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Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

H is for Herbs

Of all the things I have attempted to grow in my garden, I have been most successful with herbs. In fact, sometimes it seems like they are the only things doing well. And already this spring, I have chives, mint, lemon balm and parsley ready to use. And the best part is, they seem to thrive on our poor soil and my benign neglect. In time, I may convert to all herbs.

A big project I have been working on for a year now is to turn the slopes of the vegetable garden into a perennial herb garden. I’m about half way done and excited about it. For the past 3-4 years I have tried to grow annual squash and beans on the slopes only to have the weeds invade. It got so I was putting more effort into weeding every year. That’s no way to have a garden! Permaculture, among other things, teaches that you should let the plants do the work for you, so I hit on the idea of planting the slopes with perennials. Less weeding for me – maybe almost none eventually, soil stability, soil improvement, great things to eat and use , a real win-win situation.

So here is what I am growing and what I do with it:

  • mint – We use it fresh, dried and make syrup from it, mostly for drinks
  • chives – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • garlic chives – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • hyssop – dry for tea, supposed to be good for colds
  • yarrow – nothing yet!
  • thyme – fresh and dry, for cooking
  • lemon balm – fresh and dry, syrup for drinks
  • tansy – bug repellent
  • tarragon – fresh for cooking
  • parsley – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • comfrey – compost, companion plant, poultice for sprains and bruises
  • salad burnet – fresh in salads
  • lavender – dried
  • basil – fresh, freeze in pesto
  • rosemary – fresh and dried, for cooking and hair rinse
  • marjoram – fresh and dried, for cooking
  • oregano – fresh and dried, for cooking
  • summer savory – fresh
  • lovage – fresh and frozen, for cooking
  • betony – dried for teas, headache remedy
  • calendula – fresh on salads, dried, make calendula oil and moisturizer
  • dill – fresh and frozen, for cooking
  • sage – fresh and dried, mostly for tea
  • chamomile – dry for tea

To make syrup, I usually make simple syrup with sugar and add the herbs. I leave the herbs in until the syrup cools and then strain them out. I often freeze the syrup until I’m ready to use it, typically for cold and hot tea.

To dry, I either hand in the pantry or use my dehydrator. Stored in glass jars, the dried herbs keep all winter. I’ve become quite fond of sage tea with honey and lemon.

Herb lore is fascinating and every time I look at an herb book or web site I am quite sure I will never know even a fraction of the things I read about. It’s all so overwhelming. My goal for this year is to make more cosmetics and learn more about the medicinal uses of the herbs I have.

If you’re keeping track, I am way behind on the B-Z blog month! But I’m on spring holiday now, so am hoping to catch up in the coming week. 

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I finally have a plan!

Our house is on a sloped lot. It worked out nicely for the garage…

Garage built into hill, back of house even with ground on that side.

Garage built into hill, back of house even with ground on that side.

But for the garden it is a bit of a problem. We went with terraces, for the most part, but there are still slopes to deal with. The first couple of years, I used them to grow my squash, but with all the weeds blowing in from the abandoned lots next to us, it was just impossible to maintain them for this use.

IMG_7110

One year’s growth of weeds!!!!

But now I have a plan.

Of course I could have planted them with some sort of perennial, even grass, but I really wanted them to be productive, not decorative. And when it occurred to me that the most successful and easiest plants to grow are herbs, I realized that what I should do is plant an herb garden on the slopes.

One part will be a sort of rock/herb garden using left over pavers from a neighbor’s project (very grateful thanks to JD!), one part a perennial herb garden, and another part left “wild.” I’ve been busily collecting seeds from my favorite wild flowers to sow in the wild part, call it wild but managed!

Heat loving herbs. The stone tiles will block weeds and absorb heat.

Heat loving herbs. The stone tiles will block weeds and absorb heat.

 

Perennial herbs. I've worked about half way down the slope, with hyssop, chives, lemon balm and purple cone flower.

Perennial herbs. I’ve worked about half way down the slope, with hyssop, chives, lemon balm and purple cone flower.

 

Set of stairs my husband made. He will use cloth liner underneath to keep the weeds down and secure both cloth and steps to the soil.

Set of stairs my husband made. He will use cloth liner underneath to keep the weeds down and secure both cloth and steps to the soil.

I’m pleased so far and hopeful that I can get most of it planted by this fall to hold back the onslaught of weeds in the spring. And in 5-10 years, it should be mostly weed-free!

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Friend and neighbor Andrea, who never tires of this description, says my garden does not look as bad as I think. I must admit that I am beginning to believe her. But you know how you can get used to a noise to the point where you don’t even notice it anymore? I fear that is what has happened with me and the weeds. So, when I look at my garden I don’t even see them , so now I think it looks great out there!

A few bright spots…

Olivia’s sunflower

Butterfly bush + Queen Anne’s Lace (Looks better than this photo!)

Rhubarb ready to harvest!

A rainbow of chard

2012 is more than half way over and I thought I’d check up on my resolutions and see how I am doing.

Garden resolutions for 2012:

1. Get soil tested. I didn’t, but I did find out how. There is a place you can send your soil for a small fee, but I am not sure it tests for contaminants. I’ll have to keep working on this one.
2. Grow potatoes in barrels. I didn’t get to this. I wanted to find a barrel that was  not plastic and was not pressure-treated wood and just didn’t find one. But I have 10 months to find one for next spring…
3. Figure out how to get manure and straw (where to get it and how to transport it). Nope. No clue. Possible I can still do this, though.
4. Build more raised beds. We did this! I now have ten 4×4 foot beds and one 4×8 for the strawberries. I love them!
5. Try garlic. Yet to come…
6. Build cold frames. We bought one instead. It’s functional, but a bit flimsy.

Flimsy cold frame now housing eggplant and peppers.

7. Put in fruit trees – cherry, apricot, maybe apples, but they are so plentiful and cheap here… We did this, too! And they are doing well.

Sour cherry.

8. Put in small fruit shrubs –  currants, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, gooseberries. All but the grapes…I think that counts as fulfilled!

Currants and gooseberries.

9. Make a solar dehydrator. Good project for next week!
10. Put in an asparagus bed. Done. It looks like a coffin, and it seems one of the asparagus died already.


11. Grow more herbs. Yes, to parsley, chives, mint and sage, I added tarragon, lemon balm, betony, rosemary, thyme, dill, savory, oregano, basil and marjoram.

Herb bed with sage going wild!

Savory and marjoram. Or is it the oregano? (I can’t tell them apart!)

So, running total so far…6 completed, 3 in progress and 2 that will not come to pass out of the first 11. Second half of the resolutions tomorrow and the grand total…

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