Herbs

2016 Flowers, Grains, Herbs, etc. (end of season notes)

2016 flowers etc image
Basil: another strong year, but with some leaf predation
Cilantro: not a good year – try a better planting schedule, more robust variety? rotate into a main bed (with arugula)?
Nasturtiums: nearly wiped out by aphids, some recovered later
Okra: seedling problems (due to transplanting and/or watering?), bought seedlings didn’t thrive either
Rhubarb: did well, except for leaf damage (by beetles?)
Sunflowers: healthier plants, less mildew, but not enough – try in new or additional location (Philosopher’s Stone)?
Sweet Clover: transplant into tomato beds worked well, collected seed planted in fall (more for spring)
Three Sisters plot: did well, pretty good balance, very good corn, good beans, squash small and leggy – try larger squash variety w/bushier habit & borer-resistant?

2015 Flowers, Grains, Herbs, etc. (end of season notes)

Basil: awesome, again!

Borage: self-seeded plants transplanted into tomato bed failed – those not transplanted were fine

Cilantro: basically did well, not the best germination, try planting half in April & half in June

Nasturtiums: did great, needed some aphid treatment

Okra: good variety, planted all 13 seedlings & lost several, try using black plastic to warm soil before planting then remove, try planting 6 in front & 5 in back for spacing

Rhubarb: doing better in new location, producing well

Sunflowers: move next year, use Serenade

Three Sisters bed: move to another location next year
Corn: germination problems, lovely ears, not very productive, need better support
Beans: nice variety, reasonably productive
Squash: compact habit good, but produced very few, very small squashes – new variety next year

Stars for the Bees

A newcomer this year to our herb garden is unexpectedly boisterous and intriguing: The herb borage joined one of our two herb beds at the end of April, when we redug and redesigned them. It's already a hearty bush, about three feet tall and right now in heavy bloom. Known also as "starflower", its blooms appear on the plant in both blue and pink versions--apparently younger and older flowers. The honey bees are enjoying the plant immensely; the plant is known for producing good honey, and we're always happy to see pollinators in the garden. We're just learning about borage, since it isn't commonly found in North American herb gardens. It's a probable native of North Africa that has spread across Europe, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean, and South America. Borage is apparently easy to grow from seed, but we acquired our plant from Mahoney's; it's an annual that is said to reseed itself easily, so we won't need to shop for it next year.

We might have made more of the plant's role in companion planting, had we known: it repels tomato hornworms if planted with tomatoes--and cabbage worms when planted with brassicas (hurray!). The plant debris is also a helpful mulch; it contains high levels of calcium and potassium which help the setting of fruit for all fruits and vegetables.

The whole plant is edible, the leaves having a cucumber flavor (I can vouch for that, though the fuzziness of the leaves is a little odd on the tongue), the blooms somewhat honey-sweet; the flower is often used to decorate desserts as it is one of very few truly blue-colored edible substances. It can be used both as a fresh vegetable (in salads and soups) and as a dried herb (in tea).

Beyond its kitchen garden uses, the plant's seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid found chiefly in vegetable oils. This fatty acid is found as a dietary supplement said to treat inflammation and auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, borage is a traditional garnish in the Pimms Cup cocktail, the expected beverage at your neighborhood polo match or Wimbledon.

A quality we will not test, though it would have been timely on the 4th, is due to the plant containing nitrate of potash; when burned, the plant throws sparks with a tiny explosive sound.

Sources:

Grieve, M. (Maud) (1931). Borage. In A Modern Herbal. Retrieved from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/borage66.html

Klein, Carol (2009, January 23). Star Turn. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/24/carol-klein-borage

Borage. (2012, June 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved23:31, July 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Borage&oldid=499739160

Greeting Spring

It's the middle of March -- the perfect time to begin the gardening season. Unseasonable warmth is bringing everything quickly back to life. The Garlic is up, and last fall's Kale and a few Spinach seedlings have survived the winter. The Perennial Herbs are greening up as well. The soil is still a chilly 42° F, but it digs nicely. Next Saturday we'll officially open the garden and begin planting!

Wintering-over Rosemary

 

Sadly, the lovely rosemary we grew in the garden isn'thardy in Arlington. So we potted the plant before the first hard freeze and are keeping it indoors for the winter. The progress, so far, is good.

 

The plant needs as much light and water as it can get in a New England home in winter. It's in a south-facing window and is checked for water every few days. We've also made a point to trim the leggy stems, which make fine additions to many recipes.

Let's hope we can keep it going until spring!

 

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