FEATURED QUOTE :
"I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error."
~Sara Stein, My Weeds, 1988
Garden Fresh Vegetables
Deciding what to grow. Although it’s tempting to grow lots of different vegetables, stick with what you actually eat and enjoy. Make a list of your favorite vegetables and then pick from that list. Consider vegetables that will yield a large, healthy crop and are easy to grow.
For instance, asparagus is fussy and takes at least two years to yield a crop. However, radishes, onions, lettuce, peas, squash, green beans, carrots, and tomatoes are easy to grow, and yield a good crop. Keep in mind that squash is quite prolific, so one plant will generally do.
Harvest regularly. Lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard can be used as they grow. Just cut off a few leaves and let the rest continue to grow. Zucchini squash is best harvested when it is just a few inches long. Many vegetables can be harvested at different stages and will continue to produce during the summer. If it looks like it’s ready to eat, it probably is.
Vegetable gardening will spoil you, and buying grocery store produce won’t be nearly as appealing. Gardening will not only provide a healthy bounty of great tasting vegetables, but it is also good therapy and exercise.
What About Peas
What can taste better than peas fresh from the garden? Peas are one of the first vegetables to ripen in your garden and they are one of the first rewards of the year for your efforts. Pea plants love the cool spring weather and should be planted as early in the spring as possible. Plant peas as soon as the soil dries out enough that you can cultivate it. If you plan ahead you can roto till your gardens in the fall, so you don’t have to wait so long in the spring to plant your peas. If you haven’t planted your peas yet, plant them as soon as possible. Try 'Early Frosty,' 'Sugar Sprint,' 'Little Marvel,' 'Mr. Big,' 'Sugar Snap,' 'Green Arrow' or 'Lincoln' peas.
When you plant pea seeds early, or any other seeds earlier than normal, be sure to dust them with Bonide Garden Dust, a fungicide. Seeds planted in a cold and wet soil may rot before they have a chance to germinate. You can also help pea plants to be more productive by soaking the seeds in Nitragin Garden Inoculant before you plant them. Garden Inoculant is a natural, nitrogen-fixing bacteria that helps the plants absorb nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. Garden Inoculant also works great with bean seeds.
Peas love companions. You can grow two crops in the space of one, and provide extra benefits for both. Plant carrot seeds, beet seeds, or onion seeds in the rows along with your pea seeds. After you harvest your peas, and cut off the pea plants, you’ll have a nice crop of carrots, beets, or onions growing.
Plant peas and a warm-season crop together. Peas and tomatoes work well together. Plant peas in a ring around the outside of tomato cages in early spring. The peas will climb the wire. Transplant tomatoes inside the cages as the weather allows. The peas will protect tomatoes from cool weather. The peas will fade away and leave behind an extra boost of nitrogen for the hungry tomatoes.
You can also train peas on a wooden A-frame, covered with netting. Interplant cucumbers between the peas when the soil is warm enough. As the peas fade away, the cucumbers will begin filling in the space, reaping the benefits of the nitrogen left by the peas. Try other types of plants with your peas to see what combination works best in your garden.
Onions Taste Great
Onions are probably grown in more home gardens than any other vegetable. They are one of the early vegetables that you can harvest from your garden in the spring, especially if you plant your onion seeds in the fall, before winter sets in.
Onions can be grown from seed, plants, or from sets. Many gardeners have more success with sets, but you can grow larger onions if you plant them from seed. All onion varieties can be used for green onions if they are harvested at the right time. Onions can be used as green onions in only 30 days when grown from plants or sets, or 40 to 50 days when grown from seed. Try 'Walla Walla,' 'Yellow Spanish,' 'Red Burgundy,'or 'White Spanish' onions. Other excellent varieties include 'Candy Hybrid,' 'Tokyo Bunching' and 'Crystal White' ipckling onions.
Onions grow best in cool temperatures (55 F to 75 degrees F) until the plants have a chance to produce large leaves and roots. The earlier you can plant onions, the better they will grow. Onions require consistent watering and regular fertilization for best flavor. Unfavorable growing conditions (too hot, too dry, not enough fertilizer) may reduce the quality of your onions. If flower stalks should develop prematurely, carefully cut them from the plant immediately.
Plant onions close together and then harvest them to thin the onions to a final three-inch plant spacing. Try planting radish seeds with your onion seeds. As you harvest the radishes you will be thinning your onions.
Don't Forget Fresh Beans
Beans are a warm-season crop. Beans hate the cold weather, they especially hate cold, wet soil. Wait to plant beans until a week or two after the last frost. If you plant bean seeds too early, they may rot if the soil is too wet and cold for quick germination. Plant a crop of bush beans every two or three weeks from Mid-May until Late-July for an extended harvest season. You can even plant a crop of beans in the same garden area that you grew your early crop of peas. Beans are "nitrogen fixing" plants. This means that they can take nitrogen out of the air and "fix" it into the soil for all plants to use. Bean plants must have a special bacteria to help them complete the process, so inoculate the seeds with Nitragin, the "nitrogen fixing" bacteria, right when you plant them. Some of the best varieties of beans are 'Slenderette,' 'Blue Lake Bush,' 'Top Crop', 'Roma II', and 'Golden Wax.' We also have 'Blue Lake Pole' and 'Kentucky Wonder Pole' bean seeds available.
There are many different varieties of corn to choose from. Which variety is the best? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself! Corn is a hot-weather vegetable; do not plant it until the soil is 60º to 65º F degrees. At 50º, the seeds are able to absorb water, so they are prone to rotting if they do not germinate quickly. Corn seeds are most sensitive to cold, wet conditions during the first 24 to 48 hours after planting. If you do try to plant corn seeds early, be sure to dust them with Bonide Garden Dust, a fungicide, to help prevent them from rotting.
Plant corn seeds one inch deep. Plant 2 or 3 seeds twelve inches apart. After germination, thin plants to one or two plants every twelve inches. Corn planted too closely will produce smaller ears than corn spaced properly. One half pound of corn seed will plant a 500' row.
For best pollination, plant corn in short, small blocks rather than in
long narrow rows. Do not plant different varieties near one another.
Corn cross pollinates very easily and the flavor may change if
pollinated by an undesired variety. Plant a crop of corn every two weeks
from mid-May until late-July for an extended harvest season. Some of
our favorite varieties of corn are 'Miracle,' 'Incredible,' 'Bodacious,' 'Kandy Korn,' 'Peaches & Cream,' 'Serendipity,' 'Sugar Buns,' and 'Honey Select.'
You may want to invest in a soil thermometer to help determine the best time to plant your seeds.
Garden Fresh Potatoes
Potatoes can be an easy and rewarding vegetable crop in your home garden. Each plant requires up to four square feet. Potatoes can produce up to ten pounds of potatoes for every one pound of potatoes you plant. Plant your potatoes between mid-March and mid-July. Cut your potatoes, dust them with Bonide Garden Dust, and let them sit 24 hours before planting them. If you want to store your potatoes for winter use, plant them a week or two later than you plant them for summer use. Potatoes grow best in light, sandy soil. They do not like heavy soil or soil that stays wet. Potatoes that are grown in heavy soil are usually deformed, stunted and sometimes do not produce tubers at all. Potatoes need full sun and lots of fertilizer to produce their largest yield. They will grow in partial sun if they are not kept too wet. You will not get a large harvest in the shade. The best varieties to plant are 'Red Pontiac,' 'Red Norland,' 'Lasoda,' 'Norgold Russet' and 'Russet Burbank.' However, don't be afraid to try 'Yukon Gold' or 'All Blue' for some interesting potatoes.
Crop rotation is the practice of changing the type of crops growing in a garden each year. Farmers use crop rotation extensively in the management of their fields. Without crop rotation, farmers would suffer heavy loses in their harvest. Home gardeners have a much harder time trying to rotate their crops because of the limited amount of space available, and the types of plants they want to grow in their yard. However, it is always a good idea not to plant the same type of plant, in the same area, year after year. Both insects and diseases multiply in the soil and can greatly affect the plants. A little change helps a lot. We have a handout about crop rotation, if you would like more information.
Row Cropping or Raised Beds
The most common type of planting is done in rows with a footpath in between for room to weed and tend to individual plants. In this case, it’s nice to plan out your rows depending on the needs of each vegetable. Measure and mark your rows for a tidy organized garden.
Many build raised beds for each vegetable type or vegetable combination. They look nice and make better use of space. Raised beds also allow you to build the soil from scratch, only putting into the beds the soil combinations that work best for your vegetables. However, building raised beds also takes more time and money. So it all depends on how you want to use your resources. "Square Foot Gardening" is a very popular way of using raised beds. Be sure to attend one of our gardening classes to learn more about this type of gardening.
Feed Your Garden Soil--not just your plants
Your garden's soil condition is the single most important part of gardening success. Without the proper soil conditions, gardening can become a chore, and your plants will not respond and grow the way you want them to grow. Some of the insect and disease problems your plants struggle with during the summer may be prevented just by making sure your soil is in good condition before you plant them.
First, remember garden soil is not dirt. Dirt is the stuff you wash out of your clothes after working in the yard. Garden soil is a complex mixture of minerals, air, water, organic matter, microbes, and other critters. Soil is full of life and deserves your attention. With good soil, gardening will be more fun. The soil will be easier to plant in, cultivate, and it will be easier to grow your plants.
Perfect soil is hard to come by in most home gardens and it may take a little extra effort to achieve. The best way to improve your garden soil is by adding organic materials every year. The best time to apply organic materials is in the fall, not in the spring. However, most gardeners forget to add organic materials in the fall, so it is important to add them in the spring. Mix as much well-rotted manure, Bumper Crop, Ferti Mulch, Soil Pep, or other organic materials (within reason) as you can afford. Do not add fresh materials or your plants will actually suffer. You will be amazed how much better your soil is this year than it was last year. Many garden soils may take four, six, or even ten years to completely change, but you will notice an improvement each year.
Improve Clay Soil Conditions
Many garden soils lack the necessary physical structure to hold, or to allow movement of air and water for plants to grow, especially clay soil. Most clay soil needs additives that will hold water (like peat moss) but that will allow water to drain (like sand). However, adding peat moss and sand to clay soil may just add to the problem. Clay and sand mixed together may produce "bricks" instead of better soil. If you want to add sand to clay soil, you must add "a lot of sand" to improve the soil. Peat moss mixed with clay may produce a soil that stays too wet, too long. This may cause worse problems for your plants than not adding any mulch at all.
The best way to fix a clay soil problem is to add lots of "old coarse" organic materials such as Bumper Crop, Black Forest Compost, manure, compost, or Soil Pep. Perlite is also an excellent coarse, inorganic additive that can help correct clay soil problems. Do not add peat smoss or plain sand to clay soil.
Another additive that is available to help improve clay soil is Utelite Clay Soil Conditioner. Utelite is a porous rock chip which acts as a permanent reservoir for both air and water. Utelite increases the water holding capacity of the soil and it also helps improve drainage within the soil. It does not decompose so it does not have to be added every year. For best results, add as much Utelite to the soil as you can reasonably afford. You can mix 10% to 25% to 50% Utelite with good results. Add Utelite every year until the soil texture is the way you like it. One cubic yard should cover 450 to 650 square feet about 1/2" thick. We have Utelite available by the bag and by the truckload.
Gypsum is a soil conditioner that helps to improve clay soil. However, gypsum changes the chemical structure of the soil, not the physical structure. Gypsum actually helps to improve all soils, not just clay soils. Gypsum improves the soil by adding calcium and sulfur, which allows the soil particles to release other nutrients that are in the soil. Plants can then absorb and utilize the nutrients that were not previously available for the roots to use, even though they were in the soil. Water can then help remove unwanted nutrients the gypsum has released. For more information about improving garden soil please ask for a copy of our "Garden Soil and Mulch" handout.
Soil pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline the soil is. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Numbers from 0 to 7 are acid, and from 7 to 14 are alkaline; 7 is considered neutral.
For Gardeners, soil pH is the number that really counts. Soil pH affects nutrient availability and microbial activity. Most plants grow best at a slightly acid to neutral pH (6.5 to 7) although certain plants have adapted to extreme pH environments in both directions. In our area, most soils have a high pH. The further west you live, the closer to the lake, the higher the pH your soil will be. Some areas have very alkaline soil conditions.
Either test your soil yourself, or have a soil test by USU to determine what steps you need to take to correct your soil condition. To lower the pH of an alkaline soil, use sulfur or gypsum. You will need to apply sulfur or gypsum regularly and in fairly large quantities to correct the pH. You do need a soil test to determine how much sulfur or gypsum you need to buy.
To raise the pH of an acid soil, add gypsum or lime. We have an excellent handout, "Garden Soils," that goes into more details about the soil pH. Please stop by for a free copy of this handout.
Humic acid is a natural soil stimulant. It is processed from some of the most concentrated organic materials available. Humic acid is usually composed of 50% carbon, 40% oxygen, 5% hydrogen, 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus, and 1% sulfur. Most humic acid was formed when trees and vegetation underwent compaction and heating many thousands of years ago. Over the ages, this organic material was slowly carbonized and became coal. During this compaction process, many of the organic acids and esters contained within the vegetation were squeezed out and formed a pool on top of the coal. This pool dried, aged, and became a layer known as shale. This layer of shale is the source of humate, which contains humic acid. Because of its vegetative origin, this material is very rich. It benefits all plants when incorporated into the soil.
Humic acid helps chelate many nutrients and helps bind them to soil particles. Chelated nutrients that are attached to soil particles are easier for plants to absorb and use. Magnesium, iron, calcium and many other "trace elements" are just some of the nutrients that humic acid helps plants utilize more effectively. Humic acid helps the fertilizer you apply reach the plants more easily.. It also helps to release nutrients already in the soil that your plants have not been able to absorb and utilize.
Add humic acid to the soil as you rototill your gardens in the spring. You can also spread humic acid on your lawn, just like fertilizer. It can be applied any time of the year--spring, summer, or fall. Humic acid is not a fertilizer, but your plants will respond as if you just fertilized them. If your lawn needs a little "extra help" during the hot, summer weather, apply humic acid instead of lawn fertilizer to green it up. Humic acid helps all plants become more healthy. It can actually help prevent, and help plants overcome, insect and disease problems. We have 20 lb and 40 lb bags of humic acid called Natural Guard Soil Activator.
Weed Preventers for the Garden
A few weeds can’t hurt--right? Wrong. Weeds pull nutrients away from your vegetables, which can affect the health of your plants and even the taste of your homegrown vegetables. Make weeding a daily habit, and it will be so much easier. Pick a few weeds a day or face the drudgery of digging out a weed overgrown garden. No fun. Don’t go there.
Besides cultivating the soil and physically pulling the weeds, there are easier ways to keep weeds out of gardens. Many chemical weed preventers are available that are safe to use in both the vegetable and flower gardens. Treflan® is one of the most common weed-preventing chemicals because it can be used safely around vegetable plants and in flower gardens. Treflan only kills seeds as they germinate, so it will not harm young seedlings. Treflan will not control roots growing from perennial grasses or from plants that have already germinated. The best time to apply Treflan is after all your plants are planted and growing for at least a week. You can enjoy your garden, without very many weeds, for the rest of the summer. Treflan is also sold as Preen®. An organic weed preventer that is safe for the vegetable garden is Corn Gluten, a by-product of corn processing. It safely prevents weeds but it does have to be re-applied often. This product is sold as Concern Weed Preventer Plus®.
Casoron® is another popular weed-preventing chemical that is much stronger, and prevents more weeds than most other common weed preventers. Great to use around shrubs, trees, and along fence lines, Casoron prevents weeds up to nine months. It is much safer to use in home gardens than soil sterilizers because it will not kill existing plants--it only kills emerging plants. Be careful using Casoron and all weed-preventing chemicals. Do not use more than directed because the chemicals can build up in the soil and may become a problem.
Casoron cannot be used in the vegetable or flower gardens, but it is labeled to prevent weeds in shrub areas and around trees. Casoron can also be used in the raspberry patch and in the rose garden.
Stop by to learn more about these labor-saving, weed-preventing chemicals. We have a handout available about many of the weed preventing chemicals.
The first sign of spring each year is when the "fabulous forsythia plants" start to flower. Forsythia plants are often used to determine when you should apply crabgrass control and to plan when to do many other gardening chores.
Forsythia plants are practically pest and disease free. They are pollution tolerant and aren’t too fussy about where they grow. Although forsythias grow best in full sun, they will tolerate partial shade. Forsythia plants are hardy shrubs that are easy to grow. It is not unusual to see a plant full of flowers, even after 20 years of neglect.
An important thing to remember about growing a forsythia is its pruning time. Forsythias only bloom on one year old wood. Prune forsythia plants immediately after they finish blooming. If you prune a forsythia in the fall, or just before it blooms, you are removing its flowers. To keep your forsythia plant in bounds, remove about one-third of its branches each year. With just a little care, your plant will keep its youthful appearance and bloom for years.
Try something different by trimming your forsythia shrub into a tree. Pick one straight, healthy, upright stem and remove the rest. Remove all the side shoots to 4 or 5 feet and then trim the rest of the branches to form a small round ball. It will probably take a few years of pruning to get the desired shape but you will end up with a colorful tree 6 to 8 feet tall.
To keep flowering shrubs looking their best, you need to prune them. The best time to prune summer-flowering shrubs (potentilla, spiraea, weigela, roses, etc.) is during the winter or early-spring, while they are still dormant. The best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs (lilac, forsythia, snowball, wisteria, quince, etc.) is after they finish blooming, in the early-summer.
Flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood can be pruned more severely than flowering shrubs that bloom on old wood. Forsythias, potentillas, spireas, privets, weigelas, and viburnums bloom on new wood and are easy to train and prune. Lilacs, climbing roses, wisteria vines, and rhododendrons bloom on older wood, so be a little more conservative when you prune these types of plants. You can keep all your shrubs more compact by pruning them every year or two.
Pruning tip: Try to keep the tops of your shrubs a little narrower than the bottoms. By keeping the bottom a little wider than the top, sunlight can reach all the leaves and the plants will stay bushier at the bottom, instead of losing the bottom leaves. This is very critical when you are trying to keep a hedge uniformly bushy.
The easiest method of pruning many of the shorter flowering shrubs is to cut all the stems down to within a foot or two of the ground. You can cut the stems longer or shorter as needed, depending on the type of plant you are pruning and how tall you want it to be. Dwarf spiraea, potentilla, dwarf privet, and even the dwarf barberries respond well to this type of pruning.
To rejuvenate a tall shrub, remove some of the larger branches completely to the ground. Leave the smaller branches to grow back in their place. After removing the large branches, make sure the shrub still looks uniform. You may need to trim a few of the remaining branches back to maintain the proper balance. Follow this procedure every year to keep your older shrubs looking their best.
Is it cilantro or is it coriander?
Well, actually it's both. Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant, and coriander references the seeds. Also known as Chinese parsley, this herb is indeed a member of the parsley family. This gentle little herb with lacy, fern-like leaves is a social creature, requiring other plants growing around it to aid in holding it up on its spindly stems that can reach 2+ feet in height. Excellent companion plants are caraway, anise and dill.
An annual, it is best first planted in cool weather, in a moderately rich, slightly alkaline, well-drained soil; this native of Asia and the Mediterranean regions prefers full to partial sun. In ideal conditions, cilantro (leaves) will last about 8 to 10 weeks before flowering. To ensure such conditions (this herb is not a friend of weeds), mulch to keep the roots cool and weed-free.
Once the herb flowers, producing a delicate white-to-lavender display, seeds will form; harvest them immediately when the leaves and flowers turn brown, but before the seeds disperse. To do this, cut the entire plant and hang it to dry upside down in paper bags.
Occasionally shake the bags to thresh the seeds, but be certain that they have fully dried; coriander seeds can be bitter if only partially dry.
Once you have harvested the dried seeds, roast them in a frying pan over low to medium heat, frequently shaking the pan.
Cool, then crush with a mortar and pestle just before use; this will release the flavor--and the trademark lemon-scented odor. The wise herb gardener will retain some of the seeds prior to drying for replanting every few weeks to guarantee a continuous supply.
When picking fresh cilantro, choose the small, young leaves (which are the tastiest) and cut with the stems on. Rinse well, and place the bunch, stem ends down, in a small glass of water as if you were displaying flowers. Cover with a plastic bag, securing with a rubber band, and refrigerate. Change the water daily, and your cilantro will last much longer.
The citrusy tang of cilantro has become a popular addition to Mexican cuisine, while Chinese, Thai, and Indonesian cuisines use both cilantro and coriander. Thai curries incorporate the chopped leaves of cilantro, while Indian curry powders owe their aromatic quality to ground coriander.
Coriander has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back 3,000 years. The ancient Hebrews used cilantro root as the maror, or bitter herb, during the symbolic Passover Seder meal.
The Roman conquests of Europe and Asia introduced the use of cilantro as an aphrodisiac in China during the Han dynasty (207 BC – 200 AD); such usage is mentioned in The Tales of the Arabian Nights.
But most notably, the visions of sugar plums which danced in children's heads on the night before Christmas, originally referred to sugar-coated coriander.
The seeds, when chewed, freshen one's breath; the essential oil is considered an aid in improving memory; and because of cilantro's powerful scent, it has a reputation for attracting beneficial insects and deterring harmful ones.
Whether you call it cilantro or coriander, the distinctive characteristics of this tiny miracle herb make it a must-have for any herb garden.
Considering redoing the landscape a bit? Find the old one a bit boring? Perhaps it's time to add the power of purple to your landscape. Purple-flowering plants add a special grace to a landscape. The strong, vibrant purple color goes well with white, blue, or pink and is stunning planted next to orange. It looks particularly striking mixed with green and white variegated foliage. Purple just has a way of bringing other colors out.
Because purple-flowering plants are native to so many parts of the world, we have many to choose from. You can use taller purple-flowering shrubs or perennials to create a backdrop for shorter plants. You can also use purple-flowering vines to hide a fence or climb a trellis.
In front of those plants, you can layer in some purple-flowering perennials. Finally, add some low growing spreaders to fill in the areas between.
Do you have shaded areas? No problem. There are purple-flowering shade-lovers too.
Don't just limit your planting to the ground. Many purple-flowering plants look great in containers for patios and decks or even in hanging baskets. You can even create a blend of annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses to make any pot, urn, window box or decorative planter look fantastic all season long.
Many purple-flowering perennials such as echinacea, monarda, nepeta, penstemon, salvia, giant scabiosa, statice and veronica are also wonderful at attracting butterflies and birds--particularly hummingbirds. But most of all, they will spice up a garden and make it come alive with color.
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We love herbs. During the summer their scent surrounds the outdoor deck, and in winter I incorporate the crop that I’ve harvested and frozen into my everyday cooking to make it...well, less everyday! Here I'm going to present five herbs that have multiple uses.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) was first brought to Europe by the Spanish. Named after Maria Louisa, Princess of Parma, it is close to being the Queen of lemon-scented herbs. In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara's mother declared it to be her favorite plant. Perhaps she looked forward to a daily tea of lemon verbena blended with mint. Used to brighten fish, poultry, salad dressings, and jellies, when combined with rosemary and thyme it makes a memorable herb vinegar.
Many dried herb leaves tend to lose their scent, but not lemon verbena, thus making it perfect for long-lasting potpourris, sachets, and pillows. The oil is used in cologne, toilet water, perfume and soap. The infused oil, when blended with lavender and rosemary, is perfect for creams and lotions. Place a lemon verbena compress on your eyelids to reduce puffiness. Because of its relaxing, sedative effect, it is used for indigestion, as well as bronchial and sinus congestion.
A zone 9 plant, it can be taken indoors to winter, but expect it to lose its leaves. In mid-summer, cut the plant halfway back for your primary harvest, and then once more before bringing it inside. This is a plant that will bush out if you pinch the stem tips.
It's no secret that Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an august addition to any garden, but did you know that this is the multi-tasker of herbs? For culinary purposes, the flowers add a saucy eye-appeal to salads; lavender butter or sugar is wonderful when spread on toast; lavender honey is a sweet reminder of past times; combine lavender cookies with lavender ice cream for a party favorite; top your morning bagel with lavender jelly for a great start to the day; and don't forget that lavender plays well with rosemary, basil, and lemon verbena.
As a natural antiseptic agent, lavender is used in soaps, shampoos, hand lotions, and bath oils and salts. Aromatherapy practitioners use lavender misting to "clear negative energy;" the essential oil is simply added to water and spritzed on the skin and hair. And if you spend numerous hours in one location, such as your cubicle at work or your home office, generously spray the air. It will not only smell wonderful, it it is also said to soothe your skin and nerves. The oils are a delightful additive to one's bath, and top all off with a scented night's sleep by adding a few drops to your pillow.
Flies dislike the scent of lavender, so if you're bothered whilst gardening, rub some of the lavender onto your skin, or display a sprig in your hat and you've created a pretty purple fly repellent.
It will draw your cat to its location, and was also said to attract benevolent fairies. The Victorians are somewhat cryptic as to lavender's use in the "floral language of love"; traditionally an urging for silence, it was believed that to dream of lavender was a prediction of a reunion. It is also, confusingly, said to act as an attractant for suitors, as an aphrodisiac, and as a protection for chastity.
I think that whenever not cooking with lavender, it's best to toss some lavender stems into the fireplace during the cold months for a scented reminder of the warm gardening season to come, light a lavender scented candle for added fragrance and glow, and sit in your favorite chair and weave lavender stems into wreaths.
I stumbled onto the marvels of mint (Mentha) last summer. I had planted some in my herb garden, thinking it was something else. I clipped off a sprig, garnished my Sunday brunch mimosa, and was dazzled by the aroma. I then took every opportunity to add it to whatever beverage I was drinking. Lemon sorbet with a mint garnish is probably the best summer dessert one can have without suffering guilt. Steep it for 10 minutes in hot water and you have terrific tea; combine some (zero calorie) orange flavored seltzer, about ¼ cup of cranberry juice, and a sprig of mint and I guarantee your face will carry a smile on it all day long; cook a few sprigs with peas and new potatoes for a side dish that will delight.
Medicinally, peppermint is the mint of choice. The menthol in it soothes the lining of the digestive tract, and stimulates production of bile, thus aiding in settling your stomach after a big meal. It is an excellent breath freshener; whilst gardening, pinch off a few leaves, rinse them under the hose, and chew on them. Any unexpected guest will thank you for it!
As there are numerous types of mint, we feel obligated to warn you about pennyroyal, which is toxic if taken internally. However, if you rub it on your skin, you have an effective insect repellent. Rubbing it on your dog's coat deters fleas, and planting it under roses helps to retain moisture, thus improving the overall health of your rose bushes. A perennial herb, mint is an invasive that will take over your herb garden; we recommend growing it in pots as a control, or sinking it into your garden in a container.
Perfect for potpourri, combine ½ cup of orris root and 1 Tbsp. of essential pennyroyal oil. Add 2 cups each of dried orange mint, dried spearmint, dried peppermint, plus 1 cup each of dried thyme and rosemary. Combine gently, trying to not crush leaves. Store in a covered jar until ready to place in a shallow dish, or sew into a sachet.
Shakespeare's Ophelia tells Hamlet, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance, pray, love, remember." Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is reported by scientists at the University of Cincinnati to have a scent that is an effective memory stimulant. A potted plant for your desk at work, or where the kids do their homework, might aid in the re-reading of the Bard's classic tragedy.
Its name is derived from the Latin "Ros marinus," loosely translated as "fond of the sea." It is an attractive evergreen shrub with pine needle-like leaves and pale blue flowers that often grows by the sea. Aside from its culinary treasure as an additive to just about any dish, rosemary has many other traditional uses. In Spain and Italy it is considered a safeguard from witches and evil influences; following that line of thought, it is the herb of remembrance and friendship. It is said that hanging a few sprigs of it on your porch and door will keep out thieves--and attract elves. It is also the emblem of fidelity for lovers.
Rosemary is an anti-bacterial, an antioxidant, an anti-fungal, an antiseptic, an antispasmodic, an astringent . . . whew! And those are just the "A's"! The herb, root, and oil (which is obtained from the flowering tops), are used for insomnia and nervous disorders, to stimulate the brain and nervous system and to cure migraines. It improves circulation, rids one of bad breath when used as a mouthwash, and has a calming effect on indigestion.
But aside from smiling each time I pass by the rosemary in my herb garden just because it smells so good, my favorite usage is to add it to some sautéed chicken along with lemon juice (freshly squeezed), 1 cup white wine, freshly pressed garlic and tarragon. Serve brown and wild rice with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary as garnish, sit back, and enjoy the magical qualities of this perfect plant.
Chervil ( Anthriscus cerefolium ) or "herb of joy" has a delicate anise flavor considered essential to French cooking. Closely related to parsley, this fragrant shade-tolerant herb thrives in the cooler weather of spring and fall, and does best in the shade of taller plants such as lemon balm and pennyroyal. An ingredient in French fine herbs along with tarragon, parsley and chives, it is best used fresh, added in the last few minutes of cooking; this will preserve the flavor. Added to soups, eggs, vegetables and salads, it also complements fish and chicken.
As this is an article on the multiple uses of these five herbs, we would be remiss to not point out that chervil has historically been used as an aid to sluggish digestion, as a soothing eye wash, a circulatory aid when ingested as a herbal tea, and most sybaritically, as a skin freshener when the leaves are infused in water.
So this season, if you haven't already embraced the joys of herb gardening, why not begin with just a few planted in pots or window boxes. I guarantee that by the end of summer you'll be plotting out where a full-sized herb garden will be created on your grounds. Herb gardening is an addiction that goes back to the ancients, and is immediately rewarding no matter how you choose to use the herbs.
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With at-home vacations here to stay, enjoying a family barbecue around a water feature is a marvelous way to save money, strengthen family bonds, and find peace and tranquility with the soothing elements of a pond in your own backyard.
Ponds can be of any size; a swimming pond is only 20% of the cost of a swimming pool! But what we are seeing more and more of is a smaller, more manageable version--sometimes no larger than 3 to 4 feet in diameter--catering to birds, butterflies, frogs, fish--and your family, of course! And any sort of water feature adds not only to your inner felicity, but increases the value of your home. In return, there is maintenance to be done, the scope of which varies with the size and complexity of your pond.
Today we’re dealing with the re-awakening season of the year, spring, and the resultant maintenance needed for the re-opening of your pond. But a refresher course in fall/winter maintenance is prudent to review.
Even in more temperate zones, you should have removed any decorative features such as waterfalls or misters, which might suffer damage from freezing nights.
You should also have:
• cleaned out any leaves or debris;
• cut back plants;
• added mulch to border plants;
• and transferred the more frail plants indoors.
If you have decided to incorporate fish in your outdoor pond this year, be sure to carefully and extensively research which fish cohabit harmoniously. Adding fish means adding greatly to the maintenance that must be done on your pond, and to the amount of knowledge that must be obtained so that you do not suffer a high mortality rate.
Also research your fishes' needs, and transfer applicable fish inside during winter if they cannot tolerate the colder season. Or, by adding a floating pond heater, you can ensure that the water temperatures never get lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
A yearly spring cleanout will ensure a clean pond, healthy plants and happy fish. You may remove as little as 20% of the water if you were diligent in preparing your pond for winter, or up to 50% if the accumulation of dead leaves and debris is significant.
If you chose to not add fish, or decided to winter your fish indoors, why not completely empty the pond and give it a thorough cleaning? However much water you remove, the next step is to do the following:
• First, disconnect the plumbing, and then drain the pond, using this water as an excellent fertilizer for your garden plants.
• Remove all debris, and climb into your pond to wash off the muck. This is a great way to bond with, and repay, your water feature for all that it’s given you!
• Rinse numerous times until it is clean.
• Check the liner for any tears.
• Clean all of the filters and replace filter pads.
• Refill the pond, de-chlorinate, and if you now wish to transfer your indoor guests to their outdoor home, gradually reintroduce the fish, ensuring an even acclimatization; it is essential that the new water is the same temperature, pH, and alkalinity.
And--this is the most important part of the pond re-opening process---pull up a chair, pick up a book, and sit back and relax to the soothing sounds of your own personal paradise.
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How often should I feed my lawn?
We recommend feeding lawns every two months during the growing season. You can start off by applying a lawn food in late winter to early spring that contains a pre-emergent herbicide to help prevent crabgrass and other weeds from germinating.
After that, switch to a complete lawn food.
If summer weeds become a problem, apply a weed and feed fertilizer.
Make sure to give your lawn a final feeding in fall, before it goes dormant, to keep it green through winter. If a lawn goes into the winter looking yellow, you won't be able to green it up until temperatures warm up again.
What You'll Need:
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
- 7 cups diced, peeled Rome apples (about 3 pounds)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely-grated orange rind
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
Step by Step:
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife.
- Combine flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.
- Combine apples and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss well.
- Spoon the apple mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish or 1-1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle with the crumb mixture.
- Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 9 servings