Tag Archives: herbs

July Garden Update, 2014

hook and flower 2The garden this summer has, so far, been amazing. I have been harvesting calendula for over a month now. At first there was just a small amount each time, too little for the dehydrator, so I strung them up to dry. While pretty, they don’t dry as thoroughly this way. I ended up putting these in the dehydrator later for a few hours.

dehydrating calendulaThis is the medicinal kind Calendula officinalis and if you plan on using your calendula for salves, I suggest you plant this variety. It has the strongest medicinal qualities of all the calendula varieties. Picking them, smelling them (marigold), drying them, and plucking the petals off to store for use later make me happy. Maybe it’s the colors. Maybe it’s knowing they are so good for skin and so easy to grow. I love everything about calendula.

drying comfreyI’ve been harvesting my comfrey too. I have only one plant but it’s putting off tons of leaves and I keep cutting them and drying them. They are huge. Too huge for my dehydrator unless I cut them first. This one harvest was just too big so I hung it out in the back yard under the oak tree. I don’t like the quality of hung dry as much as the dehydrator. They turn pretty brown. Which is fine. But it’s just better in the dehydrator. I dislike the smell of comfrey. Cutting it, crumbling it, yuck. Not sure why. But it is one of the best medicinals in my opinion so well worth the unpleasant scent.

light through oilI finally FINALLY made salve with the oil I already infused months ago. This is a triple strength wound salve and it’s turned out really well and we’ve been using it and it’s GREAT STUFF.

kale harvestMom loves kale. I used to think kale was okay-ish but mostly only in soup with white beans and cooked so long it stops being tough or tasting like old man breath. Yeah, I really don’t like kale and never have. But it’s one of mom’s favorite greens so she grew a couple plants of it and I harvested it for her, cleaned it, steamed it, and then froze it. She is still having to be careful of her produce intake after surgery.

insect nurseryPrettiest little insect eggs ever. They look like beads and are hard like bead too. These clusters came off in one piece. I have to admit that kale leaves can be really beautiful.

withered blossomOur squash plants have been pretty productive. The most productive being the zucchini and the least productive being the yellow crookneck. All of them are so good fresh from the garden – I can’t get enough of them.

sage and squashStarted harvesting and drying my sage.

tomatoes and calendulaThe tomatoes I planted this year are: Ananas Noire (actually ripens green and yellow), Ethiopian Black (small black tomato), Cherokee Purple (huge and deep red), Japanese Trifele (small reddish pink), Sungolds (orange cherry tomatoes – the only cherry toms I ever grow), and Pinapple (orange with red streaking).

Purple CherokeeWe’re getting lots of tomatoes right now. And yet – we eat them almost as fast as we harvest them. I made a wonderful tomato soup the other night and I didn’t have enough of our own tomatoes that day so I had to add a can of tomato sauce to it. Even so – the fresh tomatoes made it especially good. I made garlic sourdough croutons to go with it. I did make it too salty though.

The neighbors all love our garden. They tell us all the time. Strangers walking by stop and enjoy and we’re outside they tell us how gorgeous it is. It’s gratifying. It’s so wonderful to have our front yard vegetable and flower garden giving so much joy not only to us but to a lot of other people too.

Notable failures: beans. I planted bush beans around the base of the peach tree and they started turning yellow and the beans are tiny. I think it’s the variety and I don’t like it because I can’t tell when they’re mature.  The carrots and beets have not thrived. My herbs keep flowering and not growing in size. My summer savory died. Screw summer savory!

It’s time to remove the chard which has become covered in powdery mildew. Time to cut down the spent snap dragons. Time to trim back the rudbeckias. I need to weed out all the spent sprawling allysum and take out the dying nasturtiums. I think we need some new flowers. We definitely need some penstemon and thunbergia. Maybe some lobelia and creeping verbena. Flowers to add some color once I cut down the spent ones.

Next herbal project is to develop a great lip balm. I have just ruined a big quantity of organic sunflower oil by trying to infuse it with fresh rosemary and dried peppermint. FAIL. Infusing oils with fresh herbs has failed twice for me now and I need to stop learning that lesson. I don’t like the resulting smell. It smells like bruised leaves. So this time I’m going to do a batch of sunflower oil with calendula and comfrey and then add essential oils to it. I’ll start that today.

Being out in the garden to pick vegetables and herbs this season has been amazing. Getting  back into gardening after such a long time away from it feels healing and good. So, more of that soon!

xoxo

a

Finding my Feet in the Garden Again

lagerfeld roseYesterday I had a major anxiety meltdown.  It made everyone miserable.  Today I have a huge emotional hangover.  The best thing I know of to cure it is to hang out with plants.

P1010317So before I go get some bean seeds and squash plants from the nursery I am sharing some pictures of how the front garden is coming along.  Many things are settling in and just now starting to make new growth.  These pictures are from a week ago.

P1010319Those tomatoes are in.  I didn’t start my own seeds this year so I’m at the mercy of the local nurseries choice of toms.  So far we’ve got: Sungold, Japanese Trifele, Pineapple, Cherokee Purple, Ethiopian Black, and Anasas Black.  (Wishing I could have found Caspian Pink and Aunt Ruby’s German Green)

P1010321Sharon gave me a bit of comfrey root and I wasn’t sure it was going to make it – but it did!  I’m pretty excited about this.  Don’t you dare tell me how it “takes over” as though that’s a bad thing.  Comfrey is one of the best medicinal herbs there is so bring it the hell on!

P1010318The border against the porch is really coming along well.  All the roses, having been fed a couple of months ago, are thriving and are covered in blooms and buds.  We cut our first bouquets of the season and for days I’ve been enjoying the heavenly rose scent next to my laptop in my office. iceberg budIceberg is a workhorse.  We’ve missed having it in our garden.  Beautiful small blushed blooms with a medium honey-scent.  Wonderful for filling in bouquets.

People stop and stare at our garden now every day all day long.  And not as though they were wondering how such a trash heap was allowed to flourish.  They LOVE it! They tell us how much they love it all the time.  A UPS man slowed down to tell me the garden was looking great.  A group of hoodie and skinny pants -wearing teens walked by and I heard one of the guys say “I can’t wait to see what they do with this next!” pointing at the raised beds.  Seriously.  Teens love our garden as much as the older set do.

It’s childish of me but it makes me giddy to say I designed and built them every time someone asks.  I’m that proud.

On earth day I was writing but I stopped to go plant my Abraham D’Arby rose and do a little weeding.  Perfect day.  Perfect moment.  Everyone knows I’m not a fan of sunshine but I will say that when it’s mild enough even I can enjoy the feel of it on my back.  The alyssum smells strong when the sun is out so the yard smelled like honey.  I picked my mom and I each a little vase of roses.  That is a chief pleasure in life of mine.  Deadheading roses and picking bouquets to bring in the house.  My therapist said I needed to do that as often as possible because I mentioned it as one of the few activities that I find truly calming.  Anxiety is an insidious bitch and she took me the hell down yesterday.

Today is gorgeous out and so I believe the best way I can push the lingering threads of stress from my head and body is to put my hands in that soil out there and open packets of seeds and play that game where you put them in the soil and hope something comes of them.  You never know with seeds.  I’ve got some Alpine strawberry seeds I’ve been meaning to plant.  I’ve been hesitant because I don’t want them to fail.  Today I’m going to sprinkle them out in different areas and just let nature decide what to do about it.  There isn’t enough time in life to sit on seeds when you can throw them out into the world and watch for the tough suckers that pop up.

On my day out Friday I spent about an hour at a bus stop waiting for buses that didn’t come.  I picked up trash and I enjoyed the scattering of chamomile.  I don’t know what kind it was – no petals on them – the scent was more pale than on the Roman or German kind you grow in your garden but had the unmistakable smell of chamomile.  I’m not sure if chamomile has a wild cousin or not, I will find out another day.  I just enjoyed that a carpet of it was thriving in the hardscrabble behind the bench at the stop.  I feel like I’m one of those scrappy little buggers, just hanging on through drought and flood.  Popping back up after being walked on carelessly.  Multiplying its universe against all odds.  And for the desperate traveler they offer succor to an aching head.  If only the traveler would bother to know what’s right there under his feet.

I hope your garden is breaking out of its winter shell now.  I hope you’re able to get out in it.  I’ll be connected to you all today when I’m out there blackening my nails. xo

december nasturtium

Garden Wish List for 2013

december nasturtium

My mind is turning towards my garden and all that I want to do with it and plant in it and the things I want to change in it.  At the moment I am struggling to make myself new clothes because suddenly everything I wear has holes in it or stains on it and I don’t have a lot of choice and I have decided that since I may be obese for life regardless of good healthy changes I make to my life – I am determined to stop being so drab.  Making clothes requires pattern work and lots of time.  I need to finish this before I get my hands into the yard – but while I’m sewing I keep trying to organize in my head all the things I want to grow.

We mostly have low maintenance shrubs and plants here.  A couple of things we do have that are awesome:

a lemon tree (not a Meyer I’m happy to say)

A white peach

a gardenia

a few roses

freely seeding salvia and alyssum

The trees and roses all need big help.  The peach has been in a barrel for years without the bottom cut out – so it need the bottom cut out as was done for the lemon so it can spread its roots.  It needs a little compost and fertilizer – as does the lemon.  Both produce fruit (I just had broccoli yesterday with lemon juice from our tree!) but need care.  The roses are in dire shape as they’ve been in the shade for years.  They are horribly spindly and thin – they all need to be moved up front to the strip of dirt in front of the porch and they’ll need rose food to help them along.  The wee gardenia has a bud but it is being crowded out by a really big hideous shrub-turned-tree that I am going to completely remove.

What I want:

Culinary herbs: rosemary, lots of thyme, Greek oregano, Mexican oregano, winter savory, French tarragon, dill, parsley, sage, and marjoram.  (I would add basil and cilantro but I’ve never done well with either)

Fruit: a yellow peach tree (or two, dwarf), an orange or tangerine (though orange might get too big), gooseberries, lingonberries, wild strawberries, currants, blueberries, kiwis, and Red Flame grapes.

Flowers (both annuals and perennials): penstemon, scabiosa, lavendar, rudbeckia, cosmos, nigella, bleeding heart, coreopsis, campion, dahlias, nasturtiums, and columbine.  Also hundreds more I can’t think of right now and probably don’t have room to grow.

Medicinals: calendula, comfrey, peppermint, feverfew, catnip, chamomile, and other things I can’t remember right now and need to look up.

Vegetables for this year:  cucumbers (fresh eating), lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, green beans, summer squash.  Just the basics.  Even if I get a couple of raised beds going in the driveway I won’t have much room.  Perhaps snow peas too?  If so I should get those going soon I think.  That would be good for both salads and stir fries.

One last thing I want to grow in this garden if I can are mushrooms.  We have all that shaded area and a big oak – some mushrooms like oak trees.  I want some half rotted logs innoculated with spores to try and acclimate with plenty of mulch and obviously moisture when the season comes.  I must look into this.

So what’s on your garden wish list?

Dried Thyme Yield for Spring 2011

I harvested over 2 lbs of thyme from a total of 8 thyme plants and yielded 6 oz of dried thyme.  I had wanted this report to be more accurate but I had a minor setback because I dried batch after batch of tyme but failed to dry the final (much smaller) batch.  I should have weighed what was left but I didn’t.  Instead I let it sit in the fridge in a paper bag.  For a week.  I made a curious discovery by doing this:

Thyme kept in a paper bag in the fridge for a week will dry itself.

However, not to my satisfaction.  I would have kept it if I’d been desperate for dried thyme and that was all I had, but it was dry yet still slightly supple making it hard to remove leaves from the stems.  I could have put it in the dehydrator to dry it out more thoroughly, but I was lazy, and threw it out.

Please don’t throw rotten potatoes at me!

The amount that was left I estimate to be approximately 4 ounces.  Even though my numbers, this time, might not be precise I think it’s still useful information.  This is the first harvest of 2011 and there will be at least one more this year.  I have more than 8 thyme plants but at least 2 of them are dying and need replacing.  What I love about growing and drying my own thyme is that the quality is superior and though it isn’t particularly expensive to buy dried thyme, it is a fraction of the cost to do it yourself.  My thyme plants are two years old and have given me at least 6 big harvests already.  If you keep harvesting them regularly you keep them from becoming too woody.  Plus they look nice in the garden if you do a nice job trimming them.

Although I use a pretty wide variety of herbs and spices in my food, thyme is the one I use the most.  I especially like it in a French style lentil soup.

8 plants yielded 2 lbs 4 oz fresh thyme

2 lbs (approx.) fresh thyme yielded 6 oz dried thyme