Tag Archive | Herbs

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.

A Little Flavor for the Holidays

rosemary "tree"

 

Rosemary trees, topiaries and potted arrangements (sometimes with sage or other herbs) are often sold this time of year.  In my part of the world, except perhaps for a few varieties (and maybe not even then! I lost even the hardier sorts of rosemaries that wintered on my porch last year!) rosemary is not hardy unless it is somehow protected–grown in a cold frame, or wintered over indoors.

It’s the indoor wintering that can often prove to be problematic, however. Because while rosemary cannot grow outside in my region in the winter, it also doesn’t like to be indoors either. Most homes are too warm for it and it quickly develops diseases like powdery mildew (white fuzzy stuff on the leaves)

While powdery mildew is not likely to kill the plant unless it is a really severe case, it will eventually blacken the branches and it certainly makes the fragrant leaves (some call them “needles”) unsuitable for cooking. Who wants to cook with a mildewed plant?

So there are a couple of ways to avoid this: first, try not to crowd the rosemary (impossible at my house).

Next, never over-water. (Rarely a problem at my house).  But I water from the bottom in an attempt to ensure this is even less of a problem.

Also make sure the plant has the sunniest window possible. South is ideal.

Finally, if your south window is in a cool room, that’s even better.

And if your rosemary does come down with the “fuzzies,” a spray of 50/50% solution of milk (any sort of milk will do) and water should help cure that. Just try to correct any cultural issues (over-watering, too little sun) if possible at the same time.

Wordless Wednesday–Promise of Things to Come

It’s a bleak time of year. It’s hard to remember that anything will ever grow again at this point in the season.

herb bed

My vegetable bed still has lots of herbs in it that I can harvest until the snow covers them.

alpine strawberries

Luckily I still have things like these alpine strawberries all over to remind me of what’s to come next spring.

perennials

And these perennials like ajuga, hellebore and even the euonymous hidden under the leaves, will stay evergreen until snow-covered as well.