Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

October Planting Tips and getting your growing on!

Dear Folks,

Here in the desert gardens, we think of October as SPRING!!  It is the month when we do a good portion of our planting.  Basil is still going strong and many of the herbs are in full flavor, so I'm drying several - see below after the planting tips.  Also, sharing some fun things in the kitchen, Pumpkin spice milk for latte anyone?

It is the perfect month for planting fruit trees to give them all of the cool months to set down really good roots before the heat of late spring.

It is the best time to get in your perennial herbs to also get them established before the heat sets in.

A fun bit of facts about our "Monsoon" season which officially ended September 15th.  Ed Phillips wrote a nice article on it some years ago.  Click here to read up on exactly what our Monsoon is.


Spring!!! in the Desert - Heavy planting possibilities:

Bay, Greek (Sweet)
Beans, Fava
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Chrysanthemum, Shungiku
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit Trees
Kale, Ornamental
Lemon Grass
Lemon Verbena
Lettuce (arugula, leaf lettuce etc.)
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Oregano, Mexican
Peas, English and Sugar/Snap
Potato seeds (not seed potatoes - use seeds) ("seed potatoes" or cut pieces of potato should be planted Nov 1-Jan 1)
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French


Carnation (Dianthus)
Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
English Daisy
Evening Primrose (Oenothera Berlandieri)
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Johnny-Jump Up
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Scented Geraniums
Shungiku Chrysanthemum
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for October
"Spring in the Desert" - we call fall our spring because this is when we do most of 'heavy' garden work, trees, shrubs and cool weather edibles all go in now.
    The beginning of primary perennial planting season is now through February.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of February for a continuous crop through next spring.
    Garlic: Plant garlic cloves no later than October 31st to ensure full maturity of garlic heads in the spring.  Plant extra if you want ‘green garlic’ (used like scallions) through the cool months. The ‘green garlic’ can be harvested when the clove below the soil swells slightly.
    This is the beginning of bare-root planting season. Asparagus, raspberry, blackberry, grape, and strawberries may start showing up in your favorite garden nursery.
    If you have ever-bearing berry vines, cut them down to the ground after the fruit is finished. (This is easier than trying to keep track of which are the oldest canes — commercial growers use this practice.)
Aphids are a major problem with cabbage family - forestall infestations. Add a fingertip of Dawn to 1 quart of water. Shake, pour 1/4 cup down center of each plant once a week

Make and use a safe soap spray on aphids on other plants (the aphids like our cool nights too!).  1 teaspoon each of dawn and vegetable oil to 1 quart of water.  Spray every 5 days for a minimum of 3 repeats to keep them under control.  Neem spray is a good alternative.

Jerusalem Artichoke (aka Sunchokes) plants are sprouting and I can be harvesting them later on this fall when the flowers and plants start to fade.  The plants you see around them are one of my Greek Oregano beds, there is a peach tree in this bed also.

My eggplants (there are two there along with a pepper plant) are still producing and staying nice and healthy.  They sometimes winter over.  We will see.

The Listarda variety is just plain pretty and like many of these heirlooms they are more tender, and do not usually need salting to remove bitterness.  I also leave the skin on these.

I've been sun drying my herbs in the sun, because I want more ready for the winter.  I can pick many of these to use fresh, but when I'm in the middle of cooking and the air and soil are cold, damp and with no sun (these conditions cause the essential oils to retreat leaving the herbs with less flavor and even unpleasant), I need to have my own dried herbs handy. 

This is Greek Oregano.  I just realized I do not have any dried!  The other day I dried Mexican Oregano and Conehead Thyme.  Today I just set out my White Flowering Rosemary to dry.

FYI while Greek and Mexican Oregano can be substituted in recipes, the Mexican has a slightly sweeter taste while the Greek has a robust flavor we associate with Italian.  By the way, herbs labeled "Italian Oregano" are an inferior taste to the Greek.  Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens) is from a different plant family, a cousin of Lemon Verbena

Once the herbs are dried I fold the parchment paper and gently crush the stems to release the leaves.  I often save the dried stems to make types of "bouquet garni" flavoring bundles for soups and stews.  These dried leaves are now ready to store.

I have also dried fruit and made my own homemade bouillon by combining onion, carrot, celery, a bit of sweet pepper and several herbs then grinding to a powder after they are all dried.  Fabulous!

This time of year I am still drinking iced coffee.  I start once the temperatures get into the 80s in the spring and continue until they drop back down below 80 in the fall.  I treat myself to one of my cups of coffee adding a "Chocolate Ice Cube"!

I found the original idea on a Vegan site and had to make a version of my own.  They used bar chocolate, but I found cocoa worked better.  FYI these are a bit sticky even when frozen solid.  I remove them gently from the tray and store them in a large mason jar in the freezer.  You can read my blog post on it here with other ideas for using them.  The post also tells you how to make delicious ice coffee and not watered down type.  P.S.  My coffee tree is still doing okay. No flowers yet but it survived last winter so we shall see how it does this winter.

In a pan on high heat, put in cocoa, sugar and half of the milk.  Stir to get it melting and combining, then start adding the rest of the milk stirring constantly.  Do not let boil.  Put into an ice cube tray (I keep a separate tray for this and only wash with very hot water between use).

My Chocolate Ice Cubes
7 ounces of milk
1 ounce of water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 cup of Ghiradelli Cocoa (already has sugar in it


So I'm sure you have seen the ads by now from Starbucks teasing about PSL coming soon.  I LOVED pumpkin spiced anything once the air feels like fall, my brain switches from tropical to cozy.

Live so many other commercial things that I get a hankering for, I want a homemade version which is healthier and safer.  I went looking for recipes online and found a couple but they really were not "right" - not enough pumpkin and used "flavoring" stuff.  Below is my recipe and here is the link to my blog post on it and other uses for the pumpkin spiced milk.  If you are not growing your own pumpkins, Frys has an organic canned which I keep on hand.

My Pumpkin Milk For Drinks
This makes 1 cup (I make up big batches based on how many serving sizes are in a small can of pumpkin puree and adjust the other ingredients).

2/3 cup milk (I use whole milk, but you can use any milk product you prefer)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree* - make sure it is the 100% kind and not pumpkin-pie filling which has other things added
2-4 teaspoons of sugar (or any sweetener you prefer - I usually use 3 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (go ahead and play around with PP spice combinations that equal 1/4 teaspoon - ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are the usual components)
Optional:  Whipped Cream

Blend all ingredients except whipped cream well.  Store in the refrigerator and use as desired.

I am going to make up a batch soon as Deane wants to make a pumpkin spice bread pudding and it won't use the whole can. :-)  I am going to freeze the pumpkin spiced milk in cubes.  Might even try a coffee with both Chocolate and Pumpkin!!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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