amazon etc.) to purchase my books etc.  If you enjoy my recipes you may like my cookbooks.  If you choose my publisher's source they frequently have discounts, so check for them.  The codes are case sensitive.

Farmers Market -- I will be back at the Mesa Farmers Market this Friday.  I plan on bringing Limequats, Purslane (verdolagas) and I will see what amount of sweet potato leaves I can bring also, along with fresh cut Basil.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


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