Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I can almost taste the pesto

Ah..... the sunshine has returned.  That means it was time to get out and get my herbs in the ground.  Herbs are one of the easiest and most satisfying things to grow according to me (if you care).

For newer gardeners herbs are the perfect plant.  They don't really care about soil quality, no amending or fertilizing necessary.  They don't have a lot of disease and pest problems.  They don't require frequent watering, in fact they rather prefer being somewhat neglected.  The most fragrant herbs that you will ever find have been allowed to dry out to almost the point of wilting before they are watered.  I'll skip the complicated botany lesson as to why this is, but basically,  when the plant is denied water it gets totally stressed out because it thinks it's dying.  Since a plants basic goal in life is to reproduce itself it goes into a "I'd better attract pollinators" mode, and puts it's best scent forward.  Then when you water, the plant goes back to it's normal habit but the awesome scent/taste remains.   Don't you like how I talk about plants like they are people?  I know, it's a little weird.

I'm really fortunate that one of the largest herb growers in the country is pretty much right in my backyard.  If you are living anywhere in the Northeast, you probably see Gilbertie's* herbs at your local nursery.  I've bought my herbs from them for probably about 15 years.  Sure I could start my own in the basement with the rest of my plants, but honestly they are the masters.  I've never once had a problem with any herb I've purchased from them, so why mess with perfection?  Herbs are also kind of fussy when started inside, not in a greenhouse.  If you've been following along you know that I have no patience for plants that need babying.  I have 2 human babies and 1 of the canine variety to take care of already, my plants need to be tough.

A couple of things about this new herb garden that I established today.  It's kind of a weird shape, but I'm just working with what I have.  This spot was formerly enclosed by lovely boxwoods (traditional for an herb garden)  but the 9 foot snow drifts this past winter did most of them in.  I'll probably replace them at some point, but I'll let you in on a little secret this bed will likely be expanded this summer and that low stone wall which seems to serve no purpose just might be going away.  Yes, bring on the sledgehammers.  In the meantime, this is what I've got, and the ugly green fencing is a cheap solution to keep fido from using this spot as his private bathroom, cause we're going to be eating this stuff!  This garden is also in our pool area, and away from all of the other vegetables I grow, so I wanted it to look pretty too.

I always, always, lay out the plants first - not that I don't make changes, but it's the only way to get the spacing right.

Now comes the hardest part for both experienced and new gardeners.  When it's all planted, watered, mulch you think to yourself, "there is too much empty space."  I feel it too, trust me, I wanted to shove more plants in to make look prettier, more finished, etc.  Here's the thing though, these babies are going to grow a lot over the next few months you've got to leave them room, not to mention that you need to leave stepping room so the herbs can be harvested. 

In this small space there are 5 different types of basil, 2 kinds of sage, lemon balm, lemon verbena, cilantro, bronze leaf fennel, dill, parsley, borage and rosemary and scented geraniums.  A prize goes to you if you know what borage is, and what you can use it for!  I promise, I'll take some follow up photos in a few weeks, you will be surprised at how quickly things change.  I have a knack for growing some really monster basil (details on how to do that in a future post).

Herbs also do fantastically in containers.  It's that whole drying out thing again.  It's really great if you only have a balcony or patio for growing space.  In fact prior to this year, I grew the majority of my herbs in containers.  I just wasn't smart enough to take any pictures

*This is not a paid advertisement for Gilbertie's I've got no connection to them at all, despite the fact that I've spent a ridiculous amount of money at their nursery over the years.

p.s. hope you like the site redesign. I kinda realized that I wasn't doing my photos any favors by having them on a white background.  It's a work in progress, but I think this is looking quite a bit better!

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