The May weather has been gorgeous! Gardens and yards are popping with colors and textures. The lovely peonies and irises just opened this week. I have spent a few mediative minutes each day in my garden, planting, plucking dead foliage and blooms as well as watering. And of course, time to “cast my cares upon Him”. My mother’s favorite were purple petunias. I added some to one of my planters today to remember my mother this season. Our green perennials have perked up with the fresh sunlight, air, and rainwater. Our freshly potted herbs are thriving. This growing season we planted several varieties of mint, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, and basil. The basil is the lemon variety, and I hope to add that to my lemon tea bread recipe this summer. I will be hosting a workshop on the essence of lemon and herbs, sharing my lemon tea bread recipe, and how to write a block-out poem using a recipe. This will be held at a local farm. More information on the workshop is forthcoming.
Our resident fledgling robins made their way out of their nest over the weekend. We see Mama Robin flitting around at the edge of retaining wall and bushes between our house and the next-door neighbor church. Her little ones are under cover while they develop their wings and learn to feed themselves. The nest has been empty since Sunday. Robins will have another brood this season, so Dean and I thought to move the nest off our front door basket and fill the basket with something welcoming like a small ornamental birdhouse. But the nest was interwoven with the flowers, greenery, and moss basket. Dean found a huge piece of concrete to put in the nest. I searched for something a little less bulky. I found a couple of rocks at the dollar store, one says “love” and the other says “peace”. A clear message to Mama Robin to please find another place to lay your eggs and hatch your next brood. Plenty of trees and niches in our yard for Mama and Daddy Robin to build their next nest. We need our front door to be accessible. Peace and Love to all mothers, mothers in waiting, and those who love like a mama!
Every autumn comes the day to gather the perennials indoors for their winter home, the basement. Dean and I know it is coming, and make room in the basement under the plant lights. Some years it is sooner rather than later. For 2021, it is much later. The cool mid-40’s mornings warm up quickly to warmer, mild afternoons. The weather forecast shows a probable frost in the 3-day forecast. I pluck falling gold, orange, and red leaves from the plants’ foliage and take cuttings while the perennials are outdoors. The cuttings we propagate for next spring’s pots. I gather a variety of these cuttings in water-filled recycled mayo and jelly jars. Both of my daughters have a love for our green friends so some jars of cuttings will get passed on.
Our perennials grew lusciously this summer, such a long summer season with rain. Our showiest pot is a Kingston fern with a philodendron planted together in April. I trimmed that thing three times already! Now gathered greenery fills our basement under the plant light tonight, their home for the next 5 months. I need to harvest the lasting herbs of mint, thyme, basil. oregano, and parsley, so the pots gather on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s project. Our last single ketchup and mustard rose gets snipped and put into a bud vase to treasure just a few more days indoors. My northern friend shares her last rose in an amber vignette saved before Minnesota’s killing frost.
A nephew’s wedding brought us to a few family gatherings this weekend. Dean and I found some Edwardian era reproduction hats while on vacation in September to wear to the costume rehearsal dinner party. I found a suitable dress on sale from Victorian Trading, and Dean wore a dark suit with a vest and skinny tie, and both wore feathers in our caps! A fun gathering to distract from my sprained ankle, caring for aging parents, and work schedules. This evening our front porch awaits a gathering of Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Green swatches with flecks of purple and pink will completely cover this bed. Just need a few more sunny days and rain or well water. Our raised bed is a patchwork garden. One month ago seeds of the early spring greens, chives, and sugar snap and large pod peas went into the cold organic soil situated in this raised bed on the screenhouse side of our greenhouse. The lettuce and spinach are sparse. Either bad seeds, but most likely not enough watering and near freezing mornings a few days in April. We will reseed this week. One end are the early spring lettuces, spinach, and chives sowed in patches rather than rows. Then the 2 rows of peas in the middle. On Sunday I sowed a row of bush beans near the pea patch. At the other end of the raised bed are patches of herbs sowed into the soil; cilantro, a blend of basils, thyme, and marjoram. We selected Olds Seed Company organic vegetable and herb seeds bought at the local country store late winter. The little pea patch is coming along just fine. This weekend we strung twine along the rows for the pea plants to climb. We have about another month until the date of maturity for both varieties. The delicate blossoms should be appearing soon. This legume can be grown just for the bouquet of flowers and fragance. Nutrients are provided for the soil as well. I cherish the fresh, delicious peas with a pinch of kosher salt and dabble of sweet butter. About as many varieties of peas there are, is about how many sweet sayings, poems, and songs referring to the pea. Babies, children and lovers have been called “sweet pea” for centuries. “Two peas in a pod” is a phrase I say when two people act alike. Mostly, sweet pea is a term of endearment such as from Amos Lee’s song… Sweet pea, apple of my eye
Don’t know when and I don’t know why
You’re the only reason I keep on coming home.
“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?
Dean and I delivered a trailer load mixture of compost and top soil to our greenhouse site at Boone Hollow Farm a few days ago. I inquired from a local farmer who I know from my childhood as this farmer uses sustainable practices at his top soil farm less than a mile from our home. Last weekend herb seeds were sown, and in less than a week we have garden cress seedlings sprouted. This warm, humid air has made the ideal conditions for my herbal bed. From what I read garden cress is very prolific. I seeded many culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, basil, chives, marjoram, dill. Garden cress is one herb I have not used in my dishes before, though I inherited a packet of seeds somewhere in my farmy networking. I do not discard gifts no matter how small or big, so I will come up with some uses for garden cress. I understand it makes flavorful tangy sprouts for salads and sandwiches. In England it is added to egg & mayo tea sandwiches. Sounds like a country tea party with my green garden tea plates & tea cups in a couple of weeks at the greenhouse.
I have found photos of such darling herb gardens these past few weeks. We have a retailer’s greeting card holder we bought for $5 from the local library moving sale. I want to repurpose it to a herb garden, particularly for my daughter who lives in an apartment with a balcony. Vertical gardens are trendy now, and very practical for urban dwellers. I will work with this idea later this summer into autumn. We went semi-traditional, a 12 x 6-foot bed raised 6-inches from the floor of our greenhouse on the screenhouse side. There is some protection from the sunrays with the black cover now. I need this for skin protection. I have battled basal cell cancer 2 years ago. The semi-indoor herbal bed will be protected somewhat from weeds as we have a landscape fabric under the gravel floor. We cleared most of the gravel before shoveling the compost-top soil mixture in the bed. We will see what happens in regards to pests and bugs. We found a 3-foot snake skin in our greenhouse last week. Critters can still get inside. Let’s hope Chuck, the groundhog who lives under the barn down the hill stays out! As well as his skunk, mole, and rat friends!
How do you grow your herbs? Containers? Raised beds? Vertical beds? Are your herbs for culinary or ornamental purposes?
Summer evening still
Sunset honeysuckle sweet
Peachy sky resides.
This Friday evening I experience the calm after last week’s storms while enroute to Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse shelters our plants. Gorgeous week it has been, mild 70’s and 80’s. The fragrance of the honeysuckle growing wildly along the 2-lane highway fences engulf my nostrils. Such a contrast from a week ago. Dean and I load our van with market plants as every Friday night. Terra cotta pots of basil, dill, and sage have been taken to the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ Market this morning. Did you know that herbs do best in terra cotta? The pot absorbs moisture and allows the plant to be watered longer. I snipped thyme from my kitchen terra cotta pot for the turkey breast that will be tonight’s crockpot dinner. Roasted red potatoes and green beans will accompany the tender meat entree. Sunday will be more of the same at the Chandler Hill Vineyards Farmers’ Market. Only rain showers are called for Sunday. Dean will have a pleasant visit with his oldest son and his lovely lady while selling at the market. I will be selling spices and herbs at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe Saturday and Sunday. Buy local, and come visit me at the small shoppe in historic St. Charles. Dean with Deanna Greens And Garden Art will vend at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ Market and Chandler Hill Vineyards Farmers’ Market. Just look for our lush green perennials and herbs, and buy! Market leisurely this weekend in St. Charles County, Missouri, as we have much to offer.
The tax year of 2012 Dean and I both did not claim one of our six children as a tax dependent. It has been years for either of us since this has occurred. They are all grown up! According to our accountant, our tax deductions came from our greenhouse business this year, not our children. We took a loss this tax year, as last year. Greenhouse rebuilds are costly and timely. An expensive hobby rather than a business, maybe? I’d rather be playing in the dirt and planting green things for my eye palette or taste palette than gambling at the casino, perusing the neighborhood bars, or loafing on the couch. We have a hefty tax return coming which will in turn be reinvested into Deanna Greens And Garden Art. Electric for our structure is around the corner, with propane and solar heat as the next big investments.
I never viewed our Deanna Greens And Garden Art plants as dependents, but that is what they are. And they depend on us to thrive in this world. Water, food, and light on a regular basis, and Mother Nature does her part. I am so anxious for the weather to warm up enough to get our plants under the shelter of our unheated greenhouse. The plant lights in the garages have done good, but the natural sunlight is what the plants need to get greener, fuller, and growing with such vigor. Rain water (or snow in our case!) catching in the rain barrels will provide more minerals for our plants. After a few weeks in the greenhouse, the plants will be moved to the screenhouse to avoid scorching this summer. That scenario seems so far away. We are still under normal temperatures for March. Come on Spring, we need you!
Planning out the growing and market season, Dean and I will have some annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, and wildflower mixes. Marigolds are a great natural insect repellant for your vegetable garden and patio area. Zinnias and wildflowers make beautiful summer bouquets. Organic herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, and nastrium will be sold live in pots of various sizes. We will make some potted herb gardens. Garden spoon signs and homemade lavendar soap will be brought to the farmers’ markets. I will design some relic stepping stones and have them ready for market on Mother’s Day weekend. And then there are houseplants, with succulents as our specialty plant. Currently, we are in search for unique pots to divide and transplant our huge succulents into. We hope to plant some vegetables for our consumption. Any leftovers will be frozen or stored for next winter’s pastas, stews, and soups. The circle of life … Parents provide and care for, grown children provide and care for …
Tune in for local farmers’ market information in my next post or two.
“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.” Benjamin Franklin,Poor Richard Almanac (1706 – 1790)
Deanna Greens and Garden Art will be at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ and Artists’ Market tomorrow morning bright and early. We are having an Herb Sale. Kitchen herbs such as sweet basil, chives, marjoram, common and pineapple sage, lemon and winter thyme growing in 3-1/2 ” terra cotta pots will go for 4 pots for the price of 3. $15. Pesticide-free. Great for your favorite autumn and winter dishes. Come buy, cook, and savor.