Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Gardeners With Patience Are Rewarded!

Dear Folks,

Many, many times I have cautioned about maintaining patience in the winter to spring garden.  This year was no exception and with the hard freezes we had got many of you jittery about when to prune off the damage.  Occasionally some jumped the gun because of what appeared to be utter 'green death'.

I want to share with you how my patience paid off.  I did believe I had lost my beloved Mexican Oregano plant - over 6 years old and about 7 - 8 feet tall which took the freezes none to well.  The first one in January brought dead wood down to 4 feet, then the multiple freezes in February took anything green out of visibility and the branches started shedding bark -- not a good sign.  About 2 and a half weeks ago (middle of March), I began just removing some of the overhead debris, taking off the brittle top 2-3 feet.  Nothing was visible of new growth.  I waited a week, and broke off more brittle top growth, and then I saw the bright green new growth at the bottom.  Yippee!  (I really did not want to start over with this wonderful plant.)

All the plant was cut down to where you see in the picture - there are actually two plants similar in appearance about 3 feet apart.  Both are regenerating anew.

French Tarragon is another favorite of mine and I know it will come back in the spring - the plant pictured plant was taken the same time as the Mexican Oregano above and has been in that spot for 3 years - The plant tag is a tad weathered and I keep it there to remind anyone else that it is not a weed!  Today (April 5), the plant is now about 5 times higher in growth.  I cleaned the bed out to make more room for this great herb.

Speaking of weeds, I'm trying to get rid of the chocolate mint in that bed I mistakenly planted 4 or 5 years ago.  A reminder to everyone that if you are successful with mint you need to keep it under control.

Back to French Tarragon and Mexican Oregano for a moment.  Both have incredible fragrance and flavor.  Their respective essential oils are some of the most robust in the herb kingdom. Both need to be used in moderation as the flavor can be overwhelming.

I was not a fan of Tarragon 2 decades ago, because I had an over-powering tarragon chicken served to me one time it was awful - the anise/licorice overpowered everything else.

So the garden lesson here, folks is to be patient.  If you want to garden with favorite perennial edibles you need to put up with winter 'bad - hair' times for your plants.  NEVER take the damage off until the danger is gone.  I know it looks bad but you risk losing the plant.

Since we are coming into spring then our hot summer it is important to remember that "sunburn" on plants is the same kind of damage as frost damage in the winter.  Do Not Touch the damage until the danger is gone.  By the beginning to middle of September you can start taking some of the sunburn off a little at time so allow the tender growth shielded by the damaged plant matter to 'harden off' to the sun.

We had more roller coastering of the weather and will have some more this and next week. Be cautious of planting seeds right before a rain - if the rain is heavy it can wash the seeds out.  On the other hand, right before a rain is a good time to transplant seedlings, shrubs and trees.  You will always water in right after you transplant, but the rain will ensure a good soil to root bond.

And, don't forget one of the keys to desert gardening success is to plant at the right time for the plant variety!

Happy Gardening!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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