Thursday, July 28, 2011

Herbal Quiz

Ruby Begonia sitting in a pot of Sugar Cane- looking for shade
Since it's been so hot lately... up to 104ºF in the afternoon... in between going outside to water a section at a time, I've been spending time on my computer browsing the Internet looking at various herb related websites. I found an Herbal Quiz: Test Your Herbal IQ It's an informative and interesting quiz. I even missed a couple of questions!! I enjoyed the whole website, too. So, if you have a few minutes, take the Quiz and see what you might know and might not know about some herbs. 

Until next time... 

Stay cool and keep those herbs happy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Still hot... still no rain!

We're still desperately dry here in my part of Texas. It seems all my activities involve water. I'm either watering plants, filling the waterer in the poultry yard or making sure the wild birds have enough water. Oh, and occasionally adding water to our water garden due to evaporation. Oh, and of course, drinking water myself or making tea. I sure hope our well holds out! So far, so good, however. 

Here's a cheery planter that seems to laugh at the heat as long as I keep it watered:

That's portulaca in the front which loves the heat, garlic chives in the middle and lime mint on the right. Garlic chives always bloom in the hottest part of the summer, which is always a treat. 

If you think your eyes are playing tricks on you, they're not. The old whiskey barrel planter is leaning to the side. I think it's on its last season.

Until next time... stay cool, drink your herb tea for health and refreshment and enjoy your gardens!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prune Those Mints!

If you live where it's been hot already for weeks on end... like here in Texas, for instance, your mints may be looking a little leggy and less than perky. What to do? Prune! 

Mints don't really like our extremely hot weather... in fact, mints do best where it's cool and moist. Well, we can do moist... but, cool?... not this time of year... sorry. So, mints take well to pruning during the extreme heat of a southern summer. If you've been using your mints regularly, you might not need to prune them because when you harvest, you are pruning. 

I've been using this Lime Mint for tea all summer and it's nice and bushy. Also, this tub get's watered daily.

This Lemon Balm was recently cut back all the way to the soil line. See how nicely it's regrowing. Also watered daily in this container.

These little pots of Doublemint definitely need pruning. I'll use the cut offs to make more plants!    
Take some time this week and prune down your Mints, Lemon Balm- even your Oregano if it's looking leggy. Oregano should not be pruned all the way to the ground, like you can do with mints. Prune your Oregano by about 1/3 to 1/2 of its current size. 

The plants will thank you with lush new growth and lots of material to harvest in a month to 6 weeks. And... you'll have wonderful, aromatic herbs for fall when we get back into the kitchen to think about soups, stews and all those other cool weather dishes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mulch, mulch, mulch

I know all good garden writers espouse the merits of mulch. Mulch in the winter to keep the ground from heaving and pushing your bulbs and perennials out of the ground if you live where the ground freezes. In hot, dry climates mulch your beds to conserve water and keep the soil from getting too hot. 

We've all read these helpful tips and, I think, said: "Yeah, yeah, yeah... mulch is good and if I were a perfect gardener, I'd do it. But, I don't always have the time and it doesn't make that much of a difference, anyway."

Well... I can't speak knowledgeably about the value of mulch where the ground freezes in the winter, BUT, I can and will speak to how well it works in the hottest parts of gardening territory. 

I've been meaning to mulch my herb bed again since it was done in the Spring. Now, I have mature Stevia, African Basil, Lemon Verbena, Sage, Parsely and some Chives in a bed raised about 3" above the surrounding area. I've been watering EVERY AFTERNOON because the Stevia and African Basils, which are well established, look so poorly in the heat. FINALLY, the other day, I took 2 bags of mulch to the bed and spread it liberally around all the aforementioned plants. 

Newly mulched bed of Stevia (towards the back), Sage (on the left) and some Sweet Basil (center) & African Basil (lower right)
Of course, it looks great... neater and more finished. But, the real VALUE is the plants that previously wilted in the hot afternoon temperatures, now look perky, fresh and ready to harvest. I'm not kidding!! It took me maybe 20 minutes to spread the mulch and water after. Be generous... a 2" to 3" layer is NOT too much. It might look like it's beginning to cost a lot, but, believe me, you'll save in water cost, time and your plants will look soooo much better. Besides, an organic type mulch will add nutrients back to the soil as it decomposes. It's definitely a WIN WIN situation.

Newly mulched bed showing parsley, basil and lemon verbena

So... if you have garden beds with plants that need watering EVERY DAY, take some time and a small outlay of $$ and MULCH, MULCH, MULCH. You will not be disappointed. Especially if you live where there's a drought- like Texas- or in a municipality where water has been rationed. You just might KICK yourself for not doing it sooner. 

The mulch will break down and by next Spring, you'll need to add another layer when adding plants to the bed or after the perennials that might have gotten knocked back by Winter are coming back.

That's my rant for today! Hope you've all enjoyed it and it has encouraged you to get into the garden and MULCH, MULCH, MULCH!

Till next time,