Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

More Herbs, Less Salt Day - August 29th

Dear Folks,

I will be away visiting family for a week, so I wanted to share some of my blog posts on More Herbs, Less Salt Day from the past.

[Pictured: a November Herb Harvest - Dark opal basil, Stevia, Lime basil, Bay, Syrian Oregano, Sweet Basil]

Let me first say that salt (or fat) is not a bad thing, it is how we use it that comes into question.

The prosperity of post World War II began a succession of ‘time saving’ services and products which were mostly a good thing, but literally and figuratively took us away from our roots of having a small kitchen garden or herb pot out side the back door.  Entire generations followed, hooked on salt substituting for taste through frozen TV dinners, fast food, and prepared meals in a box.

Very simply, if you season first with herbs and spices you will get the real taste of the food popping in your mouth.  Then if you need to add salt, do so but to taste, not recipe.

My favorite less-salt illustration is a baked potato.  The salt and butter are the things that makes it taste great, right?  How about this option.  Split the hot potato open, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and top with a bit of chopped fresh or dried rosemary.  I will bet you may not miss the salt and butter at all.  Why?  Rosemary, like many herbs, "pops" the real flavor of the food, particularly with starchy foods like potato, it just "lifts" the real flavor of what many think of as bland food.  Give it a try.

AND, read up on how I dry my herbs for storage.

Hoping we get rain!

And I hope you have a great time with herbs in your garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My Website

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Friday, August 16, 2019

September Planting Tips and More.

Dear Folks,

Coming back from vacation it is a "work-in-progress" to get the coast and driving cobwebs out and pay attention to the garden!

Lots to share with you in this post!

Pictured - Before we left on vacation, I harvested and stored in the frig my last Black Tail Mountain Watermelon. Now, time to enjoy the fruit, and harvest and save the seeds.  I use an uncoated paper plate to dry (after rinsing) seed with a note as to date of harvest and type. Then I store the seeds in a dated and noted paper envelope.  When I'm finished with the paper plate - I use for multiple batches - I toss in the compost pile to break down.  I wound up crushing the fruit for juice and we are enjoying this refreshing drink.  I also froze some for later!  For a later project I want to develop cocktail bases with fruits and herbs which can be either non-alcoholic or alcohol added.  I would like to make a fun cocktail option, just because or when we entertain.  Lots of fun ideas on the internet for making an ice cubes out of the cocktail base and then adding spirit of choice or just seltzer (maybe one of the flavored ones I enjoy).

Speaking of Seeds - check out the information link below on The Great American Seed Up.

Georgia Candy Roaster Pumpkin
The good news is a new-to-me pea and new-to-me pumpkin [pictured at 7.5 weeks old - August 13th] plants have done well while I was gone.  The landrace apple tree in the ground is holding its own and the basil is nuts - but we desert gardeners know how much basil loves the heat here.

If you have not heard about the "Great American Seed Up" - you NEED to check this cool event out.  September 27-28, 2019 at The Uptown Farmers Market Location (you can hit the market 8 a.m. Saturday before the Seed Up starts at 10 a.m.)  Informative lectures and the opportunity to purchase seed very inexpensively. I have attended in the past and will again this year.  Pre-registration is recommended.  Click here.

I am sharing some intriguing food ideas below the gardening tips, so be sure and check them out.

One last thing before the September Planting tips - if you are interested in growing fruit trees here in the Valley - check out Urban Farm's upcoming fruit tree class - September 7th.  My friend, Greg Peterson just sent a note about this event - featuring a Dwarf Black Mulberry - which he suggests as a great option to oleanders and I would agree.  My two DBM will eventually provide hot weather shade, while in the meantime I love their spring fruit. Check it out here.


You can find my planting calendars and books on my website to have at your fingertips.

We are about half-way through our summer/monsoon time.  Time to start getting your fall garden in shape.

DON'T touch the tomato plants which are still doing well even if not producing.  You can give them a bit of a hair cut over several days starting the end of August to remove sun damage and you will get a fall crop of fruit.  The plants will start setting fruit as soon as our night time temps fall below 80 -- usually around the end of August.  Expect the first nice lower temps (some days falling below 90) by September 30.  Typically our 90+ days run from May 29 to September 29th. We can have the occasional 100 degree day even into October, so monitor the moisture needs of your gardens using the moisture meter.

Beans (bush and pole beans in first week in September at latest)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage, Ornamental
Endive (and Chicory)
Fennel, Leaf
Onions, Green
Kale, Ornamental Cabbage
Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.)


Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons)
Marigold, Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Marigold, Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Scented Geraniums
Sweet Alyssum
Sweet William (Dianthus)

GARDEN TIPS for September
    Prepare soil for perennial planting -- edibles need superior draining soil, work in compost or well-rotted manure -- NEVER use fresh manure unless the garden will sit for 6-12 months before planting.  If your soil is already healthy, you can add a light dressing of compost or well-rotted manure.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of December or January for a continuous crop through next spring.
    Make good use of your water meter during this temperature transitional month.
    Fertilize fruit trees now -- use Labor Day as the Target date --  (early September and again at Valentines Day and Memorial Day).
    For tomato plants which made it through the summer, over several days (do not do it all at once) give them a 1/3 - 1/2 hair cut and receive a fall crop of tomatoes through first frost.
    BERRY VINES - OCTOBER 1st: cut all canes, old and new, to ground after fruiting - commercial growers use this method.

Order your garlic and potato "starts" (heads and seed potatoes) for planting later on.  They can be stored in cool dry conditions until planting time.  October 1st for planting garlic - December 1-January 1st for potatoes.


Along with the pumpkin I sowed June 20th, I also sowed more crook neck squash, just for the heck of it.  We love this summer squash and I got a lot from the spring plants.

So, with the possibility of more squash in the back of my mind while vacationing, I read through the current Foodnetwork Magazine on my tablet and found a recipe for Fusilli with Zucchini Pesto - the zucchini IS the pesto!  Cool, using vegetables as a sauce - why not - we use tomatoes to make sauces.  Many years ago when I did not have enough basil to make the traditional type pesto, I added green olives to fill in and it worked so well I make that sometimes, still, even though I usually have enough basil.  Check out this fun recipe here.

Basic ingredients list: 
Kosher salt
1 pound fusilli (personally any textured pasta should work well)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 small zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), roughly chopped (half in pesto, half tossed at end)
Freshly ground pepper 
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for topping
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds, plus more for topping
1 clove garlic, chopped 

Are you growing coffee in your garden?  I have had a coffee tree for a couple of years and it died back this winter to the ground.  I was considering pulling it when I noticed NEW growth at the base last month!  Whooppee.   Since I don't expect flowers and fruit for a couple of years, I just was expecting to enjoy it coming back.

Then I discovered a tea made from coffee leaves!!!  Who knew!  And it is a "thing".  The friends we stayed with have a tea canister and following a chilly but wonderful whale watching I wanted a cup of hot tea (coffee is too strong for me in the afternoon) and came upon a tea "Wize Monkey" made from dried coffee leaves.  And it was intriguing, almost sweet, not tea like but not coffee like either.  I was fascinated.  Of course I did some checking and the processing seems like something I could do with my coffee leaves once the plant gets going well.  From the Wize Monkey site"Coffee Leaf Tea has been traditionally consumed for hundreds of years in Ethiopia and Indonesia for various reasons like "helping clear the cobwebs,"I need to check out their recipe section for ideas.

Another article on Coffee Leaf Tea

I love my Jasmine plants.  They flower several times a year and mostly I just enjoy their fragrance as I pass them by.  Sometimes adding to sun tea.  I received this fun sounding recipe for Jasmine Butter to use on toasts etc. and I thought it unique and fun enough you should read up on it.  This fun site finds great "OLD" recipes and tweaks them for modern use.  FYI - this is ONLY for the edible Flower Jasmine (Arabian - Jasminum Sambac) - although other really fragrant edible flowers could be substituted.  Click here to read.

Enjoy your garden and cooking with the bounty.

P.S.  I will be visiting family later this month for about a week, so I will answer questions when I return.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

August Planting Tips: Ready, Set, SOW!!

Male Lesser Gold Finch
Dear Folks,

I like to joke that summer in Arizona is like winter in North Dakota - you just hunker down and maintain. 

However that is not entirely true.

[Pictured -- a Male Lessor Gold Finch enjoying our sunflowers.  We look forward to a visit from these athletic and funny little "feathers" who enjoy our sunflowers too!]

Late July and August are the months to get your fall planting plans set up, prepare beds if necessary, and begin sowing fall crops.

The cool-weather seeds "know" to germinate as the soil begins cooling in late August - as long as you MAINTAIN soil surface moisture through daily evening sprinkling and light mulch.  The monsoonal rains aid this.  In the past I have sown cilantro, chervil, etc. (all cool loving herbs) in the beginning of August and they sprouted the beginning of September - it is IMPORTANT to maintain the soil surface moisture.

Sometimes Patience Really Pays Off!  My coffee tree died back this winter, just a big set of sticks.  I figured I would pull it eventually, but I decided to just let it sit and see what happened.  And, I was dealing with my eye surgeries so I was not in any rush.  To my absolutely delight when I could go out and actually  look around, lo and behold, the coffee has new growth at the base! Yippeee!  The leaves to the left are from a bay tree, and you can see the Leaf Cutter Bees have been hard at work, harvesting their watermelon cuts from the leaves (for those of you who do not know - this does no harm to the plant but instead illustrates their activity - all beneficial - in your garden).

I sowed Black Tail Mountain Watermelon seeds back on January 31st - transplanting them March 19th, and right on schedule (about 4 months active growing time) I harvested one of them.  The plants are starting to show stress from the heat and I could finally really bend over and look for the dried tendril.  While this was tasty, the heat had it maturing a tad too much, so looking forward to others.  I like this variety as it is perfect for just the two of us and I can give these "personal size" whole ones away as available.

One more critter picture to share.  I was not completely sure about this bunny until I could get a good look at his/her ears and legs.  We have a young Jack-Rabbit visiting us!  How cool is that!  The bunnies - we usually only get the cotton-tails - all like to mow our small lawn and hang out in the shade.

Look At Those Ears!  Sorry that one is blurry I took the pictures through the window - they won't let us get near them - which is a safe thing for them to be cautious of people.


Large selection of seed-only (sowing) planting.

Beans, Snap (bush and pole)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Greens, all
Onions, Green
Squash, Winter


Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Portulaca (Moss Rose)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for August
    The new-to-desert gardener may be asking how can anyone plant in August, with 105+ temps.  Well consider:  If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in.  These seeds will germinate in the 'cooling' soil.
    Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of January for a continuous crop through next spring.
    With food plants such as pumpkin and corn and their long growing season requirements, a one-time planting is sufficient.  AND, give the pumpkins room!
    With corn, plant in 'blocks' not 'rows' space the individual seeds approximately 6 inches apart imagining a 12 inch square, then the next square etc. you will have rows in a sense, but not the typical farmers rows.  The reason for this is pollination - the anthers of the corn knock together better with the closer planting and therefore you get more corn.
    PLANT ONLY one variety of corn a season - otherwise they may cross.  Save one or two cobs, allowed to dry on the stalks at the end of the season for, replanting next corn season
    Heavy pre-fall seed planting begins now (corn, pumpkin, etc.).
    Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.
    Hold off on any major TRANSPLANTING until the fall when the temperatures drop back to prime planting weather.  Typically we do not see below 90 temps between May 29th and September 29th (other than a storm but the temp drop is short-lived).
    Chlorosis may appear particularly in the fruit trees.  This yellowing of the leaves, leaving the leaf vein showing through bright green is the result of the iron in the soil being made unavailable to the plant due to excess water in the soil which causes the iron to bind to other minerals.
    Easily treated with an application of ironite or green sand before watering.  These elements do not burn the plants and can be used as needed through the season.  The yellowing of the leaves usually resolves within 1 to 2 weeks of the application.  Use only ironite or green sand and not a fertilizer containing it as you could over-fertilize and THEN burn the plants.
    Although this is a result of a lot of water in the soil it does not necessarily mean you are over-watering, only that the additional water required due to the high heat of the season is causing the situation.  It sometimes also occurs in the winter time when the cold soil causes the same thing to happen.

HOWEVER - you can over water during the Summer Monsoons.  Use your moisture meter to check soil moisture after heavy rains.  You may be able to skip the next watering cycle if it is within 2 days of the rain.

SUNBURN damage:  Like frost damage - do not prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.

    Tomato plants that have continued through the summer will start setting fruit again as soon as the night time temperatures drop below 80 again. Towards the end of August to September prepare for new flowering times by pruning back about 1/3 to ½ of plant, do this gradually over several days, to give the protected lower growth time to adjust to the higher light levels.

TIME to watch for aphids and other pests that start to flock back as the night time temps dip down at the end of August.
    They like the cooling weather as we do!  The squash family (pumpkin) is particularly vulnerable so keep your safe soap spray handy (1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon each of vegetable oil and dawn dish detergent)  Shake spray, shake spray undersides and tops of leaves every 5 days as needed.  Do this in the evening so the spray does not sunburn the plants.
    With the cabbage family another food plant favored by the bugs, pour a quarter cup of light soapy solution right down the center stalk once a week (1 quart of water and a finger tip of dawn dish detergent)  Grandma would dump the used dish pan water down the plants to do the same thing.

. . .
To supplement what you grow, do you have a favorite farmers market?

National Farmers Market Week is Sunday August 4 - Sunday August 11th. 

LocalFirst has listings of Arizona Farmers Markets here.

OR, you can check out the USDA data base of farmers markets here.

. . .

Helpful Podcasts

If you are not familiar with my friend Greg Peterson, you need to check out his website.

Greg Peterson of Urban Farm in Phoenix, has the most interesting guests on his podcasts.  Check out the latest and more with topics like:  native bees, alternative funding for farms, egg incubation, rural living in the future, and you can even find my guest appearances (#130 and #208), along with some other folks you may already be familiar with (in the side bar you can search by name or topic).

. . .

I am finally through the 2nd Cataract Surgery and my eyes are healing but not quite settled down yet.  Everything will be re-checked mid-August, after we return from our annual trip.

I have to say the procedure is quite fascinating. I am also one of the few who winds up with a blood-shot, black eye!  Quite the contrast to the new clear lens, I will tell you.  But, as I say, I am healing with the Doc saying the eyes are "looking" good to him.  Looking at myself in the mirror I now notice more wrinkles - eye surgeries do produce some interesting results, however the really good news is I do not need glasses any more for computer work or reading, only distance.  That is a really good thing.

I hope you have a wonderful time planning your fall garden and reaping the bounty from your summer garden.

You can always find my calendars and books on my website, and I am always happy to answer questions.  If you message or email while I am away for 2 weeks, I will answer you as soon as I return.

Be kind, be safe, and enjoy nature!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Using Nurse Plants, New Squash and a "Pizza" Recipe

Crispy Greens Tortilla "Pizza"
Dear Folks,

Yesterday was the first day in a week with no restrictions on bending and lifting - yahoo!!  Of course it is only good for a couple of days until my next and final cataract surgery next Monday, but I took advantage of the freedom to bend in the garden - and make this Crispy Greens "Pizza"  - if you like Kale chips you will love this recipe.  More on that below.

As fellow gardeners you can image what "no bending or lifting" means.  I must bend over a couple of hundred times a day and it is totally automatic - I just bend over to do things.

So, the guideline is you cannot bend at the waist, your head (eyes) cannot be lower than your waist and you are supposed to stoop to get things.  Right - I am unable to do the "Playboy Benny Dip" because of my knees!  So it kind of sidelined me - all for the good, just frustrating.

Before the first surgery I did get some seeds in the ground in my "chicken wire hat cones" (to keep the critters off them) and I used the existing Crook Neck Squash bed (about 6 feet wide) as a "nursery."   These plants are in their final days although some newer growth is trying to put out and set fruit.

So I set up two seedling areas on the east side of the existing bed, which shelters them until they get going good.  The existing plants provide both western and a bit of overhead shade, while the east exposure gives the seedlings most of the morning sun.  And, the existing plants and debris keep the soil cooler and slow evaporation.  The middle portion of the picture is the crook neck squash seedlings (not the usual time to sow these, but I figured I would try) and the bottom is the Candy Roaster Seedling.

Initially I sprinkle every day (this bed is watered once a week) and now that they are going strong I will start backing off the sprinkling to encourage the deep roots - which is why the bed did so well through the spring and into this heat - deep roots.

I am excited to try a new-to-me winter squash "Candy Roaster Squash" - also called North Georgia Candy Roaster and similar.  This heirloom is possible to grow because of the preservation and culture of the Cherokee people who treasure it.  Click here to read up on the history and culture.  I purchased the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  These seeds are unique looking, fat and plump compared to usual squash seeds. [the picture is from the SESE catalog.]  I'm looking forward to how this squash does.

I will be posting the monthly planting tips for August around July 16th or so, at which time I hope to have recovered more from the surgeries and moving forward to see what I can "see". :-)


I was interested in a "crispy greens" pizza recipe I saw recently in one of the newsletters.  It used shredded zucchini or summer squash, salted, mixed with cheese and baked on a typical pizza or flatbread dough.

Unfortunately I STILL have not really tried to make dough - something I keep promising myself each winter. One of these years.  In the meantime, I like to use Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas to make "pizzas" - as they work really, really well in my toaster oven - on the toast setting.

A tortilla pizza is the perfect size for us, good for two snacks or a light meal.

The original recipe called for only shredded zucchini, but I am trying to do more things with a variety of greens, not just salad and soups (both of which I love greens in) but other things and now I have this great option.  For this recipe I used curly kale and zucchini, but next I am going to use my sweet potato and Egyptian leaves along with anything else green growing in the garden.

My Crispy Greens Tortilla "Pizza"

1 whole wheat tortilla                                                                                                                               
1 ounce Monterey Jack Cheese (or cheese of choice)                                                                                                                               
1/2  ounce Parmesan cheese
2 cups of kale
1 cup of zucchini  (half of 8 inch fruit)                                                                                                                             
2 tablespoons of red onion                                                                                                                                                               

--Set oven to 500 or arrange toaster oven on Toast at highest degree                                                           
--Shred cheeses separately set aside                                                           
--Shred zucchini and toss in bowl with some salt to wilt - let sit for 20 minutes.                                                           
--Thinly slice onion.                                                           
--Shred kale set aside.                                                           
--Using a glass pie plate, place tortilla in plate.                                                           
--Squeeze zucchini to get moisture out. Toss with kale, add the monterey jack cheese and toss.
--Top tortilla - spread to cover entire surface. sprinkle with a bit of salt and parmesan cheese and spread sliced onion over top.
--Toast/bake for approximately 15 minutes, WATCH - you want some charring on greens and top, but not burnt.                                                           
--Makes 4 wedges each 14 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and 228 calories.

I hope you have a fabulous and safe 4th of July.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Remember you can finding my gardening and cooking calendars and books on my website.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Garlic Harvest and More.

Dear Folks,

I finally harvested my garlic this morning.  And they are looking great!  Both Regular and Elephant types performed well compared to last year - when it was so warm the garlic did not properly create the cloves.  This year, the extended rain etc. seemed to slow the growth down and I waited and waited and seemed to wait more for the scapes to appear to cut them off.  Scapes are the flower bud and you cut them off to force the energy back into completing the formation of the cloves in the head of garlic.

[Pictured - pulled from the garden - then rinsed and on a wire "hat" to dry in the shade.  You can easily see how big the Elephant is compared to the Regular.  You can see my trusty glass bucket I use to rinse the plants.]

Finally I got scapes cut off a couple of weeks ago (and still found some on the garlic I harvested today!) and let the plants do their final thing.

Some facts about garlic.

Here in the desert plant Garlic in October and no later than October 31st.  I usually get mine October 1st (one of my traditions) but with life getting in the way, I finally got them in October 8th.

Garlic needs ALL of the winter cold to properly grow and form the cloves.  Without a lot of cold you get large "garlic scallions" which taste great but do not form cloves and cannot be dried and stored.

I picked up both varieties at the Gilroy Festival last summer and stored them for planting.

Regular Garlic (Allium sativum) probably needs no additional details.  There are many varieties from pure white to purple, from mild to spicy in flavor.

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is a unique onion family member.  It is not a true garlic but rather a relative of the leek.  I like to explain leeks and elephant garlic this way:  A Leek is a Scallion on steroids (neither produce a bulb) and Elephant Garlic is a Leek on a whole lot more steroids to produce both cloves in a head and unique bulblets (see picture).

Elephant Garlic's flavor is far milder than regular garlic .  Also Elephant Garlic does not store as well as Regular Garlic, so while both are air dried in the shade, plan on using the Elephant Garlic sooner.

If you sun dry your herbs and vegetables, slicing either garlic for sun drying is an excellent way to preserve them longer. (You can use a dehydrator of course, but I like the sun - saves electricity.)

Planting and Bulblets.

When you plant in the fall, you are planting individual cloves, pointy side up, about 2 inches deep.  Keep the area weed free.  You can plant about 5-6 inches apart OR you can plant closer together and plan on harvesting a "garlic scallion" as needed through the winter.

In the pictures shown here - you can see two different Bulblets (sometimes called Bulbils.  Both garlics produce a side growth if in the ground long enough.   This first picture is regular garlic with a dark brown bulblet growing from the base of the garlic head.  It looks a lot like a clove.

In the next picture I show two different elephant garlic (light tan)  bulblets which grow out of the side of the elephant garlic and by the time you harvest they have usually separated from the "mother".

These bulblets can be planted instead of the dried cloves, however it may take two seasons for the plant to have sufficient energy to produce and form a head of cloves.

To add to the planting options, if you let the flower scape go to full flower stage, what you will see is a cluster of tiny bulblets and these too can be planted, too although they may not reliable grow.


Dry your garlic in the shade (I use the shade of my fruit trees - which also provides air ciruluation) for approximately 2-3 weeks until the exterior is papery (as you find them in the store).  That means they have lost enough moisture to store for use.

Saving and Re-Using

Like potatoes, when the heads are dry enough, you can also store one or two in cardboard in the crisper (away form moist produce) for planting in October.  As you can determine from the timing, Planted Oct 8 - harvest June 19th you need to plan on approximately 7 months, give or take, to harvest.  The all important times are:  Planting and cutting the scapes off in the spring.  Once the scapes are removed the plant will start to die back with yellowing leaves so about 2-3 weeks after removing the scapes, you can harvest and dry your garlic.


I also pulled another monster Chanatay Carrot from the garden.  These are amazing.  I wrote about them recently.  With life challenges I did not keep up with harvesting this wonderful variety.  The lucky thing for me is they still taste great even at this large size.

And one more from the garden.  My Caper is flowering now and also starting to produce berries - fruit.  These stunning flowers only last about a day.  You can see another bud just starting to open, showing the white edge.  Capers are "usually" the harvested unopened flower bud, preserved.  But some of my caper growing friends and I prefer waiting until the fruit forms and then harvesting and preserving them - more like an olive.  More "bang" for the effort.

I hope you are enjoying your garden's bounty in the kitchen.

You can find my helpful calendars and books on my website.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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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.


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:

Luffa Gourds
Musk Melons
Squash, Winter       

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.

    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.

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.


Cucumber, Armenian
Luffa Gourd
Melons, Musk
Peas, Black Eyed
Peppers, Chiles
Potato, Sweet

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


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

    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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