Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, June 17, 2019

July Planting Tips

Summer Greens
Dear Folks,

First I need to mention that I will be having cataract surgery near the end of June and into July - so I won't be posting much.  If you send me questions I will answer as soon as I can.

[Picture is My Summer Greens / Lettuce alternatives:  Sweet potato, Egyptian Spinach, Roselle, sorrell, basil, end of season celery  - see note below on growing summer greens.]

I also have a funny to share about the preparation for the surgery.  I started getting into texting my family a couple of months ago and am getting the hang of it.  The other day, though, I had the funniest auto-correct fail and have to share with everyone.

Texting to my sister:  "off to get my eyebrows for surgeries"
When she immediately responded with a "ha-ha" I looked at what I had typed!!!  LOL

Eye drops was what I was supposed to have typed (there are special post-surgery drops prescribed).

BTW my eyebrows are fine as they are, maybe could use a tiny bit of cosmetic plucking. :-)

Once our sunflowers really get going we look forward to the acrobatics of the Lesser Gold Finches - the Male here is upright, but he was just upside down on one of the flowers.


JULY PLANTING/SOWING:

Most of the planting in July and August is by seed for fall production/harvest. Consider this: If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in. If you do not have a bed prepared or in mind for planting now, get your bed(s) ready.

Beginning July 15th
Seeds Only Planting:

Amaranth
Anise
Cantaloupe
Caraway
Chervil
Cilantro
Corn
Dill
Fennel
Luffa Gourds
Musk Melons
Parsley
Peppers
Roselle
Pumpkins
Squash, Winter       
Sunflower


Our Chocolate Flower is loving our weather and greats me every morning when I go out to get the paper with its floral cocoa scent and sweet faces.  Berlandiera lyrata is an edible flower. The Native Americans used the dried flower as a seasoning is foods like sausage.  I have some  of the cut flowers on our kitchen table so we can enjoy the aroma while having a meal.

GARDEN TIPS for July
    Sown areas need to be kept consistently moist and the seeds will germinate based on soil temperatures. [Cool weather seeds can be sown now and will give you a jump start when the soil begins cool later on.] Lightly cover with loose soil and loose mulch to keep the area moist.

    Sprinkle sown beds EVERY evening until you see them break the soil surface. Then you can start watering more but less frequently to encourage the roots to go down.
    Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.  It is possible to over-water - then followed by under-watering - causing plant stress.
    Tomato plants are unable to set fruit when the Night temperatures stay in the 80s.  Maintain the plants through the summer and you will get a fall crop of fruit before frost.
    Sun damages plants in the summer time, as frost damages them in the winter time. As in frost damage, try to leave the sun damage at the top of the plant alone, if you can, as it protects the lower portions of the plant.  Pruning for fall can start at the end of August through the beginning of September when the monsoon ends and night time temperatures fall below 80.


Regular lettuce does not survive our high summer heat, but there are some fun alternatives, which are tasty and good for you.   Sweet Potato Leaves, Egyptian Spinach seeds can still be sown now, and Roselle leaves once your plants get going are wonderful as greens.  Some sources say sweet potato leaves are even more nutritious than the tuber. Regardless - at plant that produces edible leaves and tubers is a two-fer.

And don't forget "weeds".  Summer is the time for mallow and purslane (verdolaga).  Here is a nice article on the FREE food which may be growing in your garden.  Remember - NO pesticides or other chemicals - the weeds need to be as chemical-free as your regular garden produce.

Have a bountiful time in the garden!  

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

National Herbs and Spices Day, June 10, 2019

Dear Folks,

Monday, June 10th is a day to celebrate herbs and spices!

For the difference between an herb and spice, see the end of this post.

[pictured - some of my herbs on racks ready to go into the refrigerator.]

While many of our great vegetables and other foods have wonderful flavor on their own, most benefit from the addition of herbs and spices to really bring out all of the good taste.  Some like rosemary with any starchy food (think bread or potatoes) just seem to life the maximum taste enjoyment of that food.

Most herbs and spices also have health benefits beside great taste, aiding digestion, helping to process fat better, anti-inflammatory and respiratory help are just some of the additional reasons to add herbs and spices to your cooking ingredients.

Dry herbs is the best way to preserve the flavor and usefulness of your garden's fresh bounty.  I prefer drying in the refrigerator to maximize flavor (essential oils) and color.

Here is a link to my post on drying herbs click here.

In the above link I mention homemade dried bouillon -- some years ago I realized I could take the drying one step further and make my own homemade dried bouillon powder with all the great things from my garden.  No additives, no chemicals, just dried herbs, spices and vegetables.  And the taste is just amazing.  It can be used for making broths, stews, salad dressings or as a rub on meats and roasted vegetables.  Click here for that post.

If you wish help to grow more herbs, I have a PDF for sale listing 48 herbs with planting times, food pairing and some additional information click here to go to the page to order ($5 USD).

I just harvested  my own dill and cilantro (coriander) seeds for use as spices and also to re-sow in the fall.  Double benefit:  I get a Spice (dried seed, root or stem of the plant), and can also grow the Herb (fresh leaf or flowers of the plant).  A two-fer!


One last thing to consider drying -- edible flower petals for a lovely garnish.  Pictured are pink rose petals from my native wild rose and nasturtium flowers.  To this I also added some of my johnny jump ups.  I could have added flowers from rosemary or basil, for example, but the mix would then have those flavors and I wanted to keep the flavor/aroma neutral.

I hope you have a flavorful day!
 
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, June 03, 2019

Plant The Rain!

Curb Cut illustrating runoff diversion.
Dear Folks,

Our Monsoons will be arriving later this month, so I thought I would encourage you to think "plant the rain" aka water harvesting.  As simple as curb-cut to rooftop rain catchment and storage, find one or more that works for you and your gardens.

Images here are from the video (link below) illustrating "curb cutting" which notches through curbs to direct rain runoff, otherwise lost.

I have written many times about our property which is bermed in such a manner as to catch up to 3 inches of standing water (never has happened) everywhere but the driveway.  This means every drop of rain which falls, stays on our property, except for that which goes on to the driveway.  This allows us to turn off city water to the gardens frequently during rainy times, to the point where we stopped irrigating main gardens (I have a series of pots on watering schedules that needed to be kept on) for about 6 weeks this year.

"Plant The Rain"

Brad Lancaster is a desert permacutlure and water-harvesting guru.  His amazing journey is shown in this video and worth the approximate hour of time to watch it all.

From "under-the-radar" water harvester to internationally recognized authority, Brad Lancaster shows how the simple process of rain harvesting makes a huge difference, creates an entire permaculture area using plant litter and recycled materials, and life filled with color, shade and food!

He shows how his sustainable homestead functions from water, to food production to a total permaculture environment from input to output.

Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is an edible - I just learned about from this video.  His website is in the "more" section below the video.

https://youtu.be/KcAMXm9zITg


Brad Lancaster is a frequent instructor on training Watershed Management Group offers.

Watershed Management Group is the go-to for help in harvesting water. 

WMG offers a complete array of water-harvesting landscape services for your home, business, school, and beyond. We also provide unique hands-on educational programs, customized trainings, and municipal watershed planning support. 

As more and more developments seem to be planning to "use" water, they do not address harvesting it.  Rather they want to rely on plans to distribute state collected water "to them."

It is more than time for existing residents to take advantage of the rain which falls on their property.  Legally any person or business can harvest rain fall on their property in Arizona.  Some states are actually moving to take that right away from their citizens. 

My fear (and others have the same fear) is that with drought contingent plans memorialized recently, developers trying anyway they can to fiddle with how they prove water access, and farmers to be the first losers in a drought, individual home owners/gardeners NEED to consider potential water restrictions on their gardens.

You have a water right - use it! 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

June Planting Tips

Lemon Queen Sunflower
Dear Folks,

El Nino has given us several blessings this winter/spring with extra rain (more snow pack, yay) and a longer cooler spring.  The last time I remember an El Nino spring like this one, when the 100s finally hit in June they hit with more heat even than normal (remember we typically hit our first very hot days in mid to late June, then things start to calm down - a little - with the Monsoonal rain wind shift).

So keep your moisture meter handy and eye on the plants.  Check moisture in the early morning NOT mid-afternoon when the plants with thin leaves may "droop" to retain moisture in the hot sun.

I love the "Lemon Queen" Sunflowers and this one set against our blue sky is just one of those "sigh" relaxing moments.  There is another "pose" below.  I could not choose between them so I am posting both! :-)

AND you can still sow (direct sow) sunflower seeds into early July.

June PLANTING:

Cantaloupe
Corn
Cucumber, Armenian
Eggplant
Gourds
Luffa Gourd
Melons, Musk
Okra
Peas, Black Eyed
Peppers, Chiles
Potato, Sweet
Purslane

USING existing plants you can under- seed with:  Basil, Chives, Shiso, and Epazote

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Portulaca
Roselle, Jamaica Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa) (not too late to direct sow seeds)
Sunflower
Zinnia

GARDEN TIPS for June
    June through August in the Desert Southwest is the equivalent of winter in North Dakota — you maintain what you have planted, taking special care of young or sensitive plants. With the exception of August when the heavy pre-fall seed “sowing” begins, it is a good idea to hold off on any major transplanting until the fall when the temperatures drop back to prime planting weather (below 90 daytime).
    Our Flower Mulching technique can be used to protect young plants by canopying the soil around them, placing the flowering plants very close to the base of the young plants.  (Flower Mulching::  Choose a 6-pack of flowers - image a 12 inch diameter circle, sow or transplant the focused edible surrounded by 4-6 of the flowers.  This creates a soil canopy - keeping it cooler - while allowing the focused plant to get all the sun it needs.
    Heavy watering requirements may result in yellowing of leaves due to iron deficiency, especially of fruit trees (Chlorosis).  Apply Ironite or Green Sand before next watering to correct.
    Sowing corn for fall harvest, plant ONLY one variety at a time, so you can save some dried corn after harvest for re-sowing.  You can sow corn twice a year.

Use your moisture meter to determine if you need to change the frequency of watering adjusting to the higher temperatures.  Did you know you can actually over water when the humidity starts ramping up in July?  Again use that meter.

Begin looking into what you will be sowing mid to late July and Early August for fall growth.  If you want winter squash or pumpkin you need to count backwards from Halloween or Thanksgiving 90-120 days for sowing.  Also you can seed in winter herbs such as Cilantro, Chervil, Dill and Parsley in August and the seeds will germinate when the soil begins cooling.  You need to make sure the sown area stays moist.  Light Leaf cover helps.



 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, May 24, 2019

It's National Asparagus Day!

Dear Folks,

We have had a bed of Asparagus for many years and of course that means lots of harvesting for a couple of months - basically about 6 weeks from approximately late January until sometime in April - well I do cheat a little and harvest even now a few spears to have some fresh.  But all that wonderful bounty means I craft recipes to give us "Asparagus Variety" although we do have some favorites.

Like Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles on the grill - with basil leaves tucked in if I have some fresh in the garden.  The one pictured from some years ago was a quick side - now-a-days I wrapped the whole length of the bundle.  Either way they are awesome!

I frequently make a Savory Oatmeal as a Side and a couple of years ago I did one with asparagus, topped with cheese, and it was great.  The recipe is here.

In the last year - since 2018's harvest I have been making variations of my "Creamy" Soup with Asparagus and we just love it.  Two pictures of the way they turned out - one with Dill and one with Edible Flowers as garnish.

How about a Pasta Primavera with roasted asparagus, red sweet peppers, carrots and shucked sugar peas!  I use Orzo pasta frequently for my pasta dishes.  All mixed with some shredded Parmesan Cheese.

For the soup and other ways with Asparagus, including a lovely fresh salad with roasted asparagus and other veggies from the garden click here for my post.

Last Month I used some Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) from the garden and roasted along with some the asparagus, tossed pasta with some fresh celery leaf from the garden and served with poached chicken seasoned with some of my dried Rosemary.  Lovely dinner.

I hope these give you some ideas for how to use this wonderful garden gem.

This weekend while enjoying family and out door time, remember the fallen Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. ... Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Take care and be kind.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Back from Trip - What is going on in the Garden and another "creamy" Soup

Dear Folks,

I came back to really BIG crook-neck squash - this is what you get when your wonderful, but none cooking partner, does not harvest and use (or give away)! Still wonderfully delicious and I used in a soup recipe - see below.

One of the few none-edible plants I grow is this stunning Amaryllis - I look forward to the bloom every year.

I got started growing Amaryllis decades ago when my Dad gave me a bulb - I missed its bloom this year while traveling, but I know Dad's original one is healthy and so are some of the babies I transplanted around the garden.

Our winter produced some amazing affects including an amazing bounty of fruit on our trees.  This is just a small sampling of what is ripening now Peach, Apricot and Barbados Cherries.

Another interesting cold winter induced response is this Lamb's Ears growing.  I have not had this plant growing in the garden in quite a few years and I can only presume there were dormant seeds which just needed the right conditions of light, cold and whatever.  I love the soft furry leaves.  Lamb's Ears are antibiotic and were used as wound bandages during the Civil War.

I often swap plants in the same large pot or bed from season to season, where they share the same pot, but grow - that is the theory - at different times.  So it was time to harvest my potatoes which I planted in early January and I discovered peanuts growing! (The green plants on the left in the pot.) I had grown them last summer and thought I had harvested all of them, well apparently not. So I tried not to disturb those plants and will add the peanuts I saved from last year to the pot in a week or so.

I am experimenting with changing out where I am planting season things like potatoes, sweet potatoes and root crops.  I have decided to try and contain (insert laughter here) my sweet potatoes and am growing them in two large pots this year.  We will see how that goes.  Since the peanuts did not mind sharing the pot with the potatoes I may do that one more year.  Meanwhile I got a bit more than a half of basket of the potatoes, which I used for the soup recipe (mentioned above and see below) and I have enough to do more dishes with the remaining potatoes. I will save the very small ones for re-planting next January by storing in the crisper in a cardboard box.

I used some of the squash and potatoes to make one of my "Creamy" Soups.  I have made asparagus, broccoli, and several other vegetable soups using potatoes as the "creamy" to add thickening and flavor along with herbs. To this one I topped with some chopped organic celery and ground walnuts (we have a dear friend in California who ships us some from his old ranch every year).

Basic "Creamy" Soup
2 cups of chopped vegetable of choice
Optional:  Herb to pair with vegetable (rosemary, thyme, or oregano work well)
2 tablespoons choice of oil - I like avocado but olive or vegetable works too (or you could use uncured bacon grease if you want more flavor :-)
1-2 cups of potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces (more potato makes a thicker soup)
2 cups water or broth of choice (I usually have my homemade chicken broth on hand)
Onion of choice - about 1/2 cup chopped - more if you like
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
1 lime cut in half
Garnishes of choice - chopped vegetables, edible flowers, ground nuts, snipped dill or cilantro or herb of choice
Optional: 4 ounces of cheese of choice - I frequently use Parmesan but any cheese you like works.

You will be pureeing this soup - an immersion blender works well for this.
Prepare a cookies sheet with aluminum foil.
Preheat oven to 450.

In the pot you will be cooking the soup in, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, just to warm. Toss the vegetables in the oil to coat.  Spread vegetable on prepared pan, season with salt and pepper and any additional herb you desire  Put in oven and set timer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat remaining oil in pot and sautee onion for 5 minutes, do not burn.

When the timer goes off, remove vegetables from oven and toss, return to oven and set timer for 5 minutes more.

Bring water or broth to boil in the pot and add potatoes, cover and cook until timer goes off.

Add vegetables from oven to the pot of potatoes, scraping the foil to get all the good bits.  Stir, bring back to boil, then simmer, covered until potatoes and vegetables are knife tender - approximately 15 minutes.

Blend soup, add cheese and put back on burner if needed to completely melt cheese.  Serve with a squeeze of lime in each bowl and topped with garnish of choice. 

For this Squash soup I also added about 5 marinated artichoke halves to the roasting pan with the veggies.  Just a bit more complex flavor.

You can search the blog on the side bar for more soup recipes.

My Turmeric Is Up!

With all my helping family and then some trips to visit family I never got around to harvesting it this winter so - there you go, it is getting another year's growth in!

We have baby watermelons!  I am so happy to see this in the new area I decided to sow my Black Tail Mountain Watermelon Seeds.  This is a great melon, a bit bigger than those personal size ones, with sweet red fruit.  Can't wait.  I took the picture about 3 days ago and the fruit is already a bit more than double in size - oh boy!

My Wild Montana Apple Tree.

My "wild" Apple Tree Experiment.  Last April I purchased Wild Montana Apple seeds from Baker creek and sowed them in late September in jiffy pellets - they sprouted October 5 - I put them in 4 inch pots for a couple of months. Transplanted to this pot January 13th at about 4 inches tall.  Now just over 22 inches tall.

These Wild Seeds are a "landrace" believe to have been tossed as families and travelers rode through that area and the various types of apples sprouted and crossed.  I could have some delicious fruit it they actually blossom and fruit or I could have crab applies

ust enjoying the experiment
I also another one in a large pot and that one is about 28/29 inches tall now.  Grown on the southside of other trees.

One of the ongoing discussions on apple trees in the valley is whether they are limited to desert-adapted varieties such as Anna - so this is my experiment.  I am trying another store bought variety I sprouted in the ground to see if there are issues with not being on a graft.


I hope you are having fun in the garden and kitchen with your bounty!



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Edible Flowers Talk This Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dear Folks,

I am pleased to be speaking this Saturday at Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market on "Edible Flowers" part of "Original Arizona" at the Market.

Mark Lewis has taken his expertise of 8,000 years of southwest plants and herbs known as "Chmachyakyakya Kurikuri" and created a Saturday Spring Season Speaker Series "Original Arizona", where the topics and speakers reflect the diversity of our original and Native Agriculture local to Arizona, and have included Andy Weil, John Slattery, Peggy Sorensen, Kelly Athena, Ramona Farms, AZ Cactus Ranch, Tonto Basin, SW Mushrooms, SW Herbs, noted chefs and Mark.

The links below let the Market know of your interest for this event.

https://www.facebook.com/events/344813656238567/

https://www.instagram.com/oldtownscottsdalefarmersmarket/p/BxL9RlbFX0o/


Mothers' Day, Herbs, Flowers and just what IS an Edible Flower?

Join Catherine, The Herb Lady at the 

Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
(3806 N Brown Avenue – the SW Corner of Brown & 1st Street)
on May 11, 2019, Saturday from 9 -10AM (The Mothers' Day Market).

National Herb Week, which celebrates herbs in all of their usefulness and glory, ends on Mother's Day.  This is fitting as most beloved culinary herbs have delicious and beautiful flowers, and flowers are what many Mother's love and many families enjoy gifting.

What Is An Edible Flower?
It could be a vegetable, like an artichoke, broccoli, or caper. 
It could be one of the old garden favorites, like hollyhock, stock, marigold, jasmine, pansies, or nasturtiums.
It could be an herb, meaning a plant with beneficial properties, like hibiscus, rose, lavender, dandelion, or one of the much-loved culinary herbs, including basil, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, dill, or thyme.

OR it could be all of the above.

Catherine will discuss edible flowers as pretty, fun, tasty (most are tasty), and safe additions or garnishes to enhance your meals. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "The earth laughs in flowers."  Why not make them edible!

 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

Today is National Herb Day, Lecture Coming Up, and More!

Dear Folks,

National Herb Day, May 4th celebrates herbs in all their fragrant and useful forms.

This is just the start of a series of celebrations.

May 5th is International Permaculture Day, begun in 2009 in Australia, is a day of celebration and action for permaculture around the world.

While herbs are just a part of permaculture, their presence in the scheme of sustainable permaculture is necessary for the "whole" of a thriving permaculture garden/land.

And then -- Monday May 6th, begins National Herb Week, ending, I think appropriately, on May 12th, Mother's Day, a day we celebrate our mother's or those people and concepts who are mothers to us in ways not limited to family ties.

The nurturing environment of gardening is not a great leap to be seen as a mother to our lives.  Many famous folks have written about mothers and gardens.

My own Maternal Grandmother kept a garden I remember from my childhood, perhaps is that connection for many of us that our Grandmothers and Mothers gardened.

I hope you find a way to celebrate herbs and permaculture - and Mother's Day for those who are important in your lives - perhaps with a bouquet of herbs and edible flowers to brighten their day even more.

In keeping with the theme, on Saturday May 11th, I will be giving a talk on Edible Flowers (some of the lovely examples are herb flowers - check out the flower of the Conehead Thyme pictured above)  at Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market.

I hope to see you there!

Mothers’ Day, Herbs, Flowers and just what IS an Edible Flower?

Join Catherine, The Herb Lady at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
(3806 N Brown Avenue – the SW Corner of Brown & 1st Street)
on May 11, 2019, Saturday from 9 -10AM (The Mothers’ Day Market).

National Herb Week, which celebrates herbs in all of their usefulness and glory, ends on Mother’s Day.  This is fitting as most beloved culinary herbs have delicious and beautiful flowers, and flowers are what many Mother’s love and many families enjoy gifting.

What Is An Edible Flower?
It could be a vegetable, like an artichoke, broccoli, or caper. 
It could be one of the old garden favorites, like hollyhock, stock, marigold, jasmine, pansies, or nasturtiums.
It could be an herb, meaning a plant with beneficial properties, like hibiscus, rose, lavender, dandelion, or one of the much-loved culinary herbs, including basil, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, dill, or thyme.


OR it could be all of the above.

Catherine will discuss edible flowers as pretty, fun, tasty (most are tasty), and safe additions or garnishes to enhance your meals. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The earth laughs in flowers.”  Why not make them edible!

 


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Opposite Garden Flavors

Hi Folks,

Mulberries and Garlic in the Garden

Yesterday we had a simple BBQ with a dear friend, enjoying the backyard with burgers and our own asparagus bacon-wrapped bundles. (Sorry I keep forgetting to take a picture of these when they come off the grill.  If I have basil I add that to the bundle = 4-5 trimmed asparagus, basil leaf/leaves held to the bundle and 1 thick slice of bacon wrapped all around held in place at each end with toothpicks.)

AND our Mulberries with Pineapple Guava Flower Petals!!  The petals are so naturally sweet, they had both visual and taste appeal to the fruit.  Lovely!  The mulberries are perfectly and wonderfully sweet when picked ripe - when you can easily pluck them from the tree.  I harvest by holding a bowl under the area and just running my fingers gently through the berries.  The ripe ones fall into the bowl.

Here is a picture with the full Pineapple Guava Flower if you have not seen this beauty.

On the other end of the flavor spectrum is our garlic is now producing the scapes, signaling that harvest time will be in about 3-4 weeks.  I have two types growing:  regular (there are many varieties of regular garlic) and elephant garlic, which is actually a leek on steroids.

Regular garlic pictured - just to the right the drying mass you see is my sugar peas which are in the final drying stages and I can then harvest the seeds for re-sowing next fall.  One could also cook up the dried peas as you would any other dried pea, but I prefer growing a lot of sugar peas and I am already planning on expanding the area next September.

Our elephant garlic is doing well, mostly.  The bed is east to west - which is the best orientation when planting ANYTHING in areas with trees and you need to ensure enough sunlight for all the plants.  The challenge with where I located the elephant garlic bed this year was it was too shaded on the east by our grapefruit tree, so literally half of the bed is huge and the other half - well about half in size.  I'm sure we will enjoy all of them when I harvest later.

When the scapes (this is the unopened flower bud on a thick stalk coming straight up out of the center of the plant) start appearing you cut them back to the first leaf.  Many people treat the scape as a short seasonal treat frying up or adding to stews.  I am leaving for another visit with family, so I won't have the time.

But - cutting back the scape begins the process of the finishing the bulb formation in the head of cloves we are all familiar with.

While enjoy our patio yesterday, we snapped a couple of feathered neighbors. The dove picture was as the sun was setting and I think s/he was just choosing this spot for the night.  The  little Inca Doves are always so sweetly appealing.

We have lots of sparrows and finches and Deane was trying to catch a hummingbird flitting about our Acerola (Barbados) Cherry Tree, and decided to catch the sparrow which was not flitting about :-)

I hope you have a wonderful week in the garden and kitchen with your bounty.




-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Blackberry "Tree" of My Childhood

Dear Folks,

Just a short post about my "blackberry tree" aka Black Mulberry.

I ordered two seedlings Mulberry Dwarf (Morus nigra) in December 2014 and they arrived in late spring 2015.  By August 2015 they were about 8-9 inches tall and ready to be put in the ground.

The trees are at least 12 feet tall and growing.  I have not pruned them.  While the one pictured above is producing a lot of fruit the other one is shaded and produces very little.  No matter they are fine healthy trees and someday they will be the stars of our shaded front area.

So, the back story is, growing up on the east coast, about a block away from us was an abandon orchard where we tasted yellow cherries before anyone even knew they existed, along with sour cherries, apples and pears.

But for a short season the star for my sister and I were a pair of "blackberry trees" at the end of our cul de sac and the neighbors allowed us to climb the trees and pick the fruit.  (More like they just ignored us because we did not damage anything.)

It was many decades later that I determined our "Blackberry Tree" was a dwarf black mulberry.  When I tasted berries this morning from MY tree it took me back to my childhood picking those wonderful black berries.  Truth be told the ones growing on the east coast are quite a bit bigger than on my tree, but I do not care.  Picked perfectly ripe (when they pull easily from the branch) they are the taste of my childhood.

As you can see from the photo there are a lot which will be ripening and I hope to have a nice batch to serve with dinner on Easter.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  I discovered a glitch in my posting engines so if you missed my May Planting tips here is the link for that post.  I hope I got the glitch fixed :-)

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

May Planting Tips

Dear Folks,

We are still enjoying our asparagus, Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) and celery fresh from the garden.  For this dish I also used some of my dried rosemary to season the chicken. I roasted the chicken, asparagus and Gai Lan on a sheet pan, cooked up the pasta and tossed the pasta with fresh shredded celery. Yum!

We have several more weeks of harvesting from our mature asparagus bed.

I have celery growing here and there to take advantage of different shading during the day.  They like a little afternoon shade when we start going into heat and they are not heat-lovers.

Meanwhile enjoy another view of our Johnny Jump-Up lawn.  I merged two shots to show you a panorama of how the Johnny's follow around.  That is Sugar Cane in the left back portion and the Nasturtiums climbing into our Myrtle and LimeQuat.



MAY PLANTING:
Artichoke, Jerusalem
Beans, Soy
Cantaloupe
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fig Trees
Fruit Trees (With Care)
Melons, Musk
Okra
Peppers, Sweet
Peppers, Chilies
Potato, Sweet
Squash, Summer
Squash, Winter
Tomatillo
SEED IN:  Basil, Chive (Garlic or Onion), Epazote, Egyptian Spinach (Corchorus olitorius) Perilla, or Catnip-- making use of the canopy of flowering or vegetable plants.

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Impatients Wallarana
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Portulaca
Purslane
Roselle (sow)
Scented Geraniums
Sunflower
Zinnia

GARDEN TIPS for May
    By the end of the month harvest the rest of your potatoes, keeping the smallest ones as “seed” potatoes for next January — store in cardboard egg cartons in your crisper -- don't store near other vegetables or fruits.

Planting sweet potato, and sowing Roselle and Egyptian Spinach will give you a wonderful selection of “lettuce” leaves options all through the summer.

Bee-Aware!
    As more and more flowers open and fill the air with their perfume, all the pollinators enjoy the garden as much as you, including bees.
    Swarming is where a new queen goes looking for new digs, taking with her some of the workers (as many as 50,000).  Swarming bees are a challenge to deal with because of the Africanization of the honey bee population.
    But intelligent handling of any contact will not result in a problem for you. First, the bees are not interested in you.  They are usually filled with honey for the new trip and interested in finding a new house before the supply runs out.
    Wear white or light colored clothing while gardening.
    Do not do stupid things to bees!  That should be self-evident, but some of the reports of bee encounters makes me wonder how we have survived as a species.
    If you are near a swarm or they get near you:
    a.  Move slowly and do not make aggressive moves.
    b.  Walk slowly to a house or car and get inside until the swarm moves off.  Keep all pets, children and other people from the area.
    c.  Do not go into the pool!  If the bees have been aggravated, they--will--wait--for--you!
    d. Usually the swarm will move off within a short time.
    e.  If they do not move off, then you have to call a professional service or the fire department.  They will kill the bees.  They do not have a choice because of the danger — and you do not have a choice as a homeowner — they either have to kill the swarm or you have a hive full of dangerous 'neighbors.'

Transplanting and Sowing

This time of year we are in one of those transition times, where going from mild to hot can occur in one felled swoop of heat.

Transplanting vs sowing can be a challenge as transplanting can stress the plants.

1) Harden the plants off by placing in the sun 1 hour then moving to shade, next day in sun 2 hours, move to shade - repeat until the plants have been in the sun for 4 hours and you can transplant then with a whole less stress and shock to the plant.  If the temps are already in the 90+ range double the days for each hardening, e.g., 2 days for 1 hour, then shade, 2 days for 2 hours then shade.  Your plants will thank you by being less likely to die as soon as they are put in the gorund!

2)  Use my "flower mulching" technique for transplant in warm/hot weather.  Get a six pack of flowers at the nursery and either plant your target plant (basil for example) and surround the basil with the flowers (about 5 inches apart), OR plant all at the same time -- imagine a 12 inch circle and plant the basil in the center and 4-6 flower plants around.  Flower mulching canopies the soil and shades the sides of the basil, while allowing the basil to get all the sun it needs.

Use edible flower plants like impatiens wallerana and portulaca to provide 'mulch' around the new transplants.  You can also use Sweet Allysum another edible flower but it can be a bully if it is really happy.  The portulaca does the gardener the supreme favor of dying off completely when the cool weather comes in the fall, although it may reseed next late spring.

3) Sow seeds under existing plants, just under the edge of the plant/flower canopy.

Both the "flower mulching" and the "edge sowing" are variations of the "nurse plant" concept seen in the desert where the cactus seed settles at the base of a Mesquite tree.  Shielded from birds and other critters, the seed, is held in place, watered with the rain and grows up with the mesquite protecting it.

Consider SWEET POTATOES to be planted in late May through early July.  They need 90-120 days of warm weather to grow properly.  I've planted in huge containers and in-ground using leaf cover as I do with the Irish potatoes.  In fact I sometimes use the same bed, planting the sweets after I harvest the Irish.

In case you don't know sweet potatoes, unrelated to the Irish (Solano) family, are completely edible, tuber, leaf and vine.

The sweets can produce an amazing amount of leaf and vine cover so be prepared.  Some varieties are more bushy than others.

Seed Saving
Catching the seed from winter crops like sugar peas, lettuces, celery, parsley, radishes etc. is a way to save money AND get stronger plants the next year.  “Regional adaptation” grows plants more and more suited to your backyard and the area you live.  Remember to perfectly dry them.  I store in paper envelopes labeled with harvest date, in a cool, dry, dark place until next planting time.

Looking at head to June and July, there is little suggested planting options for June, but by mid-July be ready to start seeding (not transplanting) for the fall garden.

If that sounds counter-intuitive, think about wanting pumpkins for Halloween or Thanksgiving and count backwards 90 - 120 days.

Mid-July you can under-seed tomatoes (choose short-maturity varieties) and basil for a fall crop, if you do not have tomatoes or want more.  Tomatoes give us two crops a year (spring and fall) if planted in February.  They stop setting flowers in the middle of the summer because the nights (not the days) are too hot for the pollen to activate.

Save Wood Herb Stems

Harvesting or pruning herbs?  Save woody parts to throw on the grill coals the last 15 minutes to add herb smoke flavor to the food - or better yet do it from the inside out, use woody, soaked branches of herbs to make kabob skewers.


I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

I am traveling again and will answer questions after I return, May 1st.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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