Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Freeze Warning. . .


That's my herb containers covered with plastic in preparation for the possible freeze Monday night.  

I did have good intentions for my "Clementine" tree.  It was to take cover in the outdoor basement stairwell under the door, but I was exhausted.  The tree stood tall in its pot next to my butterfly bush.  I guess we'll see how it faired in the days to come.

The herbs are doing well, and I hope to receive the rest of my seeds this week.

Sorry for the short post, but I'm tired and having typing issues.  I might take the week off next week, but I promise to have a marvelous surprise for my return.  Come back and check it out after Easter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!

Today we officially welcome the beginning of Earth's rebirth after a season of hibernation.  As you all know, however, I welcomed Spring a while ago.  

At the end of last week I planted my Basil in the same pot I used last year.  It seems to be happy to have the room to spread its roots.  At the same time, I trimmed back my Lavender, Spearmint, and Oregano.  The fact that this should have been done at Winter's first breath is not lost on me.  However, I was fortunate that Winter decided to be kind to my plants, allowing me the opportunity to use my Rosemary and Thyme throughout the season.  Neither of those plants, as far as I can tell, need tending to but for water.

All of my perennial herbs are making a vivacious comeback.  They all have bright new growth.  Even my Lavender, which I wasn't too sure about when I started trimming, looks to be trying to double it's size this year.

Lavender, Oregano, Rosemary
Basil, Thyme

Yesterday, my little Bug and I had loads of fun playing in the dirt.  We started with emptying all of the pots that had dead plants in them and washing them out.  (Oh boy!  Hose fun!)  Then we took the three biggest pots and prepared them for Mints.  So far this year, my Spearmint has been joined by Peppermint, Orange Mint, and Chocolate Mint.  If you've ever enjoyed the taste of Orbits orange flavored gum, you know already know the scent of the Orange Mint.  It smells so clean, and fresh, and fruity.  I can't wait to make a tea with it.  The Chocolate Mint doesn't have a strong scent, but when you pop a leaf into you mouth and release it's heavenly flavor it tastes like an Andes Mint.  Simply divine. 

Spearmint (returning), Peppermint
Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint

To these, I want to add Lemon Mint and Apple Mint.  The Apple Mint is the challenge so far.  For the Lemon Mint, my neighbors have a wild thatch of it bordering their flower bed.  Which brings me to a very important point:
All mints should be grown in pots, as they are very invasive plants and, in time, will take over your garden.
This was a lesson I learned many years ago with a children's seed-starting kit, including Peppermint.  After transplanting the plant into the garden, we had a garden full of Peppermint within about four years.  I should also note that it is recommended that you use long, shallow pots for mint plants.  They don't need the depth so much as the surface area.  I haven't done this yet because I don't have that type of pot, but I do plan to move each of my mints to its own low and long pot.  

I also planted my Bee Balm yesterday, although not directly. . .yet.  They are in pots for the time being until I can be sure that Old Man Winter is truly gone for the year.  These little guys are just too small to trust to the ground yet.  Once they are a little bigger or fears of late frost can be pushed away, they will go in the ground.  (I also have to have my raised beds in place for the Bee Balm I'm putting by the herbs.)

Scarlet Bee Balm

Enjoy your first official day of Spring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Plants & Seeds. . .

Orange Mint   Peppermint   Chocolate Mint
Scarlet Bee Balm (x2)   Basil (generic)
My first plants of the 2012 season have arrived!  The mints pictured are for my tea garden.  Well, tea containers as mint must kept confined else it overruns your plantation.  I am still searching for the perfect mint containers, though--long and somewhat shallow.

While it may seem obvious, cliche even, the Bee Balm is, well, for the bees.  I did learn, however, that this herb is also good for tea use, so maybe I'll give that a shot, as well.

The basil is just a generic sort.  The seller couldn't give me a specific type, but I figure basil is basil. . . For my purposes at this point, anyway.

Sugar Pumpkin      Bush Bean     Pickling Cucumber
Cortland Onion     Garlic Chives     German Chamomile
My seeds are here, too!  I'm super excited about this.  In gardening, there is nothing quite like planting a seed, waiting and watching a tiny sprout push through the soil to grow and become a productive member of the garden.  My started-from-seed plants indulge me in the joy that is one of the seven deadly sins:  pride.  I take pride in my entire garden, but these are my babies. . .especially the gourds, which I spend much quality time every night while they are blooming.  But more about that later.

This weekend I also transplanted two Rose of Sharon trees/bushes.  One of them came with Grape Hyacinth bulbs already tall with bright green leaves.  I'm not exactly sure I did the transplanting right, so here's to hoping I didn't kill two very healthy plants.

Tulips bulbs are also on the transplanting agenda.  Again, I'm not sure I'm doing it right.  The thing that scares me about the tulips is that they've already started pushing up for the spring, and I'm not sure they'll take being moved at this point.  But, it's either move them now, or bury them under the raised beds coming in.

I don't know if you can see them behind the Rose of Sharon, but I have staked out my raised bed plots for my herb garden.  Once all of the bulbs have been moved--I still have to dig up some dwarf Irises--the beds will be moved forward about 6-8 inches to move the back one away from the pine stump that was never removed.  (If you have any advice for moving my bulbs, please offer.)

Next week I should have some pictures of planted mints and seemingly empty pots of dirt.  But those "empty" pots will have hidden treasures just below the surface.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It Has Begun. . . !

The seed orders have been placed!  Well, one order was placed through Gardens Alive! on Friday.  There will be an order placed through Gurney's soon, and possibly an order for some herb plants.  My tomatoes and some other, more common, herbs will be purchased from local nurseries.  (These will most likely be Mother's Day gifts.  I like the idea of getting a gift that gives all year long.)

I still have in stock the seeds for my personal sized watermelons, Jack-B-Littles, large gourd mix, small gourd mix, tobacco box gourds, large Martin gourds, and Roger 6.2 gourds.  

Organic New England Sugar Pumpkins from Garden's Alive! are the smaller "baby bear"-type pumpkins that I've chosen for this year.  They will be perfectly sized for Bug to carry around and feel special, and they are supposed to be great for cooking.  The "organic" label is an added bonus.

The green beans were chosen by my mother.  Organic Haricot Vert Maxibel beans are the same type used in some of her favorite restaurants.  They have incredible flavor, and, again, they are organic.

For pickles--which I toyed with last year, but not to my satisfaction--I chose the National Pickling cucumber.  My understanding is that this cucumber is one of the best to use for pickling.  I love pickles, and would like nothing more than to grow and pickle my own.  These are also organic.

Now, as far as my herb garden goes, this year I want to expand.  That's not too difficult a task since last year's herbs were basics--rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, lavender, and spearmint--grown in containers on my deck.  They were easily accessible for cooking, but I want more.  I've decided that I want to grow herbs for making my own teas, too.  I realize this type of endeavor will probably be a trial and error learning curve, and involve using other areas for growing, but I'm willing to take it on.  

My first herb choice for the tea garden was Organic German Chamomile seeds.  Chamomile is great for helping you relax and is the primary herb used in "bedtime" teas.  I recently read that it's also good for rinses for blond hair.  (Whereas Rosemary is better for brunettes.)  Maybe my herb garden will branch into homemade beauty treatments, too.  

For the culinary herb garden, I've ordered Organic Garlic Chives and Organic Cortland Onion seed.  I'm new to the root crops, so hopefully I'll do alright.  In Fall I'll add garlic, which I'm excited for because I love cooking with garlic.  

Coming with the garlic chives and German chamomile is also a lettuce mix they call "Cut n Come Again."  I will probably grow this in a container, or a nice idea I found for converting rain gutters into a sort of hanging garden.  (I'm not sure where I originally saw that, so I can't give credit to anyone.)

One more thing I have coming with this order is a plant called Scarlet Bee Balm.  This plant is supposed to be great for attracting beneficial bees and other insects to your garden.  I have one for the herb garden, and one for the veggie garden.