I like receiving information from all sources. The article I’m linking to here was sent to me from a web page called BioClarity. The article contains information on 17 herbs you can grow at home that will aid in having healthy skin. Since there are so many herbs, there’s surely one- or more- that everyone can grow and use.
These vibrant flowers are easy to grow and work as a fantastic component of natural skin care recipes. Not only will your garden look bright—your face will, too! Calendula oil is derived from marigold flowers, and can be used in a host of ways. It offers anti-inflammatory properties, and can soothe itchy skin conditions. It’s also a fantastic antiseptic, and can help speed up wound healing for those dealing with cuts, wounds, acne sores, and other skin ailments.
Topical Benefits: Infuse calendula into your favorite oils to make homemade lotion, salve, and even hair products. Apply calendula oil to dry skin or chapped lips for some added moisture.
Growing Tips: This bright flower thrives in areas of the yard that are partially shaded or receive full sun. Prepare a garden bed in the back yard with organic potting soil before planting. Be sure to water your calendula well and pinch off decaying blooms and petals regularly to extend the blooming period. Hint: calendula are actually great at repelling insects, so plant them near your vegetable garden to serve as natural pesticide.
Next time you’re chopping up cilantro for your favorite guacamole or salsa recipe, consider the benefits this herb offers for your skin. Eating cilantro provides plenty of health benefits, including decreased cholesterol and digestive issue relief, but it can also pack a powerful punch when it comes to skin care. Cilantro is jam-packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals, and provides a potent dose of Vitamin C. Cilantro has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can help soothe inflammation for those with acne-prone skin.
Ingestible Benefits: Throw cilantro into your favorite salad or dish to soothe your digestive system and decrease high cholesterol levels.
Topical Benefits: Grind coriander seeds and mix the powder into your favorite DIY mask to take advantage of its soothing, anti-inflammatory benefits.
Growing Tips: This aromatic herb does best in sunny or lightly shaded areas in southern zones. Make sure your soil is moist and well-draining. As you begin to plant, be sure to leave around seven inches between each seed; if you want to maintain your fresh cilantro, sow them every two to three weeks.
This year is no exception. Gardeners go out in the early morning to do chores like watering and maybe a little weeding. Then, we ignore our gardens until the evening when the temps will hopefully drop below 90 degrees.
For the last month or so, I’ve been cleaning up overgrown beds, pruning ugly plants and planting a few new plants from my stock. I added some lavender and some milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. In this heat, I’m watering daily and the little plants are doing well.
I also planted some seeds of colorful, Summer annuals. I like the old fashioned types, non-hybrids, so they’ll reseed for me next late Winter or Spring. I use the expired packets from Botanical Interests- you can find fresh seed here on the website. I love cosmos and zinnias of all types. They’re so cheery.
What I have found interesting, however, while working with the herbs in the beds and in large containers, is which herbs seem to like a heavy pruning this time of year and which herbs don’t seem to need it.
Some herbs that may need pruning include mint.
Mints tend to become leggy by this time in the summer after their rampant Spring growth. Unless you’ve really been using them a lot to keep their growth compact, they will benefit from pruning this time of year.
I find this is the perfect time of year to prune the mints back. The intense heat of 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 and hot teas and allow the plant to put on new growth. 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.
This mint need pruning. You can see leggy growth and some bug eaten leaves.
Mint Flowers- 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 the whole plant up 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.
Just remember to keep all the parts watered well after 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.
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.
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. Remember the rule: for best results, don’t prune more than about 1/3 of the growth of the plant.
Nicely pruned Lemon Basil
Since basil is an annual, it has different characteristics from the previous plants I’ve mentioned. It flowers much more readily, as those of you who grow basil know. We attempt to keep it from flowering by frequent harvesting. Once the plant gets older and the stem starts to become woody, the tops will begin to flower signaling that the plant is near the end of its annual cycle. We can clip off flowers to maintain the leafy, succulent growth for a while, but eventually, the plant wants to flower, set seed and die out.
If you haven’t been harvesting your basil frequently and the plant still has leafy growth all along the stem, go ahead and prune the stems back, but not so far as to get into the woody growth, if you have that. It’s unlikely the plant will leaf out again if you prune back to the woody growth. By pruning into just the newer, soft wood, your basil will send out new branches and leaves for your next harvest.
It is best to harvest/prune your basil fairly frequently during its active growth. That way, you avoid getting those long stems that lose leaves along the stem and end up with just the fresh, new growth at the top. If your basil looks like that, it’s probably best to take it out and put in a new plant.
I am often asked if basil can be grown from cuttings. And, the answer is a resounding YES! The best time to take basil cuttings is in the early growth stages of the plant. I don’t mean when it’s very young and soft, but before it looks like it’s going to begin to flower. Any cutting you stick and root is the same age as the plant you took it from. So, if the stem you’re rooting was about to flower when it was attached to the plant, it’s going to flower right away as a rooted cutting, too.
A packet or two (or three…) of basil seed is very inexpensive. Starting basil from seed is easy, and it’s easier as the weather warms up. So, if you’re really into basil or pesto, think about investing in some seed early in the season and every 3 or 4 weeks during the growing season, sow a few seeds for new plants. That way, when your older plants no longer look lush and lovely, you have new plants coming along to replace them with.
Another herb that usually need pruning this time of year is lemon balm.
After flowering, growth can get leggy and the heat can cause the leaves to look splotchy and brown. Just prune it to the ground and you’ll have lush, new growth in a few weeks. By Fall, your plant will be its old self again, ready for harvesting more of those lemony, soothing leaves for tea, cakes and more.
You can find seed for all your herb needs here at The Herb Cottage.
In many places in the country people look forward to summer to be outdoors tending their gardens, pruning, harvesting and keeping everything looking great. Here in Texas, by this time of year, much of our vegetable garden is finished- except for okra, eggplant, field peas (black eyes, crowder, lady creams, etc.) and hot peppers. Our herbs need pruning and most of the ornamental flowers we enjoyed in Spring are faded or gone.
It’s a time for the gardener to sneak out in the early morning and evenings to do a few things, then get in some shade with a cold drink and a good book, or back into the house where the AC is.
Taking some time now to prune and rejuvenate your herbs will give you a healthier and more productive plant in the fall as the days shorten and cool down. Don’t stress yourself in the heat. Take breaks to enjoy your herbal teas in the shade when you are outdoors. Remember… even in Texas… summer doesn’t last forever!
QUOTE FOR THE MONTH
If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.
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.
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.
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.)
The following article is from Dave’s Garden, a fabulous website full of great horticulture information and more!
The History and Uses of Sunflowers
By Melody Rose
January 28, 2017
The humble sunflower has been a part of mankind’s existence for thousands of years.
The Incas and Aztecs worshiped sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and believed that spirits of the dead were attracted to them because they reminded those spirits of the sun.
Sunflowers are native to the Americas and have not only been a part of legends and lore, they have nourished us and healed us for centuries. Evidence shows that they have been cultivated by man for about 5,000 years, making them a rival for corn as one of the earliest crops that ancient hunter-gatherers decided to settle down and grow. In fact, there should actually be a ‘fourth sister’ counted with the sacred Three Sisters of corn, beans and squash since sunflowers contributed so much to early man’s survival. They ate the young, unopened flower buds as a vegetable and the seeds were pressed for their rich oil.
The Spanish carried them back across the Atlantic and improved upon their qualities with selective breeding to create hybrids with larger heads and better harvests.
However, it was the Russians that embraced the humble sunflower and made it what it is today. Peter the Great was so enraptured by the sunflower during a visit to western Europe in the 1700’s that he brought seeds back with him and proceeded to instruct farmers to grow them. They really didn’t catch on until it was discovered that the edible oil the seeds produced was not on the list of fats and oils that the Orthodox Church banned for Lent. That discovery was a game changer and the Russians embraced the sunflower with enthusiasm. Even today, some of the largest and most productive sunflowers are Russian bred with the most popular variety, ‘Mammoth Russian’ known by millions around the world.
Sunflowers have some other interesting properties other than an oil source. The stems, leaves and roots produce a lovely, light green to yellow natural dye while the dark colored seed hulls give us reds, purples, grays and blacks. Mordant sunflowers with vinegar.
Folk medicine utilized sunflowers as a treatment for ailments from snakebites to rheumatism. These plants also have a unique characteristic of being able to clear toxic elements from the soil. Sunflowers planted near industrial areas draw arsenic and lead from the ground and they were even planted around the Chernobyl disaster to help remove radioactive compounds from the fields. They are also used to reclaim boggy or marshy areas because of their ability to take up great amounts of water. Today, sunflowers are an important agricultural crop with millions of acres devoted to seed and oil production. Sunflower oil is low in polyunsaturated fats making it a heart-healthy choice for people on restricted diets. The seeds are a wholesome snack consumed by millions and of course anyone who has ever filled a bird feeder knows what wildlife thinks about them. They also make up commercial feeds for poultry and livestock, providing much needed fats and nutrients to maintain healthy flocks and herds.
Gardeners love sunflowers for their cheerful blooms that make excellent cut flowers and there are varieties that range from knee-high midgets to back of the border monsters. Plant sunflower seeds after all chances of frost are over, in full sun. They do best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter with regular water. Some of the tallest varieties (and they can reach well over 12 feet) might need protection or staking to keep them upright when high winds threaten, but they are mostly care-free. If you want to try sunflowers as a vegetable, pick the young buds before they open and steam much like artichokes. Let the spent heads dry on the stalks to save them for winter wildlife treats. Sunflowers are easy to grow and seeds are quite inexpensive for gardeners on a budget. Even small children and the disabled can be successful sunflower gardeners. (a sunflower was the very first plant I ever grew from seed before I ever started school) They make a great garden plant for both school kids and nursing homes. The sunflower has a rich and colorful history and from the looks of things they should be popular for another 5,000 years. About Melody Rose
I come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I’ve learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.
Even if you don’t cook with herbs there is another terrific reason for growing herbs in your garden and yard.
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.”
Low growing plants such as mint and thymeact 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.
Tiny flowers, like plants from the Umbelliferae family: fennel, angelica, cilantro/coriander, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, yarrow, and ruewill attract tiny beneficial wasps.
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
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)
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.”
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.
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.
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.