Grow Your Own Herbs

So many herbs, so many uses

  
Herbs are no doubt among the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Many of them are fairly drought tolerant and have a blooming period albeit short. In addition, herbs lend a delicious fragrance to the garden.

While most herbs are easily grown in containers which is a major plus, if you have space, consider planting an entire herb garden. It needn’t take that much space. A plot of land measuring approximate 200-400 square feet should do you quite nicely. Find out the diameter of a mature plant; obtain some graph paper and sketch out your garden before you dig a single hole. Remember to allow at least 1 foot of space between mature plants for ease of weeding and pruning.

One of the most fragrant herbs to add to your garden is lavender. The scent of lavender in bloom is heavenly and is wonderful for making scented sachets to hang in your closet or place in your dresser drawers. This is the only herb I would suggest you plant as many as you have space for as those sachets make wonderful gifts.

As the song goes, 4 great savory herbs to add to your garden are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Fresh chopped parsley is a wonder addition to potato and pasta salads, not to mention a lovely garnish for many other dishes. Try drying sage leaves to add to many dishes including stuffing for turkey and chicken. And, both rosemary and thyme are excellent accents when roasting poultry and lamb among other savory dishes.

Tarragon is a wonderful addition to soups and vegetables. This herb is also good in tuna, egg, pasta and green salads. Add when making sauces for fish or chicken, it’s a must for béarnaise sauce.

If you intend upon canning pickled vegetables from your garden or making pretty vinegars for gifts think about planting some dill. While its true you can purchase dried dill weed very cheaply, there is no way you can get a full stalk of dill unless you grow it or pay rather dearly for it when needed in quantity.

In my opinion, no herb garden is complete without chives. In fact, if I could plant only one herb, it would be chives because they are so very useful. While I love green onions, by the time I get around to using them, alas they all but lifeless. No problem with chives growing right outside my door. They not only add that touch of needed green, they also have that subtle onion flavor which is perfect for salads and potato toppings.

Unfortunately, another one of my favorite herbs is not worth planting. Cilantro tends to bolt so quickly you would be lucky to retrieve a leaf or two. Obviously those that grow cilantro commercially know something we don’t know and they aren’t telling. If you figure it out please let me in on the secret. I will let you in on my secret for preserving store bought cilantro, however. Place the bunch of cilantro in a glass of water and cover with the plastic bag it came in. This way, the cilantro will stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.

On a final note, let’s talk about mint. A favorite of mine is pineapple mint. It has a wonderful fragrance and taste and makes a lovely tea and garnish. However, there is a real problem with mint. It’s tangled roots go deep and it tends to try to take over every other plant in the garden. Spray it with Round-up and it comes right back again. Once planted, you simply can’t get rid of it! So, if you want to add mint to your garden, plant it in a container and move the container often enough to insure it doesn’t take root in the ground through the drainage hole in the container.

Kids Love Gardening

imageApparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It’s as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science
In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plants life cycle and how humans intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life
Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation
Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4.  Quality Time with the Family
You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jump start that environmental education may be through gardening.  It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Happy Grandparent’s Day!

Grandparents

Grandparents (Photo credit: ☺ Lee J Haywood)

Grandparents Day began with the idea of honoring the elderly and championing the cause of the lonely in nursing and retirement homesMarian McQuade, a housewife from West Virginia, brainstormed the idea, which was later to become a nationally recognized holiday, thanks to Jimmy Carter in 1978.  Now the holiday is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day, in September one of the first holidays of the school year that greatly affects most students.

McQuade, the original founder of Grandparents Day, is the mother of fifteen children, grandmother of forty, and great-grandmother of three.  With so many descendants, she was well aware of the special bond that children should have with their grandparents.  While mothers and fathers are the main source of discipline and example in a child’s life, his or her grandparents have a profound affect on viewpoints.  Without the wisdom of the grandparents, many children today wouldn’t understand what it was like to grow up without the technology and amenities of today’s world and wouldn’t appreciate what they have nearly as much.

Another reason to celebrate our grandparents on Grandparents Day is simply because they help to raise us and shape us into the men and women we will become.  It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and in many families, grandparents baby-sit and share in the responsibility of “bringing up baby”.  With both parents entering the workforce today, coupled with rising daycare costs, retired grandparents have become perhaps the most dependable source of daily child care, meaning they are becoming more prominent in children’s lives.  And, while they’ve already raised a family of their own, most grandparents are willing and even eager to take part in their grandchildren’s care and development.

Grandparents are extraordinary people.  They have stories to tell that expand our horizons and views of life formed through years of experience that we cannot begin to fathom.  We should feel lucky to benefit from this, and our grandparents feel privileged to be able to share these experiences with us.  Overall, grandparents are a great resource for us, and if we can celebrate mothers and fathers, we can definitely recognize grandparents for their achievements in life.

Rose Planting Tips

Renoir's painting of cabbage roses, Roses in a...

Renoir’s painting of cabbage roses, Roses in a vase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

When spring is on its way and the ground is soft, it is the perfect time for planting roses. Roses have been a very popular bloom over the years, not only do they look good, but they smell wonderful too.

However, planting roses cannot be done just anywhere or in just any climate. They need special care and treatment. Here are some tips that you need to consider in order to successfully grow roses:

1. Roses require about 4 to 6 hours of sunlight everyday. It would be best to plant your roses in a clear area where there are not too many trees or other types of plants. The reason behind this is that the rose may lack sunlight exposure and the roots are also likely to become intertwined with the rose and throttle its growth. If you wish to replace an old rose bush, you should remove about 1 ½ cubic feet of the old soil and replace it with new soil so that the newly planted rose will have fresh soil to start with.

2. When thinking about the position of your roses you must consider the type of rose you are planting. Place ramblers and climbers along trellises, fences and next to pergolas or arches. This is important to consider because they need space to grow freely and these positions are perfect for bigger blooming roses.

3. Roses will look good in island beds which can be mixed with perennials. Smaller roses make great edging plants, which are perfect for combining in front of taller species. Dig a hole large enough for the size of the root ball, but remember to loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole. You can also add bone meal which acts as a slow acting resource of phosphorus. This will help establish a healthy root growth for your roses.

4. You should be careful when considering the planting depth as this depends on your climate. If you live in a cooler climate, plant roses deeper, but if you wish to plant in a pot, you must dig about 1 inch deeper than the usual potted level.

5. Make sure that you place roses in the hole carefully. The hole should be refilled with soil so that the roots are covered completely. Before you make the final covering, water the rose. Then mound the soil about 8 inches high around the base of the plant. The earth will keep the stems from drying out until the plant is completely rooted. As the leaves open, you can remove the excess soil that surrounds the plant.

These some important tips you need to consider when planting roses. It will be worth the effort, as your roses will bloom beautifully.

Zucchini Overload?

USDA summer squash

USDA summer squash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Dating back to 7000 B. C., zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is native to Central and South America. Sometimes called by the nickname “Italian Squash,” zucchini was brought to North America by its southern neighbours. Early European explorers introduced zucchini to Italy and other countries in Europe. Italians initially grew zucchini for their sweet, edible blossoms, later the hearty fruits were experimented with producing the delectable dishes that resulted in zucchini being dubbed Italian squash. Up until the 20th Century, most Americans considered zucchini a treat reserved for eating on special occasions and were store-bought instead of grown in gardens.

Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. Many of the nutrients have been shown to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. All summer squash are perfect diet foods – low in calories, sodium, fat-free, and provide a source of fiber. All parts of the zucchini are edible.

How To Grow

Zucchini is probably the best known of the summer squashes. It is a type of narrow squash that resembles a cucumber in size and shape. It has smooth, thin skin that is either yellow or green in colour and can be striped or speckled. Its tender flesh is creamy white in colour and features numerous seeds. Its edible flowers are often used in French and Italian cooking.

Zucchini can be planted by direct seeding or by transplanting young plants that have been started indoors. Seed directly into the ground as soon as the soil reaches temperatures of 60°F/16°C. for vines. Fill the holes with compost and mound slightly. Plant seeds 1in/2.5cm deep.

Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons, gourds, and squash, all particularly sensitive to frost. Select a sheltered spot, and prepare holes about 12in/30cm in diameter and 12in/30cm deep. Measuring from the centre, space the holes 36in/90cm apart for bush types, 6ft/1.8m apart for vines. To conserve space, squash can be trained over a sturdy trellis, in which case 2ft/60cm between plants is enough.

Zucchini grows best when exposed to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Regular watering is essential for summer squash. Feed the plants with a high-potassium organic liquid feed to produce a higher yield. Thick mulch added after planting will preserve moisture and keep the fruits from touching the ground where they will become soiled and be exposed to insects and diseases.

Harvesting

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. Zucchini are prolific producers and regular harvesting will promote continued yield throughout the growing season. Harvest by cutting the stems from the plants gently with a paring knife. As they are composed mainly of water, summer squashes dehydrate rapidly. Harvest just before cooking and keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag until cooking. Don’t forget that squash blossoms are delicious to eat.

Small summer squashes are used skin and all. Larger squash need their skin and seeds removed: slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.

In the kitchen, zucchini can be steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, fried, grilled, and stuffed. Some ideas include: serve raw as an appetiser with a vegetable dip or salad dressing, grate and sauté with thinly sliced garlic, add to breads, muffins, cakes, stews, casseroles, soups, sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on salads or sandwiches. It can be preserved by canning, freezing, and drying.

In the garden, some gardeners let the squashes ramble through the corn patch, where their sandpapery leaves deter raccoons. Good companion plants for zucchini are: corn, marjoram, and nasturtium. Don’t grow zucchini and Irish potatoes together as they are incompatible.

Steps to a Better Lawn

Lawn&Garden

Lawn&Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr. Mom,

If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn with a good topsoil base, much of the hard work of keeping a lawn beautiful is already done for you. But many of us do not have this luxury, and besides, even with a good topsoil base, you still have to work hard to keep a beautiful lawn and garden.

1. The best time to mow a lawn is when it is cool and dry. Wait for the morning dew to dry off, and before the afternoon heat takes hold. Alternatively, late afternoon or early evening following a watering in the morning is also a good time.

2. A hedge is a much better boundary divider than a fence. It will provide better privacy and keep pets and children in – or out. It will attract birds to its shelter, and provide a great backdrop for plants and flowers.

3. Bring the beauty of your garden to you; plant hyacinths near walkways and doors. Their magnificent perfume will swamp the spring air and make your garden really come alive.

4. Add your garden to non-garden items, such a lampposts and mail boxes. Surround these items with flowers planted to take advantage of the earliest to the latest flowerings. You could have white snowdrops, purple and gold crocus, blue hyacinths, and various colored tulips. You could also surround the posts with rocks to provide added interest.

5. Simple, but effective weed control can be achieved on your lawn by mowing often during spring. This will prevent dandelions spreading by eliminating the yellow blossoms and preventing seed formation. Mow high during late spring and early summer. This will allow grass blades to shade the ground, and will help prevent crabgrass from sprouting.

Your lawn and garden should be a source of pride and beauty. You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive fertilizers and herbicides, or fancy lawn furniture and ornaments. A little commonsense and thought can go a long way to making your lawn and garden a much better place.

Tips for Container Gardens

My lovely container garden

My lovely container garden (Photo credit: staticgirl)

Dear Dr Mom,

Here are several tips for creating a wonderful hanging basket or container this summer. The first is to use an artificial soil composed mostly of peat moss. Good soils such as Fafard or Pro-Mix use perlite, peat, and other ingredients to produce a soil that will not compact over the summer. Real garden soil compacts and turns into concrete under the pressure of regular watering. And when it does, plant roots stop growing because they require good open spaces to move into and absorb nutrients. Hard, compacted soils do not grow good plants so do not use real soil in your containers. I re-use my artificial potting soil from year to year. I dump it out of the pot. Chew it up with a shovel to cut up all last year’s roots and add approximately 10 % by volume of compost. The compost increases air spaces and gives plants a boost in healthy nutrition.

Feed your plants weekly. Nitrogen, the engine of plant growth, is water soluble and as you water your containers from the top the dissolved nitrogen is leaving from the bottom. I use a fish-emulsion liquid feed with seaweed to provide all the trace nutrients my plants require and recommend it highly. You can use any liquid plant food (like Miracle Grow or Shultz) to promote growth. Compost tea is the Cadillac of liquid plant food and if you make your own compost tea, your plants will respond with bigger and better blooms as well as increased vigour.

And finally, no matter the size of the container, it is important to soak it all the way to the bottom at each watering. Continue watering until water emerges from the pot bottom. This ensures the roots can reach all parts of the container and grow properly.