Garden, Plant, Cook!

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

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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.

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.