Tag Archive | Herbs

Wordless Wednesday–Poisoned!

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If you have any doubt about what did this after Monday’s post, I have to wonder about you.

This is caused by the pesticide drift from the backpack sprayer where the lawn guys applied broadleaf weed control in my yard.

So in addition to killing all the “good stuff” like the clover that my bees were loving, now my entire vegetable garden is contaminated–and I have visible proof!

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These are–or were–my green beans. You can even see a bean just about ready in the photo. But who in her right mind would eat anything that’s now contaminated with broadleaf weed killer?

But of course, it’s not just the beans. Everything in this garden is  now contaminated: tomatoes, herbs and edible flowers are all a loss. And those are just my losses. Losses to the pollinators are immeasurable.

And of course I don’t dare walk my own dog in my yard because this sort of weed killer has been implicated in cancer in dogs. There are lots of reasons we’re organic. Yes, it’s just the right thing to do. But we’d also prefer not to prematurely kill our dog.

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So now the question becomes–do I look at this or do I just rip it all out?

And of course–what else is going to die?

Composed Flowers

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We hear a lot about “composite flowers” as being great for our pollinators. When they talk about composites, they often talk about things like daisies, cone flowers, sunflower and other flowers with a central disk and a ray of petals radiating from that disk.

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Even these lovely “weeds”–fleabane is the correct name for them and they are in the aster family so you might want to leave them for your pollinators because the tiny little bees adore them–are a fabulous little composite flower. Such a tiny miracle of nature.

I’m here to propose a totally different sort of “composite”–or perhaps I mean “composed”–type of flower that is excellent for our pollinators.

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This photo above is of a great, underused native called veronicastrum. Maybe it’s the name the puts everyone off. The common name is Culver’s root, which isn’t much better. It is native to my part of the country, the eastern seaboard, basically. And normally, it is quite tall, towering over my head. This year it’s stunted–probably only 3′ or so. That’s what 2 1/2 years of drought will do to a native perennial.

What’s great about it is that all these individual spikelets bloom for weeks on end–and sometimes secondary spikelets will form further down the stem, prolonging the bloom time. I have seen several types of bees and solitary wasps all at the same time on this one perennial.

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This of course is our native milkweed, asclepias syriacus. It’s great for our monarchs but what a lot of folks don’t realize is that many bees like it too.

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Finally here is oregano. Notice all the tiny florets. Mine is constantly covered with bumblebees all summer long.

Obviously I don’t use this for cooking or I wouldn’t let it flower. I have some oregano that I use for culinary purposes (meaning that I don’t let it flower) in my vegetable garden. But from what I understand, these flowers are edible too. I would just hate to disturb the bees!

Wordless Wednesday–Wabi-sabi Wednesday

I am not sure how long I have owned my little chipped bird. He was a “freebie.”  I brought it home from the garden center where I worked over a decade ago  ( with their blessing of course) because it was obviously not saleable.

I have a similar small bird on my desk, with just a chipped beak. It’s painted. I call it the blue bird of happiness.

Many folks couldn’t stand such “imperfections” in their lives or their gardens. For me, I find that small imperfections are what life is all about.

Oregano for Pollinators?

 

20160804_142258Although they are not visible in this photo, there were literally dozens of small bees on this flowering oregano. There were four honeybees. There was at least one bumblebee. And there were 3 steel blue cricket hunter wasps. All on this one clump of oregano.

I didn’t want to get too close to take the photo because I didn’t want to disrupt all those pollinators! Believe it or not, this clump of oregano (which grew from a 4″ pot planted maybe 4 years ago?) is not there to feed anyone. It’s there mainly as a deterrent.

This is my “work” garden. I planted it a few years ago and then it wasn’t supposed to be “mine” anymore.  You know how that goes. I still take care of it and weed it and plant it every spring, etc. That’s fine. It’s definitely small enough for me to manage.

But at work we have a family of woodchucks–or we did until this year. I haven’t seen them too much this year, although I closed up the hole in the garden that was there from last fall and it “re-opened” so I think they’re still around. It probably means I just haven’t been looking at the right time.

I don’t have the physical ability to do the digging required to fence against a woodchuck so I figured that I would just ring the garden with herbs, not grow what it seemed to like to eat and leave it at that. That’s why the oregano is there. It’s one of the “stinky” herbs I brought in. I think it’s even the “hot” variety. Obviously the pollinators don’t care.

At home I have some golden oregano–an ornamental variety–that came back after I removed some insect infested black eyed susans. Although the leaves still get affected by the same insect that bothered the rudbeckia, the oregano has been blooming most of the summer and it is constantly covered in bumble bees. I feel bad when I have to water the garden and get the flowers (and the bees) wet!

Try letting a small portion of your herbs flower, particularly if you have a large clump. Your pollinators will be grateful!

Wordless Wednesday

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What are you looking at (besides the tops of trash and recycling barrels, I mean)? This motley collection of foliage is actually my herb and edible garden just outside my porch door.

Yes, I have lots of herbs elsewhere on the property but if I am cooking, or even making a simple salad or sandwich,  I may not want to go half an acre away to harvest them. So I pot up my most used herbs –basil, thyme, rosemary, mint and bay–where they are in easy reach.

I also have my figs and olive tree here too. The banana and citrus are elsewhere.

As for the “real” edibles like tomatoes,  peppers and things like that? They’re in a raised bed with–what else?  More herbs, of course! That’s in the back yard.

These potted herbs also serve as season  extenders. They come into the  3 season  porch  and I can harvest from them until almost January, depending on the year. The figs over-winter there as well. The olive has to come into the house (as do the bananas and citrus).  But that’s okay.  Winter is a long way off. And all those plants help me get through it.

What Do You See?

20160317_172502Take a look at the two clay pots in the photo. Do you notice anything?

Yes, both are holding thyme plants. Yes, both thyme plants are kind of ratty. I dug them from the garden in an attempt to sort of rejuvenate them and jump start them this growing season (as if we needed any more of a jump start this already very warm growing season!)

I cut them back, trimmed up their roots, potted them up in some fresh soil and let the rain do its work in watering them. But what’s different about one of the pots?

Okay I will tell you–the pot in the front in the photo has a distinct dry–or drier–spot.  What is that telling me?  it’s probably telling me that the roots of the plant are not making contact with the side of the pot.

If this were anything other than a temporary arrangement, this could be fatal. That could indicate an air pocket that would need to be addressed.

If this were summer, this plant also could have gotten into serious trouble quickly.

But at most, these plants are only going to remain in these pots another week or two until I move them to another planter. So that’s hardly enough time for damage to occur.

But take time to notice things like this when you plant.

Where’s Your Pantry?

Normally, when I cook, I grab dried herbs or spices from my cabinet.

But on occasion, I am blessed to be able to go out into the yard–or even closer,  onto the sun porch –to grab some fresh herbs.

I have heard that the balcony is going to be the new garden.  That makes a lot of sense as people downsize.  Lots of books are coming out about smaller gardens and about gardening as we age as well  (or perhaps I mean gardening well as we age ).

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In any event,  one of the blessings of this warmer winter has been far less snow than the past 2 years. So I can get out into the yard and get thyme for stew when I want it.

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The parsley in this same garden has gotten fairly beaten down by the weather but I saved a pot on my porch for soups and stews as well.  It’s great to have these fresh herbs on hand for cooking when you need them.

Of course lots of grocery stores now carry fresh herbs–even organic ones–for cooking. But I am not the sort of cook that is organized enough to think about that sort of thing. I think about it as I am cooking.  And I am not likely to run out for a pot of herbs–or even some fresh cut ones–then. Perhaps you are different.

This is why I always have pots of fresh herbs–in season –as near to the door as possible.  I am one of those impulsive type cooks.  I am probably the same type of gardener.