Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lemon Verbena - August Herb of the Month / Ready Set Sow!

Dear Folks,

Although the month is almost over, I thought I would focus on this outstanding herb.  Lemon Verbena is the Herb Society of America's herb of the month and it is justly deserving of attention.

Aloysia citrodora (aka Lippia citrodora ) is a fabulous lemon-flavored and scented herb sometimes called the "lemon drop" plant.  Once you smell the bruised leaf you will understand why, the fragrance is amazing.

This member of the verbena family is closely related to Mexican Oregano another great herb for your garden.

Both are sub-tropical and will withstand some freezing, but not hard (killer) freezes without proper protect.  Both can grow to be very tall hedge/shrubs - which is a very good thing for all the opportunity to use them in cooking.

Like many of the other lemon-flavored herbs, Lemon Verbena gets its taste and scent from one or more of the essential oils found in the skin of lemons.  Except without the acid, so you can use these herbs as you would lemon in cooking, and it stands up to heating very well, unlike some more delicate flavored herbs.

In the desert garden the plant will go somewhat dormant in the winter.  Prune dead branches in late winter/early spring when you start to see new growth at the base.

Plant in early fall or early spring (February/March) for best success, in full sun and well draining soil.

Check out my prior blog post where I discuss lemon verbena along with other gardening and cooking aspects.

. . .

September Gardening -- Ready Set Sow!

First off, if you are planning on planting garlic (October 1-31) or potatoes (November 30-January 1st) you may wish to start looking for sources for the starter 'seed' cloves or potatoes.  I like Potato Garden, but local nurseries like Harpers may soon have either of them for sale.

Next, if you have not done so or need to 'fluff' the garden, begin preparing the soil.

Fall is THE spring in the desert garden for heavy planting of not only cool weather annuals but also THE best time to transplant fruit trees (October-November).

Before you start looking for seeds to sow, think about how much of what, particularly root crops, you want to be harvesting.  Successive sowing means planting seeds every 2-4 weeks, generally through mid to late winter for continuing harvesting.

Successive sowing means, instead of planting 15 foot rows of carrots or beets or radishes, but 2-4 feet each and another 2-4 feet in 2-4 weeks. 

Choose short maturity varieties of roots and greens (lettuces, kale, arugula, spinach, chard, etc.) to have faster harvests.

Head variety vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts take not only a long time to get to harvest stage (90-120 days), but also each take up a lot of room, so consider size of mature plant when laying out your sowing/transplanting plan.

If you do decide to go with head varieties - when you harvest use the greens!  The leaves are edible like the 'flower bud' you are picking.

One of my all-time favorite vegetables to grow during the cool time of the year are sugar peas.  These prolific producers of sweet edible pods will produce for months if you keep the pods picked regularly.  (Sample the tasty growing tips from time to time in your salads, stir frys or omelettes -- just not too often you want all those healthy vines to keep growing and producing the pods :-)

Beans (bush and pole beans in first two weeks in September at latest)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cornflower/bachelor Buttons (Centaurea Cyanus)
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Onions, Green
Kale, Ornamental Cabbage
Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.)
Scented Geranium
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum Majus)
Sweet Alyssum
Sweet William Aka Pinks (Dianthus Barbatus)

Get out and get growing - what else is more of everything in life than growing some or much of your own food!

. . .

By the way - I finally got my website up and running again.  Check it out when you have a chance

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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