Drip Irrigation

This short infographic on installing drip irrigation is a good place to start if you’re thinking of conserving water in your garden.

If you live with hard water, like I do, I do not recommend “weeping” type hoses because they soon become encrusted inside by the minerals in the hard water. Using a system with emitters, as in the information, below, is much more satisfactory.

Don’t cut corners by leaving out the filter in the line. You’d be amazed how much debris is in water systems. The filter keeps the small particles of debris from clogging up your emitters.

Enjoy!



Source: Fix.com Blog

How to Build a Rain Garden

I came across the attached article in one of the newsletters I subscribe to from Garden Simply. It’s an idea I’ve heard of but never really 

investigated. It’s a simple concept and can be done simply. The idea is to reduce runoff and create an attractive area that takes little care and management. I have a couple of places on my property that I could build one of these gardens. I’m thinking Vetiver Grass would be a perfect plant to add to it along with other plants that can take a wet/dry cycle.

(For more on Vetiver Grass, visit the Vetiver Grass webpage.)

I hope you find the article useful. 
How to Build a Rain Garden

Make your own potting mix

I love these informative graphics from fix.com. I make my own potting mix, so I like this one especially.

What’s great about making your own mix is you can adjust the mix for your plants’ needs. Potting succulents? Add a little more vermiculite or perlite to the mix for the extra drainage that succulents need.

The recipe below calls for worm castings which are a great source of nutrition for plants. If you can’t find them, though. No worry, use a good dry organic fertilizer instead. You can find one here, at The Herb Cottage. (Scroll down the page for the dry, compost based Fishnure.)

 


Source: Fix.com Blog

Grow Herbs for Bugs!

Swallowtail Butterfly on Dill
Even if you don’t cook with herbs there is another terrific reason for growing herbs in your garden and yard.
Swallowtail Butterfly Larva on Dill

The flowers attract beneficial insects and butterflies. If you grow any of the plants in the Umbrilliferae family: dill, parsley, fennel- the butterflies come and lay their eggs on the plants so the hatching larva have something to eat. Those larva, the caterpillars, of course, can decimate a plant in no time. But, we get butterflies in exchange, and generally the plant recovers.

Other insects, many of them beneficial to our gardens, are attracted to herb flowers, too.

The following was posted by “Honey Gal” at Organic Consumers Association’s web forum years ago, but it’s relevant today: “I’m a beekeeper and teach classes in bee stewardship. One thing folks can do to help, even if you aren’t a beekeeper, is to make your yard bee friendly. Plant a flowering herb garden.

Bees use herbs medicinally and your plants can help make a difference. I suggest rosemary, sage, THYME (lots of it), marjoram, chives, basil, all the mints and other herbs with flowers. Bees will find them. To do more, plant native flowering bushes, too. In our area (WA) spirea and goldenrod are bee magnets. Try to have flowers in bloom through into fall.

Put out a big shallow dish of water with sticks or moss in it (so they don’t fall in) and keep it moist. If you can get seaweed, bees are particularly fond of the minerals so I keep a little pile of seaweed in the “bee pond.” All these small actions add up and make it a little easier on your local bees.”


Mint Flower- don’t be afraid to let your mints flower. The flowers bring beneficial insects to your garden. Use the flowers in teas and drinks, too!

 

 

Low growing plants such as mint and thyme act as cover for ground beetles which are good predators for lots of tiny pests. These low plants also provide shady, protected areas for laying eggs.

 

Cilantro in Bloom

 

 

Tiny flowers, like plants from the Umbelliferae family: fennel, angelica, cilantro/coriander, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, yarrow, and rue will attract tiny beneficial wasps.

 

 

Tiny flowers of Chamomile

Composite flowers (calendula and chamomile) and mints (spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, catnip) will attract predatory wasps, hover flies, and robber flies.

 

 

Attract the above mentioned beneficial insects to combat the following:

  • Parasitoid wasps – feed on aphids, caterpillars and grubs
  • Lacewing larvae – feed on aphids
  • Ladybug larvae – feed on aphids
  • Ground beetles – feed on ground-dwelling pests.
  • Hover flies, and Robber flies – feed on many insects, including leafhoppers and caterpillars

Many common pests in gardens can be deterred by interplanting herbs among and along vegetables and in flower gardens. This practice eliminates the need for harsh pesticide use around your food crops and your family and pets.

The following list will give you some basic information regarding which herbs to plant to deter the pests that can plague your garden.

Aphids – Chives, Coriander, Nasturtium

Ants – Tansy- not useful for Fire Ants in the South

Asparagus Beetle – Pot Marigold (Calendula)

Bean Beetle – Marigold, Nasturtium, Rosemary

Cabbage Moth – Hyssop, Mint (also clothes moths), Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Southernwood, Tansy, Thyme

Carrot Fly – Rosemary, Sage

Flea Beetle – Catmint (Contains nepetalactone, an insect repellent. Steep in water and spray on plants.), Mint

Flies – Basil, Rue

Fruit Tree Moths – Southernwood

Japanese Beetles – Garlic & Rue (When used near roses and raspberries), Tansy

Potato Bugs – Horseradish

Mosquitoes – Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Grass

Moths – Santolina

Nematodes – Marigold (Marigolds should be established for at least 1 year before their nematode deterring properties will take effect.)

Savory, Winter – Some insect repelling qualities Squash Bugs & Beetles – Nasturtium, Tansy

Ticks – Lavender (Also thought to repel mice and moths.)

Tomato Horn Worm – Borage, Pot Marigold

You can find seeds for many of the plants mentioned here at The Herb Cottage Seed Shop. Or, if you’re local, you’ll find me out and about at Markets and Garden events. Check the calendar to see where I’ll be. You can come see me at The Herb Cottage, too! Just give me a shout and let me know when you’ll be coming so I can be here to greet you! 

I hope you can use this information to better plan your next garden, whether it will be in the spring or next fall and winter, for those of you who live and garden in the South and West where mild winters allow for gardening. In mild winter areas pests are not killed off by the cold and freezing weather and can be a problem year round.

 

QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me. -Simone de Beauvoir, author and philosopher (9 Jan 1908-1986) 

What to do with your herbs?

The infographic below is from the fix.com blog, an informative site with lots of easy to read information about herbs and gardening. 

Here’s what Chris McLaughlin has to say:

“When beginner gardeners ask me which plants are hardy and forgiving, my answer is always herbs. If a busy gardener asks me which plants will thrive in near-neglect, my answer is herbs. When a foodie gardener asks about fast-growing plants that will feed both people and bees, my answer is herbs

Herbs are the answer to many gardening questions for good reason: they’re an incredibly versatile and prolific group – almost to a fault. In fact, many herbs can be compared to cucumber plants. By the end of the summer, they’re being given away by the bushel because no one is sure what to do with them past some basic dishes. This doesn’t have to be the case for your abundant herb garden this year. We’ve got better ideas.”


Source: Fix.com Blog

A Visit to Peckerwood Garden

 

 

Blue Palm Tree
Mexican Blue Palm. One of the many palm trees at Peckerwood Garden that are native to Mexico

Those of you who know me or have been reading The Herb Cottage Newsletters for a while, know I love to visit gardens. My most recent visit to a garden took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law and I visited Peckerwood Garden, not too far from here, outside of a small town called Hempstead, a little more than an hour northwest of Houston.

The Garden is only open to visitors occasionally. One open day is the 4th Saturday of the month. So, we were in luck and made our way there.

From the website:

“There are many ways to describe Peckerwood Garden: it is a collection of more than 3,000 plants including many rarities; it is a conservation garden containing examples of numerous threatened species, many of which are no longer found in the wild; it is a laboratory garden testing a wide range of ‘new’ plants and our Mexican discoveries. 

It is a garden with a mission to encourage other gardeners to see a beauty in landscape that is consistent with our plants and climate; it is a pioneering garden exploring new plants and cultivation methods and aesthetic concepts for other gardeners. It is a garden that looks to the future, not to the past.

Yet, most essential, it is my studio, a place where artistic and horticultural research are fused to create an environment that stimulates all of the senses, including the most elusive of all, our sense of time.”

—John G. Fairey

We were greeted by such friendly staff! Our visit was lead by 2 docents who are very knowledgeable about the many species of trees and other plants planted on the property. The plants are mostly introductions from Mexico and Asia, that thrive in the local climate. There are native Texas trees and plants, too.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the plants. I felt I was completely stuffed with plant information by the time our tour ended.

Mexican Oak
This Mexican Oak is one of many varieties of oaks I’d never seen before

There were so many trees I’m unfamiliar with. We were told that Mexico has more types of oak trees than any other country in the world, including China and the US.

Below is a beautiful specimen of a Mexican Magnolia. There are many here, all grown from seed collected in Mexico.

Mexican Magnolia
Magnolia tamaulipana. This Mexican Magnolia is so beautiful. I fell in love!

I’ll leave the rest of the pictures for you to enjoy on the tour, below.

I hope you can make a visit Peckerwood Garden one day.

Peckerwood Garden Tour

Give the slide show a bit of time to load.

What’s Eating My Plants

Have you ever gone out to water your garden in the morning only to find holes in your plants’ leaves that weren’t there the day before?

As many of you know, I garden organically, using only safe products to combat pests and disease on my plants. I like to make my own products, but sometimes there are remedies that I cannot make that work so well. Safer brand makes some of the products I use. The following infographic and information was sent to me. I think it’s very useful and concise.

(I am not being compensated for posting this info.)


Most pest problems can be solved with four naturally-derived pest controls: neem oil, diatomaceous earth for bugs with an exoskeleton, B.T. for caterpillars, and insecticidal soap used on soft-bodied insects.

While the culprit in your garden may be pesky bugs, don’t rule out four-legged pests that can do large scale damage. If big chunks of leaves have been eaten, the vandal is most likely a deer. Keeping deer from eating your garden before you get a chance to is easily solved with a tall fence, six feet or higher, that puts some distance between them and your crops.  Damage on a smaller scale, and closer to the ground, can be caused by rabbits.

Rabbits can operate covertly, digging a crawlspace under any fencing or squeezing through gaps. Keeping them at bay may be done by knowing what their nose knows.  A rabbit’s sense of smell is what attracts them to your garden in the first place, so use it against them by planting onions on the edge of your garden, or sprinkle powdered red pepper. You can also consider making a hot cocktail to spray on your plants out of hot peppers, onions, and garlic.

Being proactive against a deer or rabbit invasion in your garden, however, may be the best method for keeping them out.  Plant deer-resistant plants along the inside and outside edges of your garden fences, or choose flowering perennials and annuals that will make your garden look beautiful and smell wonderful while still keeping rabbits away.

Some leaf-eating insects can cause so much damage in just a few days that your plants might be dead within the week!

Use this quick guide to identify the pest eating your plant and what solution would be best to keep that bug away from destroying your garden.

There are also a few additional insects, below the infographic, to keep an eye out for that could hurt your plant’s leaves.

what-eating-my-plants

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. If you like our infographic, feel free to share it on your site as long as you include a link back to this post to credit Safer® Brand as the original creator of the graphic.

12 Bugs That Eat Leaves

Since you rarely see the pest that is eating your plants, you often have to decide upon a treatment by observing the damage done. Here are the most common culprits who are eating your leaves and what you can do about it.

1. Leafminers are larvae of flies, sawflies, and beetles that feed on leaves and causes discolored blotches or wiggly lines. Leafminers particular like columbine, mums, citrus trees and tomatoes. The damage is usually relatively harmless to the plant but if it does get out of control spray neem oil on the top and bottom of leaves to protect them.

2. Box suckers are wingless nymphs of the box psyllids often found inside ball shaped shoot tips in spring. To control the damage, cut off the shoot tips you find suckers and discard. The damage caused by box suckers looks like tiny holes poked into leaves. Aphids, squash bugs and spider mites are all sucking insects that cause this type of damage. Red spider mite damage will show yellow mottling on leaves. Gall mites will often cause raised pimples or clumps of matted hairs on leaves. Sucking insects are mostly harmless but you can keep them away by using insecticidal soap.

3. Scale insects cause tiny blister or shell-like bumps on leaf backs, sticky excretions, and sooty mold on plant leaves. The damage caused by scale insects could stunt growth so be sure to wash leaves off and spray with horticultural oil or neem oil.

4. Thrips are tiny black flies that suck sap from leaves, which causes white patches to appear on leaves and petals of mostly indoor plants. Get rid of thrips with diatomaceous earth (DE) or insecticidal soap.

5. Vine weevil larvae are cream-colored grubs with brown heads that feed on plant roots which causes plants to suddenly collapse. Adult vine weevils are flightless nocturnal black beetles that can make notches in leaves. To kill the larvae, use nematodes and, to kill adult vine weevils, use diatomaceous earth.

6. Caterpillars are probably what comes to mind for most people when you first see holes in your plant’s leaves. For the majority of caterpillars, you can take the time to rub off the eggs you find on the plant and pick off caterpillars. It’s best to go inspect your plants early in the morning, which is when you will most likely find them chewing away. You can also apply sticky traps to capture adult moths before they can lay their eggs on your trees and plants. There are several different kinds of caterpillars that might be causing the damage. Cabbage white caterpillars love to eat brassicas and nasturtiums. Tomato hornworms are the caterpillars who often damage fruits. To get rid of caterpillars, dust your plants with B.T. Caterpillars will leave black excrement dots called “frass” on leaves. Since earwigs can cause similar looking bite patterns in leaves as caterpillars, finding frass is a good way to tell if it is caterpillars that are damaging your plants.

7. Earwigs are usually more beneficial than harmful since they eat insect eggs and adult aphids. However, they do like their fair share of soft fruits and new plant growth. Sometimes, older leaves tend to be chewed around the edges and look ragged when earwigs are involved. Use a pot filled with hay to attract earwigs and then release elsewhere. If you’re determined to kill the earwigs invading your home, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around and on plants with bite marks.

8. Sawfly larvae are caterpillar-like white larvae that eat leaves on plants like roses, gooseberries and Solomon’s seal. Leaf rolling is a sign of sawflies. They lay their eggs on plants and their larvae eat the leaves, they make holes that still have some plant tissue intact so the damage looks transparent. It may eventually break down and leave holes. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to protect your plants from sawfly larvae. You can also pick caterpillars off plants or spray with pyrethrum.

9.Viburnum beetles, both the adult and larvae, eat leaves, which can slow your plant’s growth and looks ugly. To get rid of viburnum beetles and larvae, throw out twigs in late summer that have viburnum beetles’ eggs on them or release lady bugs in the spring to capture the larvae.

10. Japanese beetles feed on flowers and the tissue between leaf veins. Their larvae often causes brown patches in grass. To get rid of Japanese beetles, spray your plants and grass area with neem oil and set up these Japanese beetle traps to capture the adults.

11. Slugs and snails like areas that are moist and shady and eat irregular-shaped holes in the leaf (but not along the edges). To see of snails and slugs are your plant-eating culprits, come out at night with a flashlight and look under leaves. Pour beer in a used, open tuna tin or plate to attract slugs and snails away from plants and into the beer. Slugs and snails often leave shiny trail on leaves and the holes are larger than a pencil eraser but smaller than a quarter. Slugs will also eat ripening fruit touching the ground. If you have a bad infestation, use Dr. T’s Slug and Snail Killer for quick results that won’t harm other beneficial insects.

12. Cucumber beetles can destroy an ornamental overnight. Cucumber beetles will leave tiny transparent circles on plant leaves. Take immediate action to control these plant bugs with diatomaceous earth or use row covers to protect plants before cucumber beetles become a problem.

Don’t think your plants are being eaten by any of these bugs? Animals can often eat your plants too so watch out for possums, rats, deer and rabbits around your garden.

The information in this post is from the Safer blog: 

For over 25 years, Safer® Brand has been a resource for organic gardeners and growers. We proudly offer the broadest and most successful line of OMRI Listed® organic gardening, organic fungicide and organic pest control products.

It’s Organic*, It’s Effective, It’s Safer® Brand.

*For use in organic gardening.

The Attraction of Growing a Garden

aztec-reef-hydroponic-gardening-chinampa
Aztec Reef Hydroponic Gardening

Gardening is an age old occupation. There is evidence that in the Fertile Crescent of the Near and Middle East, people were farming grains and legumes as far back as 8000 BC. In 5000 BC, North American people were inhabiting river bottoms and cultivating crops there. In about 4800 BC, the people of Mexico, Central America, China and West Asia were growing a diverse selection of crops. By 3500 BC the Egyptians were using extensive irrigation techniques and even had garden art.

Of course, people grew gardens for sustenance, to have foods other than those that could be hunted and gathered. Food security could be found in growing food rather than expecting to find it in the wild. As tribes grew bigger and more numerous in various locations, people had to go farther and farther away to find food. Growing food close to home alleviated long, often dangerous treks to find food.

The history goes on and on in culture after culture all over the globe. Peruvians grew potatoes in the Andes in 3000 BC and Egyptians were painting tomb walls with pictures of gardens, fish ponds and fruit trees.

Painting from the tomb of Nebamum in Thebes, Egypt. Circa 1350 BCE
Painting from the tomb of Nebamum in Thebes, Egypt. Circa 1350 BCE

In 1750 BC in Babylon, the Hammurabic Code, the world’s first known written set of laws, included property laws regarding gardens.

Today’s gardener is connected to people far back in history both through gardening and the uses of herbs. Many of the food plants and culinary herbs we use today have been grown and cultivated around the world for centuries.

As early as about 3000 BC. in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and China there were manuals were written on the uses of herbs as medicine.

At one time, people thought of herbs more as part of the food group than as “seasoning”, as we do today. In very complete herb encyclopedias, such as Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Bown many plants that we consider vegetables today are listed as herbs.

ency_of_herbs

Continue reading “The Attraction of Growing a Garden”

August Tour of The Herb Cottage

Since there is not a lot going on at The Herb Cottage in August, I thought a tour of the grounds would be fun. We had a very wet Spring then a couple of extremely dry and hot months. Then, come mid August, the rains came bringing moisture and cooler temperatures which are always welcome in late summer.

My heart goes out to those who have been affected by floods. Thankfully, our rain has been beneficial and not too much at one time. 

Here is a slide show I made from pictures taken on August 21. The grass has not been mowed so the place looks a little ragged, but I just love the overgrown, blowsy look of the vines and the plants. So much green, growing foliage is a treat to me in August. 

I hope you enjoy this slice of life on the farm in Lavaca County, Texas!


QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts.
-George Matthew Adams, newspaper columnist                                     (23 Aug 1878-1962)

 

Summer Pruning for Herbs

 

 

Mexican Oregano loves the summer heat! Picture taken at The Herb Cottage
Mexican Oregano loves the summer heat!
Picture taken at The Herb Cottage

Here in my area of Texas, from mid summer until at least the end of September, it is very hot, humid and stressful for our plants, even the hardy herbs. (It’s stressful for the gardener, too… but that’s a topic for another discussion!)

One way to help our herbs survive the summer weather is to prune them back so they don’t have so much plant matter to keep hydrated. It is easier for the roots to deliver water to shorter stems and the plant stays looking healthier and prettier, too. 

Herbs That May Need Pruning

Mints

peppermint_lg
Healthy Peppermint Plant

Mints tend to become leggy by this time in the summer, unless you’ve really been using them a lot to keep their growth compact.

I find this is the perfect time of year to prune the mints back. The intense heat of late summer here in Texas is not kind to mints. So, I like to prune off the long growth and dry it for use in iced teas and allow the plant to put on new growth from the roots. This practice gives the plants some rest from having to pump so much water out to the ends of the stems during the hottest time of the year.

You can prune all the way to the ground, if you like. They’ll come back beautifully, provided you keep the plants watered.

Mint Flower- don't be afraid to let your mints flower. The flowers bring beneficial insects to your garden. Use the flowers in teas and drinks, too!
Mint Flower- don’t be afraid to let your mints flower. The flowers bring beneficial insects to your garden. Use the flowers in teas and drinks, too!

 

This is also a good time to divide your mints. Whether they’re growing in containers or in the ground, you can dig sections out or dig (or de-pot) the whole plant and see where new little sections have started themselves. Clip those off the main plant and replant or repot them. If you see brown or shriveled roots on the main part of the plant, prune those off, too. Then, repot or replant the main plant- or discard it if it looks tired or if the center of the plant has died out.

 

This mint need pruning! I'll take it all the way to the soil line.
This mint need pruning! I’ll take it all the way to the soil line.

 

Just remember to keep all the plants watered well after pruning,  transplanting or dividing and you’ll be rewarded with new growth in just a few weeks. Meanwhile, you have the dried mint for your tea.

Oregano/Marjoram

Blooming Greek Oregano. Picture taken at The Herb Cottage
Blooming Greek Oregano. Picture taken at The Herb Cottage

By this time of year, my oregano and marjoram have flowered or are flowering. Since these are perennial plants, you can enjoy the flowers and leave them on until they are played out. Flowers from the oregano family bring beneficial insects to your garden and they are pretty. If you like, you can clip them for cut display or use them to flavor your cooking.

There are several types of oregano designated a ‘flowering oregano’ or ‘ornamental oregano’. These are cultivars that have been bred for their more dramatic flowers. Alas, some of the flavor has been lost from these types and they are best used as hardy ornamental landscape plants.

Blue Oregano. Not great flavor, but a striking plant when in bloom!
Blue Oregano. Not great flavor, but a striking plant when in bloom!

Whichever type of oregano you are growing, after the flowers fade, the plant doesn’t look its best. The stems can become leggy and the spent flowers are rather unattractive. So, now’s the time to prune the flower heads off. You can also prune the whole plant back if it’s gotten too big or needs shaping.

Terribly overgrown Greek Oregano. Lots of bare stems. I'll prune to the soil level here and dry the leaves for use in the kitchen.
Terribly overgrown Greek Oregano. Lots of bare stems. I’ll prune to the soil level here and dry the leaves for use in the kitchen.

There is rule of pruning which says for best results, don’t prune more than about 1/3 of the growth of the plant. This is true for some plants, like a large Rosemary, roses and other shrubs. But, many herbs can be pruned all the way to the ground when they’ve gotten out of control. Which ones, you might ask? Here’s a list of some common herbs that can be pruned all the way to the ground, whether you’re growing in pots or in the ground:

  • oregano
  • marjoram
  • mints
  • lemon balm
  • catnip
  • chives/garlic chives

Continue reading “Summer Pruning for Herbs”