Saturday, August 30, 2008

Beneficial Insects and Birds in the Herbal Garden

I just love to let vegetables go to flower. Like these leeks. They attract so many wasps and flies that are beneficial to the garden. My husband is growing purple corn from Peru and it had some kind of problem and he found two ladybugs that were cleaning things up and had come to the rescue. The goldfinches are loving the sunflowers! Hope you all enjoy the last of summer weather over the Labor Day weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Year of Angelica

I'm always looking for a big herb to fill in spaces in my herb garden or elsewhere in the garden. This was the year of angelica in my herb garden. Angelica is a biennial, but if it likes its place, it goes CRAZY. It is a little hard to see in this picture, but it is in the back near the grape arbor. It was 7 feet tall! The seeds can be collected but have to be planted within 3 months of harvesting. It is a beautiful architectural plant in the garden. Does better with some shade. You can candy the stems for a treat.
Here is a recipe from Bertha Reppert's book, Growing and Using Herbs with Confidence.
24 6-inch pieces of angelica (large hollow stalks, fresh)
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
To prepare the angelica, soak it in cold water for several hours; plunge it into boiling hot water until, when pressed with your fingers, all stringy parts are easily removed. Do this under cold water. Boil a simple syrup of the water and sugar. Place the prepared angelica in the hot syrup (225 degrees F) for 24 hours; drain, reheat the syrup, and repeat three times. On the fourth day, boil the syrup and angelica at 245 degrees F. Remove from heat; cool. Drain; sprinkle with sugar. Dry thoroughly (this may take two weeks); store in a tin. Keeps indefinitely.
I will post a picture soon of a purple angelica. It has purple stems and flowers. It makes a real statement in a shady part of a garden.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Preserving the Herbal Harvest-Making Jelly

With the weather turning a little cooler this week, I thought I would write about preserving your herbs for the fall and winter seasons. Several weeks ago, I made some herbal jelly, lemon basil and cinnamon basil. My kitchen was filled with the wonderful smell of basil at its best. Once you steep the herbs in water or other liquids and add the sugar and Certo, your jelly is finished. I'm simplifying the process, but it is very satisfying. People who receive them as gifts have the idea that it is lemon with basil and cinnamon with basil, but it is the plants in both cases. I use Renee Shepherd's recipe for Scented Basil Jellies. You can find it at Renee's Garden and under Renee's Recipes, you will find a recipe for herb jellies. Many people are intimidated by jelly making, but I really enjoy it. I also will be making raspberry jam and grape jelly later this year. Jelly makes a great gift any time of the year and it is one way to preserve your herbal harvest. The picture is my front gate this summer. It has been glorious.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Herbal Containers

Every year our herbal containers get better. Above you can see two scented geraniums 'Logee's Snowflake', a rose scented and variegated leaf. This is their third year in these pots. We may have to change plants out next spring. We have a diversity of herbs in containers. Lavenders, scented geraniums, lemon verbena, an allspice tree, a bay rum tree, three figs, two bay laurels, a couple of rosemaries, a kaffir lime to name a few. They all come inside for the winter. It can be a little hectic! I remember one of the first years we were in this house and the first hard frost was announced! We were digging up plants and putting them in pots like crazy! Some made it and some didn't. If you are really interested in keeping herbs indoors over the winter, I would begin to get plants in pots now to get them ready for the change. We are also lucky in this house to have a south facing garage that has windows in the door. That is a big plus for the rosemaries and scented geraniums to keep their leaves and limit the powdery mildew that affects rosemaries in the winter. It's because the garage is unheated so it is not too warm or hot from the forced air of the furnace. The lavender to the right is a green fringed lavender that is tender in our region. Lavender is the herb of devotion. That's what is says on and side of the container.
I hope you will take some of your herbs that might not make it if you have snow in winter or very cold temperatures. We both love herbs in containers on the coldest days of winter. I know you will also. If you bring in your lemon verbena, it is likely that it will drop all of its leaves and you will think it has died. Make sure to water it about every 10 days or so. If by chance it keeps some of its leaves, cut the whole plant back to about 6 inches in December. In mid February or so, it should start to leaf out. It is a very exciting process. Until next time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Welcome to My Herb Garden

I hope you will enjoy the herbal journey that I have led for the past 23 years. I promise to share favorite herbal recipes and tips and hopefully we will learn from each other. I started my herbal experiences when we moved to this house in the late 80's. This particular garden which you see at the beginning of my blog is a fairly new addition in 2003. We needed a new wall behind the garden and the weeds had overtaken the space. We got a glorious rock wall, but so did the chipmunks! It is a challenge every day keeping them from destroying the plants along the rock wall.  I'm also a Penn State Master Gardener Emeritus.  Finally, I garden with my husband and I'm very lucky to have his help. So as we go on this journey together hopefully you learn something new and rekindle your passion for herbs.