Weekly Photo Challenge: Starting Your Intricate Herb Garden

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With too many herbs to mention by name, where you live determines what and when to plant.  When I was first gardening, I learned the hard way not to assume we were warming up early just because we had an early warm up.  Living in southern Michigan, I plant my cool weather or hardy plants mid-April and the warm weather stuff by Memorial weekend, or end of May sometime.  Check for your area on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and prevent frost damage to tender seedlings. As long as your soil is enriched and aerated, all you need to worry about are the three W’s, Watering, Weeding and Watching for pests and your garden should be a success. My most successful gardens were dug by hand in clay soil.  I worked in some peat and manure and that was it, besides watering and organically killing any pest, usually by hand.  Because it was near the country, all the bigger varmints killed the little ones so no varmint damage like I have experienced trying to garden in the city.

In front of my first Garden.

In front of my first Garden.

You need to decide by choice or convenience if you prefer to purchase young plants or start them by seed.  Some seeds you can just toss in the garden soil and some you will want to start indoors and harden off before planting outdoors.  You might try experimenting depending on the type and size of the herb.  Know the size and the needs of all plants so you can better design where you wish to place them in your garden.  Find out which ones are annuals or perennials so you aren’t surprised when come back the next year with a vengeance!  I’ve had spearmint go wild on me, much to my neighbor’s chagrin, and had to weed it back to keep it on my side of the fence.  I would have loved the free spearmint if it were the other way around, but some city folks want their perfect little lawns. You can find a treasure trove of plant and garden information on the various Cooperative Extension Service sites offered by local colleges online now.  Below is a sample page from the book “Vegetable Gardening Know-How” in the herb section to give you some idea.  The author took it from the Cooperative Extension Service of Kansas State University.  The book was published in 1975, FYI. img890 Get to know your herbs.  Currently I only grow those I intend to use for cooking.  I used to grow lavender to give to others that loved it.  I had an allergy with this plant so I finally stopped, as beautiful as it is.  You can decide to grow a little around your yard, planting some in between your other garden plants or actually design a beautiful garden  that you designate for herbs only.  Be sure to lay out your design on paper first, keeping in mind the size and needs of each plant so you don’t end up crowding or shading some.  Don’t plant herbs requiring rich soil right next to those needing dryer soil or shade loving plants next to those needing full sun.  Be aware of these things and you should be OK, providing you don’t over water your garden.  Some starting out actually kill their plants with kindness by over feeding and too much watering because they are afraid the least sign of dry soil means certain death for the plant.  Most need to dry a little between rainfall or watering.  You’ll get the hang of it once you start.  Try to use containers to trap rain if you can.  Some have gone back to actual rain barrels which are great!  WARNING!  Check to be sure you are not breaking the law locally if you do this.  Yes, I am being serious!  In some states, like Colorado, it is illegal to gather rain for gardens even though it saves water in the long run.  It has to do with some petty “you own your home but don’t have water rights.”  First place, I would take that all the way to the Supreme Court if I had to for the simple reason is rain is not water.  It’s rain and can be proven so if facts are presented.  If any area of our government in America becomes that petty and controlling, it needs to be stopped and to do this, you must not obey it and fight it.  That’s the only way we have managed any freedoms in this world at all.

I hope you enjoy the intricacies of these various herbs.

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Happy gardening!

Best Herb Book!

Years ago I received “The Complete Book of Herbs A practical guide to growing & using herbs” by Lesley Bremness as a Christmas gift.  Totally loved it.  I see that it is still available online.  It offers so much information in an easy to understand, practical format.  Man has relied on herbs for our very life since recorded history.

Lavender

 

The book starts with garden planning and designs, goes right to the herbal index which lists various popular herbs with great color photos of each plant, but not in any specific order.  Included for each is a short explanations of cultivation, and their various uses.  After the herbal index the information is broken down to specific projects and recipes for decor, cooking, medicinal, health and beauty.  To name a few, the book includes recipes, how-to’s for making garlands, herbal papers, soaps and floral waters.  The back of the book goes into more specifics regarding cultivating & harvesting herbs. 

Chives

Most herbs are annual or perennials.  Beware the biennial.  They are a strange breed of plant.  Can’t figure out why they only last a couple of years and don’t fruit or seed the first year and die off after they do this during their second year of life.  You will have to be patient to be willing to wait til next year to use it and take proper care of the area it is in so it returns to complete its maturity.  So you will only get one year of production, the second year, then will need to replace it and wait for another year again.  If you wished to have a yearly crop, you would have to plant these every year.

Peppermint

 Many modern gardeners try to keep a super neat garden pulling out and chopping down everything once they die back.  Leaving some plants, like the grasses, adds beauty to the winter garden and gives the birds nesting materials in any season.  It is one thing to efficiently weed, but try not to uproot your perennials and biennials during fall or spring garden clean up.  Before I was experienced, I would accidentally take out part of my perennial’s roots after they died back trying to clean out after the plants had died back. 

 

Oregano

To sum it up, growing herbs in the garden is a good idea for many reasons.  Saves you money, you control the way it is grown, and it gives you a much larger.  I never use the stuff.  I would rather go out and hand-pick bugs off my plants and squish them before I would add a poison to my plants to kill them, and slowly kill myself.  Speaking of poison, please be careful when ingesting any herbs you are not familiar with.  Some people can be sensitive to certain types of plants and not be aware of this until they eat it.  Severe reactions are rare, but try anything in moderation first.  Always use moderation ingesting well known culinary herbs.  Some can be toxic in large doses, such as sage.  Currently there is a lot of information from so-called experts online, in books and on television regarding taking all kinds of herbs fresh or in suppliments that most have never heard of.  I cannot address these types of claims regarding relatively unknown substances.  Some culinary experts make claims to eat various things, that I was previously advised are not edible.  Just be careful and do your research.  Do not throw in some herb seeds and start eating anything that grows up from that general area.  Be sure of any plant before you ingest it.

 

 

Parsley

Find some seeds.

Organic Gardening in the Early Spring

Due to the unseasonably hot weather I have just mowed my grass for the second time this year.  Don’t think I normally mow til sometime in April.  Lovin’ it, but selfishly so due to many areas of the country have had very bad storms and tornadoes and loss of life and property.  I was in a tornado as a teen with my friends at a popular beach in the area.  Summer storm came up and an announcement was broadcasted to seek shelter due to actual tornado warning in St. Clair County.  Just a few of us were left, had to go along with my friends since I rode with someone.  The sky started to look really weird and coming towards us from the water we all noticed the large water-spout spinning madly towards the shore.  To further point out the stupidity of the young, we all ran into the station wagon while those large metal garbage cans and large branches whizzed past our heads and we were trying to protect what little brains we had with our hands.  By grace of God we were not killed or seriously injured while the tornado passed and the car rocked wildly back and forth, but never picked up.  Some of us were really scared and crying like mad, won’t mention any names.

There are basic things that to do to try to prepare for the growing season.  Try to start seedlings for some cool weather crops by the beginning or mid-March.  The last danger of frost in southern-lower Michigan is Memorial day.  After that it would be so extremely rare to have cold enough weather to kill any of the warm weather crops.  I try to get my cool weather crops planted by mid or late April

I am planning on amending my soil tomorrow so I can have the cool weather seeds planted by Friday the 13th, a very lucky number for me.  This will be the second till job on the main garden behind the garage and will add some peat and manure to enrich it.  Did not have any compost from last year because I was planning on moving and renting out my house by this summer.  I usually let some compost freeze over winter and break it up again to use later in the spring.  You need to start now to have your compost ready for later in the summer or even next year.  I still may decide to plant rye grass and more ground cover back there and make my life a whole lot easier this year by going to farmers markets instead. 

My normal routine would be to have the soil completely amended and ready for planting by mid April.  I usually plant peas, pea pods, snap peas, spinach and lettuce.  There is already lots of parsley growing in the front yard.  I also have the smallest plot of chives and oregano in a number of areas that come back each year.  I am not a gardener who plants much variety.  Only things that grow well that I like.  Not much luck with various cantaloupe plants and squash I have started first from seed among some of my other plants and shrubs, the squirrels trample and get into everything.  Most don’t make it.  Lettuce and green beans are the most successful, even with all the bunnies.  The critters eat off a lot of my squash blossoms before they can fruit.  I used to can loads of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but again not much harvest due to all the mangy varmints.

March2012 before tilling

After first tilling

Pruning Clematis and cleaning off the deck

Deck in dire need of white washing instead of repainting

 

Organic Gardening and Other Stuff

Growing Herbs on my sill, can hardly wait until

Days are longer, growing stronger

The acres they will fill!

 

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