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) 

Beyond Basil Pesto

Monthly Feature JUNE 2014

 

Fresh Basil in the garden.
Fresh Basil in the garden.

Pesto made with fresh basil leaves is an easy and quick way to preserve the summery goodness of basil. Frozen, it keeps for months and has so many uses. In our household, fast food is cooking some pasta and tossing it with thawed basil pesto, leftover veggies- especially roasted or grilled- and adding a green salad. Voila! Supper!

If you like using pesto to mix with pasta, to top bruchetta, add to vinaigrette salad dressings or to flavor grilled or roasted vegetables, expand your choices by making pesto with other herbs, nuts, seeds and even leafy greens. Try different combinations such as basil with parsley, parsley with spinach, cilantro with parsley, lemon basil alone or mixed with standard basil or parsley… get the idea?

You can add different oils, nuts, seeds and cheese to alter the flavor to your liking.

You don’t absolutely need an electric food processor or blender to make pesto, but it really speeds up the process. Any of the following recipes can be made with a morter and pestle. And, a food processor with its wider, shallower bowl works more easily than a blender. Either will do, though. With a blender, you just have to stop and push the food back onto the blades more often than with a food processor. Just be sure the blades have stopped turning before you stick a scraper or spoon into the jar.

Don’t do what I did one time…. and stick a wooden spoon in the jar before the blades stopped turning. The spoon was jerked from my hand, bounced out of the jar, sprayed oil and basil everywhere and broke the spoon inside the jar. I threw the whole mess away and had to start over so I didn’t have splinters in the pesto. Plus I had to wipe up oily basil from the counter, floor and other surrounding surfaces. I reiterate…. wait until the blades have stopped turning before sticking the spoon in!!! 

Any of the tradtional dairy cheeses in the following recipes can be replaced with vegan varieties, just so long as the cheese is hard enough to be grated. Seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin can be substituted for the nuts. Roasting the seeds or nuts before use will bring out their flavor.

To roast raw seeds or nuts, spread them on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 deg. oven for 10 minutes, stirring and checking frequently to avoid over toasting. Or, place the seeds or nuts in a dry fying pan, I use cast iron, on a hot burner and stir around until you can smell aroma from the oils released from the the seeds or nuts. Do not over brown. Roasted nuts and seeds can be stored in an air-tight container or frozen.

You can make fresh pesto every time you need it, but it’s very easy to make a bigger batch when the basil or other herbs and greens are at their peak.

Pesto freezes wonderfully. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays overnight then transfer the cubes to a big plastic freezer bag. One cube is one serving of pesto to mix with pasta.

Be sure to mark the bag with the type of pesto inside. Parsley, basil, cilantro, spinach and arugula can all look alike after they’re frozen!

Some people leave the cheese out when freezing pesto and mix it in after the pesto is thawed. I’ve never done that. My pesto is ready to go when it’s thawed. It tastes great and the texture and color is perfect!Following are some recipes to get you started, along with info and ideas for uses of pesto, storing and freezing. Continue reading “Beyond Basil Pesto”

Parsley, Herb of Many Uses

Newsletter from February 2015

Sometimes common herbs become overlooked in favor of more exotic and “newer” varieties. Parsley is one such herb. Petroselinum crispum, Curly Parsley and Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley are common as dirt yet much more nutritious and versatile. Parsley is used in food and drinks and is a work horse in the herb garden. Here in my area of Texas it’s often used as a winter border with hardy annuals such as pansies and violas. It reliably holds up to our winters, although our summers can cause it some grief.

Parsley

Let’s look at how to grow parsely. I have people tell me they cannot get Parsely seed to germinate. There are various reasons for that. One common reason is using old seed. By that I mean seed stored a long time- even 2 year old Parsley seed will have low germination rate. So, if you’re growing from seed, be sure to use current year’s seed if purchasing the seed. If you’ve saved seed from the previous season, that seed should germinate well.

Parsley Seed PackageYou can always test the germination rate of the seed by placing about 10 – 20 seed on a damp paper towel or cloth, put it in a plastic bag and keep it at about 70 deg. F. Parsley is slow to germinate and can take 14 – 21 days. Check your seeds after about 2 weeks and keep an eye on them. If after 3 weeks you have no or very low germination, replace the seed. You can always toss the seed into a garden bed. A few might surprise you and come up.

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Parsley, Herb of Many Uses”