Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Harvest: Options for Bounty

Dear Folks,

I have had a real bounty of things from the garden this past month, and it is continuing.

While I do compost, and "chop and drop" extra foliage while working through the various areas, I really needed to capture the freshness of these great meal options.

Because it is just the 2 of us (although I do share), if I make something like the "sauce" or roasted veggies I freeze in small jars for later use in soups, stews, and pastas - Or Tortilla Pizza! See recipe here.

The picture above is my sweet peppers turned into a roasted sauce I can use later.  The roasting made this even sweeter than the raw peppers. See the collage of process below.

I have a lot of greens and herbs that I harvest to add to anything from salad to soups to pizza or pasta.  Look closely as the collage top left and you will see green, pink and white! celery.  This was a fun surprise when I was harvesting.  I added some pink celery seeds to this celery pot and while I was cutting for this harvest day, I discovered the white. WOW, fun garden find.  This mass of greens (and some nasturtium petals) has herbs, kale and i'itoi onion tops. I also use the bulb, not not this time.

I decided to make some "salad in a jar" for having on hand.  I add tomatoes later when I am ready to dress the salad. Tomatoes can lose their real flavor when refrigerated.

Typically, salad in a jar has a dressing on the bottom, sturdy chopped next and greens on top so they do not get soggy.  I like to add dressing later when I actually am ready to use the salad, so all veggies stay fresh.  I also put a small piece of paper towel on top before capping to control excess moisture.

On another harvest day, I brought in more celery and parsley because I decided I needed to have 'pesto' on hand (and in the freezer)

I did use some of this pesto when I made another tortilla pizza the other day with some of my homemade pasta source, some of those chopped veggies shown in salad-in-jar picture and a LOT of cheese :)  I know you may say "pesto"? but really any combination of herbs, greens, oil, garlic (my limequat juice and garlic in the left of center picture), walnuts and some salt makes a great pesto. If you want to call it a paste or sauce, that works too.

I have been harvesting a lot of sugar peas and asparagus (we are now in what should be the final week of our asparagus bed harvest, I sometimes push that time frame :).  Here I decided to roast some of each - I did not have a lot that day so I just used the same pan.  I warm a little oil in a pot.  Add chopped veggie, and swirl to coat.  Lay out on a tray, add salt and pepper and roast . I use my toaster oven a lot, saving the big oven for bigger meal prep.  I may add herbs, I did not this time.  About 15 minutes at 425 usually works for a nice roast and slight char.


Back to my sweet pepper sauce.  Here is the process I follow.

Seed and chop the peppers, roast, cook down a bit more, then puree in my bullet blender.  I used the "left over" sauce in the blender swirled with some stock in a pasta dish later.  Froze the sauce.  All those peppers cooked down into two 4 oz jars :)  Sounds like a lot of work, but I consider it worth it to have garden deliciousness later! 

With the peppers and all of these continuing to produce, I still have fresh whenever I want to go out and pick.

I hope these give you some ideas for preserving your own bounty and using creatively.

Have a best day,

Be patient, be safe and be kind to yourself and each other.


 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

March Planting Tips

Dear Folks,

This Wednesday, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day.

We just celebrated Valentine's Day with our loves.  Look around you, not only February 17th, but always, to see it someone or something could use a little kindness.  The stress, boredom and confusion brought to our lives by the Pandemic as we try to navigate to a better place, can make the challenges of others less visible.

My Dwarf Black Mulberry is putting out leaves, has been for a couple of weeks now.  The unusual warm January and February beginning has many of the plants growing sooner.

Looking forward on weather we are going to have a warmer spring, sooner.  I would not be surprised if we beat one of our first 100 degree day statistics.

About every 4 or so days for the last 2-3 weeks I have been harvesting asparagus, alpine strawberries and sugar peas.  Wonderful time of the year in the garden.

I cook the tops of the asparagus up for Deane who just loves them, wound up freezing a couple of jars for later.  The bottoms which are just a little tougher, I just eat raw as a snack!  If you have never eaten a raw asparagus fresh from the garden you do not know what you are missing!

MARCH PLANTING:
   
Artichoke, Jerusalem
Artichoke, Globe
Basil, Plant or seed
Bay, Greek aka Sweet
Bean, Lima
Beans, Snap
Beans, Soy (March 15th)
Bee Balm
Beets
Cantaloupe
Carrots
Catnip, Plant or Seed
Chives, Garlic, Plant or seed
Chives, Onion, Plant or seed
Corn        
Cucumbers
Eggplant
English Daisy
Epazote, Plant or seed
Hollyhock
Jicama
Lavender
Lemon Grass
Lemon Balm
Lemon Verbena
Marigolds including ,Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii), Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Marjoram
Melons, Winter
Melons, Musk
Mints
Myrtle   
Okra
Onions, Green
Oregano, Mexican
Oregano, Greek
Peppers
Perilla, Plant or Seed
Portulaca
Pumpkin
Radishes
Rosemary
Safflower
Sage
Savory
Scented Geraniums
Squash, Winter
Stevia
Summer Squash
Sunflower
Sweet Alyssum
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French
Thyme
Tomatillo
Tomatoes
Watermelon

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Bee Balm
English Daisy
Hollyhock
Marigolds including ,Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii), Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Portulaca
Safflower
Scented Geraniums
Sunflower
Sweet Alyssum


GARDEN TIPS for March
    If you are just now thinking about planting, see Flower Mulching technique. And run, do not walk, to purchase a water meter from your favorite garden nursery.  The gallop into high heat can occur this month with such rapidity that we can go 70 to 95 in 30 days. (In a rare occurrence, we hit a 100 one year on March 29th.)
    Get a jump on spring with weed cleanup.  Some pests breed on the winter weeds and can launch an incredible attack (a type of gnat can assume locus swarm proportions), which may cover everything light or white in color, plants, flowers, buildings, even clothes drying on the line.
    Perennial herbs will be starting to flower by end of March / beginning of April.  If you use thyme, marjoram, oregano or any of the trailing herbs as ground covers, enjoy the blooms, then give them a hair cut.  Remember the flowers are edible!
    HAIL!!!  Is a possibility in spring as the soil warms, and weather highs and lows bring alternating warm and cool air mass.  If you add winds to the mix HAIL is a strong possibility.  Keep your frost protection covers/poor man’s cloches handy.
    The pest bugs like our mild weather too with aphids a particular pest.  SAFE Soap Spray for aphids: 1 tsp each vegetable oil and Dawn to 1 quart of water.  Spray every 5 days at sunset at least 3 times.  DO NOT MISS a follow up spraying - spraying once will not take care of the aphid problem.  The 1st gets the active adults, the 2nd one picks up the just hatched and missed ones and 3rd one gets the stragglers.


FLOWER MULCHING TECHNIQUE
    Some years ago I tripped across this idea when I wanted to grow a lot of basil fast, and I was planting late into the heat (late spring, early summer).
    First, what is going on that a special technique needs to be used?
    As the spring and summer day time temperatures climb into the high 90s and 100s, the surface of ANYTHING heats up and stays hot -- remember burning your feet on the pool surrounds?  By July and August the surface afternoon mean temperature of soil, the sides of pots, asphalt and concrete can be as high as 180 degrees F!  That includes the top 3-4 inches of soil.  Without a protective canopy or surround the soil heats up to root killing levels.
    So back to the basil.  It was June and as I say I wanted a lot of basil fast, and so I planted about 8 young starter basil plants out of 3-4 inch containers, planting them about 6 inches apart.  As I watched them over the course of a couple of weeks, the outer plants one by one died off.  But the 1 or 2 plants in the center not only lasted, they thrived.
    So what was going on?  The outer plantings shaded the sides of the center plants, but still allowed the very necessary direct sunlight from above to feed (photosynthesis) the center plants.  The outer plants leaves, while canopying the soil around the center plants also keep the soil surface cooler and moister until the center plants grew big enough to be their own canopies.
    My "Flower Mulching" technique was born.  Not wanting to sacrifice primary edibles, I turned to seasonal edible flowers to provide the initial protection.
    THE TECHNIQUE:  Imagine a 12 inch diameter circle.  Place your primary herb, vegetable or fruit plant in the middle and using 3-5 flowers from a six pack or 3-5 4 inch flowers plant very close to the primary plant staying within the imaginary 12 inches.  You can also plant the flowers first and then the primary plant, or you can use existing plantings to perform the same service.  Many of the flowers will survive to be used in salads etc. (which is why I choose seasonal edible flowers).  If the flower plants were not grown organically or without chemicals, wait 90 days before harvesting the flowers for food use.

Have a best day in the garden.

Be patient, be kind to yourself and one another,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!

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Sunday, January 31, 2021

What do you do with a 'mess' (bunch) of fresh herbs and greens?

Dear Folks,

For all of my frustration with the under-performing gardens because of the up/down weather, I have been blessed with a lot of herbs and greens!  So what to do. Pictured, I gathered, rinse and chopped a big pile of kale, lettuces, celery, parsley, and chervil.  I froze half of this for later use and used half to make one of my 'Herb Soups'.


This is a picture of one I made last year.  Topped with Parmesan cheese crisps. 

My original recipe for Herb Soup in 2013 is here.  I have made many versions over the years because it is just so good.  You can imbellish/garnish with whatver you like.

I encourage you to use boiling water for your first try rather than a broth as the herbs etc. give it an amazing flavor.

Well, what else can one do with a whole 'mess' of greens and herbs?

In the past I have made pesto, green goddess dressing (unlike many recipes, I start with a base of a vinaigrette of oil and lemon, lime juice or vinegar) add any greens and herbs I have and whirl in the blender.  A wonderful dressing for salad or pasta.

I decided to do a little research and found a wonderful article on Epicurious website for 10 Green Sauces.

I am sure many of you have heard of some of them in addition to pesto, there is chimichurii, and Salsa Verde.  BTW if you make Salsa Verde I have used my fresh Epazote as part of the mix. Some of the recipes for Salsa Verde from Mexico stuff a fish with a mix of herbs, including Epazote.  Not quite a green "sauce" but same flavor enhancer. 

I hope you use your greens and herbs for some of these amazing sauces.

Have a best day,

Stay safe, be patient and be kind to yourself and one another,

My Original Herb Soup Recipe is from my book "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady" where I highlight one or more herbs to create recipes focusing on them.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, January 25, 2021

My Sweet Peppers in the Garden in January

Dear Folks,

For all of the crazy up/down weather, my sweet peppers are loving the cooler temps and ramping up production. So, I decided to use them to make some meals.  I did not take a picture of the potato/egg/pepper salad I made with the Orange Hungarian Paradicsom Sweet Pepper.  But is was great.  This pepper is a thick-walled lobbed variety and very sweet.  The plant is going on 5+ years old

The Purple Beauty (really black) Sweet pepper is truly a remarkable color.  I was so excited to harvest them, I forgot they are actually in their "green" stage and would eventually be more purple.  No matter, they were going into one of my "creamy soups."  The plant is still putting out flowers.

I sowed the seeds for the Purple Beauty, mid-December-2019 and transplanted to its pot home mid February 2020.

Peppers struggle to produce well in the heat of our summer, but overall grow well.  Then when the temps start to fall back down in fall they ramp up production again.

My "creamy" soups are a main vegetable, in this case the purple peppers, potato (for the 'creamy'), onion, avocado oil, salt, pepper and an herb or herbs. I choose rosemary for this one.  I frequently stir in cheese to melt right after pureeing the soup.  This time I decided not to use cheese.

I created a long collage of the photo steps.  I always garnish the soup with things from the garden.  Sometimes flowers or chopped sugar pea pods.  I used a mix of greens, herbs and sprouts (I was gifted with seed sprout tray-which I love), sliced radishes and I had some leftover breakfast sausage, and finally I always squeeze some of our limequat juice over the soup just before service. It gives the soup and extra zip.

Basic "Creamy" Potato Vegetable Soup
This makes about 3+ cups of finished soup (can easily be doubled)
The "Creamy" is from the potato - cheese optional, so this can be vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-allergic friendly

These soups reheat beautifully the next day - if there are leftovers.  Warm on the stove or micowave for 90 seconds. I have also frozen leftover.

THE KEY to the flavor and quality of this soup is:

1)  roasting the focus vegetable(s)
2)  using potato, don't rinse you need the starch and I strongly recommend leaving the peels on.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of avocado, olive or oil or fat of of choice
2 - 4 tablespoons of diced onion, leek, garlic, chive etc of your choice
1 medium size potato (small chunks equal to about 1 1/2 cups) - I do NOT peel my potatoes.
2 cups of vegetable of choice, diced
2 cups of water or broth
salt and cracked black pepper
limequat, lime or lemon
Optional:  complimentary herbs/spices to the vegetable
Optional;:  4 ounces of shredded or grated cheese of choice which compliments the vegetables and herbs: White cheddar, parmesan etc.  You could float a small cube of Brie on each bowl of soup as a garnish

Garnish of choice:  minced vegetables, slivered greens, capers or minced olives, edible flowers - pretty much any topping you think goes with the vegetable you chose.

An immersion blender works great for this.

Directions:

Heat oven to 450 and prepare a pan with aluminum foil for roasting the focus vegetable.

The timing of preparation is to take advantage of cooking two different components at the same time, so the whole preparation takes about 20-30 minutes.

Prepare the vegetable.
Wash potato, remove any blemishes, do not peel, cut into chunks and add to water, set aside.
Prepare onion (garlic etc.) of choice
Prepare or have ready the complimentary herb or spice mix you are using
Have your choice of garnishes ready and set aside
Shred cheese if using, set aside

In the pot you will cook the soup in, warm 1 tablespoon of fat/oil of choice and toss the focus vegetable with the oil - in the pot.  Spread the vegetable out on the prepared pan and season with salt and pepper. Do not wipe out the pot.

Add the last tablespoon of fat to the pot, and cook the onion of choice on low.  Put the pan of vegetables into the oven and set the time for 5 minutes.

Stir the onion and do not let it burn.

When the timer goes off, add the potatoes and water (or broth) to the pot, bring to a boil, covered.

Stir the pan of vegetables and reset the timer for 5 minutes.

Lower the pot to a gentle low boil.

When the timer goes off, add the roasted vegetable to the pot, add any herbs or spices you are going to use, cover and boil on low for 7 minutes or until the potato is tender.

Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree the soup - I like to leave some chunks in for texture.

At this point if you are adding cheese, do so and stir to fully melt the cheese.  Ladle into bowls, top with garnish of choice, squeeze some lime or lemon juice over and serve and enjoy!

I hope you try this type of soup with your favorite vegetable(s) from the garden.

Have a best day,

Be safe, be kind, be gentle with yourself and each other. 

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

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

February Planting Tips


Dear Folks,

Now that the holidays are behind us - and your potatoes are planted (you did get them in the ground, right?-- They should be planted now for optimal harvest in April -- I planted mine January 2nd).  It is time to think about when you transplant either purchased or indoor started plants like Tomatoes, Basil, Eggplant, Sweet Peppers etc.  The plants which can be perennial here, but need some frost protection.

They produce best is you can get them in ground by February 1st, or thereabouts. BUT you need to cover them during the nights until all frost danger is past. About mid-March in the Valley.  The picture about is a cool and cheap option for covering your tender plants.  Cheap umbrellas (like Dollar Tree) make adequate greenhouses.

I have used gallon jugs, boxes and sometimes cages (to hold covers).  This is my tomato in a special cage we made from two pieces of hogwire.  I believe in letting tomatoes here in the valley, sprawl so they are not UP in the hot dry air, but I needed something to put the sheet over and not crush the plant.  This was a gift from our neighbor who bought too many plants.  You can't see it but I put a smaller column of chicken wire around the base (when it was smaller) and filled with dry leaves to add some additional frost protection.

Speaking of frost - the weather is truly a pick-a-factor/possibility.  After an protracted warmer fall and early winter, the plants have been as confused as I have ever seen them.  So, while I am not sure we will actually get much frost/freeze time this year.  "Arizona’s Weather Authority says La NiƱa typically means a drier than average winter for us. It will likely be a bit warmer, too." --AzFamily - September 2020.

With that said, we can actually get hail in March when the soil begins warming, the upper levels air remains cool and we get wind and rain.  So have whatever frost protection handy.

With the non-performance of one of my usual greens and herb bed, I decided to grow more of them in pots and I have a nice selection. 




Left to right: Parsley, Chervil, Celery, Cilantro.


Another plant I seeded into a pot in early October is this lovely Black Bell Pepper.  The fruit has been small, but I expect them to get bigger with the cooler weather.  Peppers do well here, but more so during not-hot times.


And one last picture.  About 2 years ago I planted several apple trees from seed.  Most of them are in pots, but I wanted to see how a seed-grown apple would do in the ground here.  I used the box to show you the original main trunk has lost its leaves.  The second trunk grew last year and only now are the leaves turning and I expect them to drop eventually.  The tree is healthy.  We shall see how it does.

 

 

 

GARDEN TIPS for February

February is the transition time for the garden from Winter to Spring sowing, transplanting and harvesting.

There is still time to get a last batch of carrots, sugarpeas, lettuces and similar in the ground. Choosing short maturity varieties, particularly of the root veggies, will give you more harvesting success as the weather jumps to heat in a couple of months.

February is also the time to start your warm season plants like tomatoes, basil and peppers, to name a few.  But they may need some initial frost protection.  Keep in mind that they may actually stop growing if there is a cold day or several, which chills the soil.  Then they resume when the soil heats back up (an interesting phenomenon I finally caught on to several years ago).

The weird weather of the last couple of years in February/March with high temps followed by overnight chill/freeze (Global Weirding as Karis over at the Valley Permaculture Alliance put it so well), makes for some required diligence in the garden in February and March.  It pays to remain more mindful of what the weather will be rather than just sow and try to grow.

February is the end of the primary perennial best planting time in the valley (October - February).  What this means is that to ensure the best success for your perennials like rosemary, oregano and fruit trees, it is best to have them in the ground before the end of February and the beginning of our temperature increases.

New to-the-valley residents can be surprised by the common spring joke of "when is spring here?" and the answer is "do you remember that period in early March when it was about 78-83 or so degrees for about 2 weeks? - that was it!"

This of course is due to the sudden rise of temperatures from balmy mid 70s in late February / early March to the 90s by April 1st (or higher - we have had the rare 100+ degree days in late March or early April).

The plants just can't take the stress of dealing with putting down roots while the temperatures soar into the 90+ range in just a few short weeks.

Fertilize fruit trees now -- Use Valentine's day as the target -- (and again in late May (Memorial Day) and early September (Labor Day).
    Pecan trees need zinc sulfate, applied at the rate of 1 pound per trunk inch width.


ABOUT FROST
    The last frost date averages around February 15th, although we have had frost as late as March 1st or 2nd (usually the result of a late winter storm with hail).
    Frost in the Valley at the 1100 or lower elevations is usually limited to ‘soft frost’ where simple sheets or paper placed over sensitive plants (or moving potted plants beneath patios or trees) is sufficient to protect them. Hard/Killing frosts are rare particularly in February/March.
    For every 1000 feet over 1100 in elevation the last frost day is moved back 10 days and the possibility of hard (killing) frosts starts to occur.  At 2000 feet or lower, this is still a rare occurrence.
    Getting your edible seedlings in the ground as early as possible provides longer-produce seasons - especially with plants like tomatoes.
    Use homemade 'cloche' covers to protect seedlings -- cut the bottom of gallon milk containers or 2 liter soda bottles - clean very well to avoid mold -- place over plants each night until frost danger is past, remove during the day, or if you need to be gone for several days remove the cap to allow excess heat and humidity to escape.
    How do you know if we are finished with frost?  There are some examples in nature, but you still need to be prepared to cover sensitive plants through the 2nd week in March.
        a. Ant activity in the garden indicates the soil has warmed up sufficiently for them to start gathering food again.
        b. If the mesquite trees have started to bud out, it is unlikely to frost after that
        c. Be aware that a warm storm can contain some hail through March.

HAIL
    Here in the Valley we can have Hail on an expected basis in Spring, early Summer and Fall.
    The perfect conditions for Hail are warm OR WARMING soil, cool air mass coming in AND wind.

    February and March have the perfect combination of warming soil and a cool system moving in.  If you add wind you will generally get hail.
    So, while actual frost may not happen keep your frost protection covers and jugs handy in the event of hail to safeguard your new seedlings and transplants.
February Planting

VEGETABLES, FRUITS & HERBS TO PLANT

Artichoke
Asparagus
Basil
Bay
Bean, Lima
Beets
Bok Choy
Cantaloupe
Carrots
Chard
Citrus Scented Marigold (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Collards
Corn
Cucumbers
Epazote
Fruit Trees
Jerusalem Artichoke
Lavender
Lettuce & Greens
Marigold
Marjoram
Melon, Musk Melon
Melon, Winter
Mint
Mustard
Onion, Sets
Onions, Green
Oregano
Peas
Peppers
Potatoes
Purslane
Radishes
Sage
Savory
Spinach
Squash, Summer
Strawberry
Thyme
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watermelon

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma)
English Daisy
Hollyhock
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Pansies
Primrose
Purslane
Safflower
Scented Geraniums
Snapdragons
Sunflower
Sweet Alyssum
Tangerine Scented Marigold (Tagetes Lemonii)
 

Take care of yourselves and each other,

 -- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

12 Days of Celebrations

Dear Folks,

With many, many people needing the hope, distractions, and celebration of Christmas and the rest of the holiday season,  I am re-posting ideas for celebrations, history and food of the season, charity, and of course our gardens.

[Pictured: One of our navel orange ripening, which always makes me think of ornaments on a Christmas tree.]

In 2009 I created individual posts for the 12 days of Christmas.  While the commercial treatment of the 12 days has been all about "before" Christmas, the original 12 days did NOT lead up to Christmas, it started with Christmas.

The celebrations such as Kwanzaa and New Years are discussed.

Some of the 'internal' links to the posts may no longer work, however I hope you enjoy reading through these for ideas, and interesting facts.

There are no photos in these.  I had not yet figured out how to use the camera and take good pictures - so I hope that does not take away from enjoying the posts.

 
--Catherine

http://edibleherbsandflowers.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-12-days-of-christmas-worth-re-posting.html

I wish for you peace, love and hope,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

 

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

December Planting Tip

Dear Folks,

A little late with this tip post.  So the important points are these:

Prune deciduous trees, cut asparagus back to ground, and get beds ready for potato planting New Year's Day.  If your citrus needs some dead branch removal, get that done now.  The fruit trees will be bursting into flower in January and February.

Keep in mind, as you read through the tips, this is 2020 - all "norms" are off, so hopefully your garden will  "show" you what it needs.

Pictured is my celery in two different beds.  Most of this celery has been growing for about 10 months!!  Since I use a lot of celery I am delighted that, at least for this edible, some things worked out great.

My tip for having these plants last so long is to cut from the center.  I did that initially when I wanted the most tender stalks and leaves, but discovered it stopped the plant from trying to go to flower - even in the heat of the summer.  The older stalks served to feed the plant. So what I seem to have now is perennial celery. Great!!

I say that about my celery, because many of my seeded plants since the beginning of fall have struggled with the lingering heat, then cold then up/down.  My sugar peas took FOREVER to sprout even with repeated sowing.

Initially my radish seeds sprouted so quickly it was almost overnight, then, stopped sprouting quickly and slowed to growing really, really slow.  My first harvest of them was looking so good, then practically nothing as the weather went up/down on a roller coaster.

So far the citrus ripening seems to be actually ahead of schedule!!!

The Turmeric seems to be about where it should, starting to go down.   When it finally dies back I can dig up and separate roots, save some for me and replant the rest.

Turmeric likes a partially shaded area with morning sun. This one has been growing in this spot for several years. 


We have a lot of critter visitors mostly birds.  One of the ones we particularly enjoy are the Peach Faced Love Birds who we call the Cheepy Guys for their joyful sounding chatter.

We do not normally see them near the ground, they like the sunflower and other high-up seed options - we were lucky enough to catch this one on our bird block (we also throw loose seed).


Finally, before we get to the planting tips, I wanted to share a recipe I have been making for several years around the holidays.

No, not from the garden, but with lots of good things for you (dark chocolate, walnuts, dried berries and cheerios). Called "good for you candy" the original recipe was created by Jean Carper and appeared in a Parade Sunday Magazine.

My Good For You Candy

2 1/2 cups Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips

1 1/2 cups cheerios or other whole-grain cereal 

1 cup dried sweetened cranberries (original called for dried cherries)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, you can add more if you like.

Drop by spoon fulls on parchment or aluminum foil and put in frig for an hour or so to harden up.

I also will drop spoon fulls in small paper candy cups to make smaller portions.

I hope you try these. :-)

 

 December PLANTING:

Anise
Asparagus
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Cabbage
Caraway
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chamomile
Chervil
Cilantro
Dill
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit, Bare Root
Fruit Trees
Greens
Kohlrabi
Lavender
Lettuce
Marjoram
Mustard
Myrtle
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Parsley
Peppers (seed)
Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)
Radishes
Sage
Savory
Spinach
Strawberry
Thyme
Turnips
Watermelon (by seed December 15 and after)

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:

Carnation (Dianthus)
Chamomile
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Nasturtiums
Pansies
Primrose
Scented Geraniums
Snapdragons                
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for December
    Holiday time can be stressful. Your edible garden can be an oasis from stress.  With citrus fruit ripening like yellow and orange ornaments, pansies blooming, and dill waving in the breeze, winter is only a state of mind here in the Desert Southwest.
    November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert.  2020 had been VERY different.  IF the rains comes, you can usually hold off on regular watering if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days (except for trees unless you receive 1 inch or more).  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture.  
    If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironite or Green Sand to compensate for mineral bonding (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.  Ironite is not a fertilizer so it will not burn plants -- apply to the drip line (edge) of tree canopy.

Watering Guide:
As the temperatures rise or decrease, a guide (this is only a guide! make use of your moisture meter to check moisture content of soil) For mature gardens would be:
    70s water every 5-6 days for all but trees
    80s water every 4-5 days for all but trees
    90s water every 3-4 days for all but trees
    100s water every 2-3 days for all but trees

Garden Design tip - if you are considering laying out a new garden, use Ironite to 'draw' the garden layout on the soil, easy and safe.

FROST damage:  Do not prune until danger of frost is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.

PRUNING:

Prune citrus and deciduous fruit trees in December, or no later than early January before flowering starts.

Occasionally our crazy peach trees drive Deane nuts because they still have leaves on them when they start to flower in late December or early January.

The idea with pruning deciduous trees is to get it done before the 'sap starts running' in the warming spring weather.  Because we do not usually have extended cold spells some of the stone fruit trees may not actually go into full dormancy.

The commercial growers like Schnepf Farms have simply adopted the practice of prunning their peach etc. trees after December 15th. This ensures that flower buds will not be pruned off later on.

There is always the challenge of a cold spell coming in January or February while the stone fruit trees are coming into bloom, which in other areas of the country might mean the severe limiting of fruit production.  Here we have not generally found that a short cold period has killed off the flower bloom/fruit production.

If you feel you are in a colder area, you can cover the blooming peaches, apricots, plums and apples with cloth covers if you can reach high enough to make it worth the effort.

FRUIT TREE PESTS

Peach tree borers are a problem here in the valley as the special hybrid stone fruit trees are more vulnerable to borers because the pests are not killed off as readily as in very cold areas of the country.

Winter 'dormancy' of the trees is the time to consider treating the trees to an oil spray to discourage the darn pests

Generally called "dormant oil" or "horticulture oil" this is a heavy oil based control which is designed to smother the pests, and therefore can't be applied to the active growing parts of any plants.  It is sprayed on the trunks of stone fruit (not evergreen like citrus) from the soil-base line up.  Make sure you read the instructions carefully.

If peach and other stone fruit trees are new to you and your garden, look for swelling on the buds/edges of each branch which indicates the tree is going into active growth and DO NOT use the spray on those areas.

In future notes I will discuss thinning fruit and a nice spring bouquet option of "forced" branches.

Have a safe and peaceful Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year's

Be kind, be patient and thoughtful.

 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

 

 

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