Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Update

The vegetables are up and doing well.  The tomatoes have a few small fruits. I have been picking both strawberries and blueberries for a few weeks now. My fig tree has quite a few figs this year, tobacco looks good and so does the squash.  I do have some challenges: the grapes, sweet potatoes and peanuts are looking sluggish.  I believe it's too cold for them.  Temperatures in the 80's just won't do. It is supposed to warm up to the 90's by the end of the week so I hope they perk up soon.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some information about the herbs in my garden.  I have a few unusual ones as well as some old favorites.

  • Oregano - I use this in tomato sauce.  By the way, the alcohol insecticide that I made here, worked great. The whitefly problem I mentioned a week or so ago is under control.
  • Thyme - I started my thyme from seed this year and it isn't growing too fast.  As a result, it is still in the 'baby nursery' on my patio.  It should be ready to transplant in about a week.
  • Summer Savory - I grew this from seed and transplanted it into the herb garden a few weeks ago.  Checked it today and it is doing well.  I use savory in tomato sauce.
  • Parsley - I grow the flat-leaf parsley.  It has more flavor than the curly type.  I use it in stews and soups. I grow this from seed each year.  Parsley is a bi-annual and sets seed the second year.
  • Chives - These are perennial so I don't have to do anything to them but cut and eat them.  Since the flowers deplete the flavor, it is a good idea to keep them well trimmed (unless you want to eat the flowers).  They are delicious in potato or pasta salad.
  • Lemon Balm - This herb also had a whitefly problem a few weeks ago.  I checked it today and it is growing nicely and looks good.  Lemon Balm can be used in meat or fish dishes, dried and used as a tea, or even used in facials. Most of mine goes into potpourri.
  • Stevia - I grew this from seed last year and it is such an interesting plant, I repeated the process this year as well.  It is only an annual where I live, It needs to grow in a more sub-tropical climate to last through the winter months.  Stevia really tastes sweet - almost like candy (a bit of a licorice flavor).  I haven't decided what to do with it.  I did purchase a stevia cookbook but have been too busy to try any of the recipes.
  • Basil - This is an old favorite of mine.  I love the smell of basil!  The classic use for basil is pesto. Personally, I love adding it to the tomato sauce.
  • Bergamont - This is also called beebalm.  The flowers of beebalm are beautiful and fragrant.  You can use it in potpourri, lotions and bath salts.  If planted next to tomatoes,  it is supposed to enhance their growth (I never tried this, I just read it in a book). 
  • St. John's Wart -  This plant was used hundred of years ago to drive out evil spirits. It can be used to dye yarn a red or yellow color and it also has an antidepressant effect when taken internally.  I plan to use it as a dye. Can't wait to see how well it works.
  • Rosemary - This is a perennial here in the southeast.  I love it.  I use it for potpourri, as well as cooking.  It is great in pork and fish dishes.
  • Pennyroyal - I grew this from seed last year but it died during the summer.  So, this year I tried again.  Currently, it is in the 'baby nursery' keeping the Thyme company, but looks great and is definitely ready to be transplanted. Hundreds of years ago, this herb was used for medicinal purposes but it is not recommended for internal use now. However, Pennyroyal will help keep the mosquitoes and gnats away.  Pick a few leaves and rub them on your clothing (there is differing opinions on the Internet whether it is safe to rub it on your skin). 
  • Lavender - Such a fragrant plant!  I love it for potpourri.
While most of my herbs like it here and thrive, there are two that have had a problem growing in the past (they germinate but then die).  I am trying again.  Since the 'baby nusery' is mostly empty now, I am hoping I can give these plants the extra care they need to grow.
  • Woad - Strictly used as a blue or pink dye for yarn.  You must gather the leaves in the second year  to get the colors so I have lots of time to experiment with this one.
  • Soapwart - This one is very frustrating for me even though it is considered a weed once established. I just can't get the darn thing to grow. If it ever does grow, I plan to use it as a substitute for laundry detergent.  Both the leaves and roots will create a foam in water that has cleansing properties.  You can wash your hair with it too. It is gentle and great for anyone who is allergic to perfume and dyes in soaps. 
The Woad and Soapwart are currently relaxing with the Thyme and Pennyroyal in the 'baby nursery' and I am counting the days until they germinate!

What herbs do you have growing in your garden?

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