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.


Source: Fix.com Blog

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.


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.

DIY Pest Control

There is lots of information in books, magazines and on the web for homemade pest and disease control for garden problems. If you read about these, you’ll soon recognize many of the same ingredients throughout. 

And, that’s good, because it means these practices have been tried many times in different situations and they work. 

Below is a link to yet another DIY garden pest control that I found very helpful and easy to follow:

The situation is dire: a multitude of destructive super-villains are attacking your precious garden. These creatures have no remorse and they won’t stop until they exterminate every last blade of grass in your precious, green utopia.

These criminals are each specialized in a specific method of destruction and are so powerful that your innocent plants don’t stand a chance against them, alone. They can level a healthy looking garden in as quickly as a week and can leave nothing standing.

Beetles, aphids, caterpillars and a whole host of baddies descend into your garden and they are not taking any prisoners today. They are set on plundering and looting everything they see till there is nothing more left to destroy.

Is there no way to defeat them? Must you stand by helplessly and watch as they wreak havoc?

Not really. Enter the Guardians Of The Garden.

Here is the rest of the article. 

Houston’s Garden Academy

I learned about this useful gardening website from the Lazy Gardener newsletter from Brenda Smith of the Houston Chronicle. The site is full of good info for those living on or near the Gulf Coast. The info is also relevant, with a few tweaks, to those gardening elsewhere in mild weather regions. I hope you check it out and see if it’s useful to you.

The Garden Academy


Spring just has to be the most exciting time of year for us gardeners.

The equinox has passed and the sun is climbing in the sky offering us longer days, more sun to help our plants grow and milder days to work in the garden.

Oh, I know many of you are still in the grip of Old Man Winter, but, Spring will come soon enough. Have you started your seeds yet? Planned this year’s garden? Started cleaning out the beds?

Here in the South, our gardens are transforming, with the end of our winter crops of leafy greens, root vegetables and green peas clearing space for warm weather crops such as beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and the like.

I’ve been harvesting Snap Peas for weeks.

Tired Pea Vines!
Tired Pea Vines!


The vines are looking a little peaked now and I think it’s time to cut the pea vines and plant something else in that tub. Since I grew peas, which added lots of nitrogen to the soil, I’ll grow a heavy feeder such as a Tomato, Pepper or Eggplant in that tub.

New Lavender, Thyme and Rue!
New Lavender, Thyme and Rue!


New herbs are being stocked here at The Herb Cottage just in time for Spring shows and markets.




People are making their way out to the farm to get the best selection of herbs and vegetables, too.

Cucumber, Melons, Okra

In the herb beds, new growth is everywhere!

Texas Bluebonnets love The Herb Cottage!

Of course, since I let our State Flower, the Texas Bluebonnet, grow wherever it pleases, the beds are full of them now. I’ll have to wait another few weeks until they fade and throw their seed out before I can replant my favorite warm weather annual, basil.

In the greenhouse, I have seeded traditional Genovese Basil, but also lemon, lime, Holy and Thai varieties.

Los of little basil! 4 varieties!
Los of little basil! 4 varieties!



Each type has a different aroma and flavor. Watch for it at my markets starting in mid to late April.




This year I also have African Blue Basil, which I ordered in for a local bee keeper. He said his bees love it the best. So… if you want to attract bees to your gardens and yard, plant some African Blue Basil for them. Most people find the flavor of the African Blue variety too strong for cooking, but it makes a fabulous landscape plant for the bees and for cut flowers. It’ll bloom until frost! If you live in a frost free area, African Blue Basil is perennial! Start more plants from cuttings, as the seed is sterile.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
African Blue Basil- Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

African Blue Basil isn’t just for bees. It’s a great butterfly plant as well.

In fact, most plants that bees like are also favored by butterflies.


Continue reading “Spring!”

Winter Solstice and Gardening

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year because the earth’s axis is tilted farthest from the sun and, therefore, is also the longest night. Our ancestors took this very seriously, as darkness presented more danger as well as cold due to lack of sunlight.

Winter Solstice
Stonehenge marks the Winter and Summer Solstice

Many cultures and religions celebrate the longest night of the year with rituals involving fire, light, noise, singing- anything to lessen the impact of the darkness and to encourage daylight to return with the continuation of the cycle of the earth.

Winter SolsticeWinter Solstice

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 21: People carry lanterns at the Burning The Clocks Festival on December 21, 2011 in Brighton, England. The annual celebration is enjoyed by thousands of people who carry paper lanterns through the streets of Brighton culminating on Brighton Beach where the lanterns are burnt and the Winter Solstice is marked.

As gardeners, the short days of Winter cause us to look forward to the Spring planting season. One way we while away the short days until Spring is to peruse new seed and plant catalogs coming in the mail. As the days slowly lengthen, all seems possible in the upcoming growing season

When I buy seeds, I usually order on-line, but I use the print catalog first to carefully look at my choices for the upcoming season. Somehow, I think the paper catalog allows for more contemplation and comparison, than on-line listings.


cat_coversThe problem with those colorful photographs and glowing descriptions is, of course, that we order much more than we can fit in our garden space or than we have time to tend.








Overgrown Garden


But… what’s a gardener to do? This is the perfect time of year to sit in a cozy house with a hot beverage and a stack of seed catalogs to thumb through and dream with. Each catalog has exciting new varieties to offer. Each variety of tomato sounds tastier than the last. Each piquant pepper will add just the right note to your salsa. Each new flower color will add just the right touch to your garden.

Basil Siam Queen.JPG

African Blue Basil 

There is a danger in all those pretty pictures and descriptions, each plant seeming like the perfect choice for your garden. Not all plants do well in all parts of the country, in all soil types and in all situations. So, before you get completely carried away, there are a few things you should take into account when looking at seed and plant catalogs. 

Continue reading “Winter Solstice and Gardening”

Fall Gardening- a Joyous Time to be in the Garden

vegmedleySeptember 2015

Gardening magazines and blogs this time of year, the Fall, are telling us how to put the garden to bed, preserve our harvest and settle in for the winter. I admit there’s something very cozy about cleaning up the vegetable, herb and perennial beds, covering them with a nice layer of leaves or mulch and letting them rest until next spring.

However, nothing could be farther from the minds of gardeners in the mild winter regions of the U.S. and elsewhere. This is the time for our lovely cool season herbs and vegetables to flourish. Instead of cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed, for us it’s time to clean up the garden and get it ready for another growing season.


I love the fall planting and growing season. The days are cooler so it’s much less stressful to be in the garden and the types of herbs and vegetables that grow so beautifully are healthy and flavorful, too. Think of broccoli, kale, cabbage, carrots with herbs such as dill, cilantro, fennel, chervil and celery leaf to add flavor and depth to recipes.

Even here in Texas, with our mostly mild winters, I love to do soups and pots of beans during the winter. Our non-air-conditioned kitchen is so much more pleasant than during the summer. And, on cold days, a pot simmering on the stove helps keep our old farmhouse warm.

Planting a fall garden can be done with transplants or by direct seeding. Direct seeding, of course, is more economical, but lots of people like to start with transplants. Finding specific varieties in transplants may be difficult, and starting your own from seed isn’t difficult. But, of course, it’s up to you how you want to start your garden. Root crops- beets, carrots, radishes… are best direct seeded and you’ll almost never see transplants for those.

If you’re planting in an area that was used for a spring and summer garden, you’ll want to add some fertilizer in the form of compost or a dry fertilizer that can be mixed with the soil. It would be helpful to have mulch available to spread around any transplants you use. Direct seeded crops should be allowed to come up a bit before mulching.

Fall crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale may attract little green worms that will devour the new leaves.

Cabbage Looper
These little guys can devour a small seedling overnight! Keep a vigilant watch out for them!

These are known as cabbage loopers and are the larva of various moths.

A handy, completely non-toxic way to deal with them is to cover your crops with a spun row cover material. This is a lightweight fabric that lets in light and water, but keeps the moths away from the plants so they cannot lay their eggs on your crops. There are several brands on the market and it’s getting easier to find at many retailers or on-line.

Another way to combat the little buggers is with a product that contains the ingredient Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt is certified for use in organic production and only targets the worms. It destroys the worm as it chews on the leaf. Bt is found in quite a few garden products now in ready-to-use spray, a concentrate that you mix with water or in a powder form. Be sure to follow all directions on the package.

Go ahead and jump into the Fall gardening season with joy! The weather is cooling off, many of the bugs are gone and the crops you can grow now are so nutritious and varied, you’ll never get bored with your harvest.

Continue reading “Fall Gardening- a Joyous Time to be in the Garden”

Herbs in Victory Gardens

This post was originally published as the September 2004 Newsletter.

The newsletter is a little late this month because I thought I might find an interesting topic to share with you at our Texas Herb Growers and Marketers Association Conference last weekend. While there were some very interesting speakers (and maybe a topic for a later newsletter), lots of networking among attendees and all sorts of good herbal information, an article from an old newspaper given me by a colleague at the library sparked my imagination for this issue.

The newspaper is the Lavaca County Tribune, Tuesday, June 2, 1942. The byline on the article is from College Station, TX. As any college football fan knows, College Station is the home of Texas A&M University, The Fightin’ Aggies, as they’re fondly known. It is a major agricultural research center and the home of the Texas Extension Service. Lots of solid gardening information can be found on their web site concerning home gardening, market gardening, growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, ornamentals and more. There is information regarding pests and diseases in the garden, orchard and field, a question and answer section and links to other resources. The website address is: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu 

The article that caught my colleague’s eye is titled “Herbs in Victory Gardens”.

Victory Garden Poster
Victory Garden Poster from WW II

Most gardeners have heard of the Victory Gardens encouraged by our government during W.W.II, some of you may have even planted them or helped tend them as children. These gardens were a major source, 40%-50%, of produce for American families while the major portion of commercially raised crops went to feed our troops. Most people think of the Victory Gardens as being just vegetables. I found a list of the common vegetables grown and it reads like a well stocked farmers’ market: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and more.

People still wanted their food to taste good, so the article from College Station tells about the different herbs that are adapted or native to Texas that could be grown to compliment the vegetables.

Basil is listed first, because what is summer without basil for your fresh tomatoes, then dill is listed because pickles are a bore without it, and canning was a big part of the Victory Garden plan. In fact, community kitchens were set up in towns where women could go and learn to can vegetables, use the facilities and spend time visiting with other women. I wish these facilities were still available… think of the shared knowledge about all sorts of things… gardening, raising children, home repairs, sewing, and more. Then comes mint, sage, parsley, anise, bergamot, catnip (as a sedative, perhaps, to calm cranky children?), fennel, hyssop, savory, tarragon, and lemon verbena.

The article goes on to suggest ways to use herbs in cooking, “an art which is practiced too little”, according to Miss Camp, home production planning specialist for the Extension Service at A&M. Herbs give stimulating flavors to drinks and distinctive flavors to “warmed-over dishes and in many other ways can aid the homemaker in making cooking an adventure rather than a daily chore.” Well, I can just see an over-worked mother whose husband may be overseas thinking about her adventure in the kitchen…

Miss Camp goes on to suggest parsley and fennel are good with poultry, veal venison and fish. A dish of mint or tarragon will make a fruit salad more “delightful”. Chives, mint, watercress and sorrel give salad a new dimension. And, she says, mint, lemon verbena and rose geranium are good in beverages.

As you’re tending, or harvesting, your gardens this fall, think about those Americans a couple of generations before us who were concerned about loved ones abroad in harm’s way and did what they could here at home without complaining and with a sense of purpose. Our gardening traditions are a wonderful way to connect to the past.

For information about Victory Gardens, I used the following web site: http://www.victoryseeds.com/TheVictoryGarden

“No unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between man and a plot of land.”
Henry Ford

Heirloom Tomatoes

Originally Published January 2003

A belated Happy New Year to you all (or should I say y’all, as this letter comes from Texas). As the new year begins, we tend to reflect upon our place in the world and, perhaps, our plans for the future. Here at The Herb Cottage, I’ve got a good start on cuttings and seeded crops for the coming season. In the south, the growing season for most vegetables is actually very short because, after a short spring, the weather quickly gets too hot and/or humid for vegetable plants to produce much.

Tomatoes are the #1 vegetable grown in today’s vegetable gardens. And why not? They are a sign of summer, aren’t they? Many people compete with neighbors to see who can raise the first tomato of the season. Personally, my treat is the first BLT sandwich with our own tomatoes and homemade white bread. Usually our lettuce has already bolted for the season by the time the tomatoes are ripe, so I have to settle for store bought lettuce. But, that first bite of the tangy, salty sandwich is heaven to me.

Heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable seedlings are grown by gardeners worldwide because it’s important to be able to save your own seeds, if you so choose. If you grow the same variety from saved seed for several seasons in your garden, most vegetable varieties will become better adapted to your area. If you live in Mississippi, the tomatoes you grow from saved seed will be better adapted to the humid conditions there. If your soil is less than perfect, the varieties you grow from saved seed will do better each year. You can share seed with your neighbors and local gardeners with the knowledge the plants will do extremely well in your area.

Another reason I like the heirloom tomatoes is diversity. Who ever decided tomatoes had to be red? There are delicious and interesting tomatoes of other colors. Plum Lemon, a bright yellow plum tomato, makes golden salsa and sauces with a mild tomato flavor. Garden Peach and Tangerine are yellow and orange varieties of medium size slicers to add interest and a mild taste to a salad to tomato plate. Cherokee Purple is a dark rose color inside and out. The flavor is rich and sweet. Purple Calabash looks like a little purple pumpkin with its deep ridges. Sliced crosswise, the scalloped edges are very decorative.

Cherry tomatoes come in all colors, too, perfect for snacking. Gold Nugget is a sweet, golden type on a somewhat compact vine. Green Grape is a grape-type tomato, very sweet, that stays green even when ripe and grows on a short, sturdy plant. Imagine a bowl filled with Gold Nugget, Green Grape and Isis Candy, a red variety with faint yellow stripes. What a picture! And, so tasty. Continue reading “Heirloom Tomatoes”

Companion Planting

Monthly Feature FEBRUARY 2013

Red Bud Tree

Here in Texas, early Spring is knocking at our door. We’re winding down the cool season crops and looking at planting our warm season selections. At the Markets, almost everyone is asking for Basil…  note: it’s not ready yet. The nights are staying too cool, in my opinion, to have new basil plants in the garden. So, there are tiny, tiny plants in the greenhouse, on the heat mat, which will be ready in a few weeks. 
Even though, for us, time for planting is almost upon us, for much of the U.S. and parts of North Texas as well, gardens are still in the planning stage. So, while you’re looking at how to best use your garden space, whether in the next few weeks or a couple of months from now, don’t forget to plan for herbs along side your vegetables.


Herbs are great companion plants for vegetables and flowers, as well. Besides adding visual interest, herbs attract beneficial insects which help control the ones which come to eat your garden. For maximum effectiveness, inter plant your herbs and vegetables, rather than having single variety rows of crops. If you are a row gardener, plant some herbs in between your vegetable plants in each row. If you use the square foot plan or raised beds, just add some of the beneficial herbs to your beds wherever they fit in. Container gardeners can add herb plants along with vegetables in containers as well. Plant them near the edge of the container so they get maximum sun and don’t become shaded by a big tomato or squash!


Many herbs, especially the ones with umbel-type flower heads- dill, parsley, fennel, cilantro- are great at attracting pollinators. These bees, butterflies and tiny flies pollinate the flowers of your vegetable plants so you have better yields. In past gardens, if your plants have produced a lot of flowers but few vegetables, pollination could be an issue. Especially if you garden in an urban area, you might need to give your plants extra help in pollination by planting herbs attractive to insects.

Continue reading for charts with specifics for companion planting.

Continue reading “Companion Planting”