Monday, May 25, 2009

Using your herbs

It's not too early to start thinking about using your culinary herbs. You can take cuttings to use fresh as soon as the plant becomes established. You can also freeze or dry culinary herbs so you have them to use after the growing season is done. I have already harvested tarragon, oregano and lemon balm which are now drying on my drying rack. Vigorous growers like these can be harvested at least three times throughout the season.

Speaking of lemon balm, many people are distressed at this fragrant plant's ability to spread rapidly. Although it is in the mint family, it doesn't spread by runners like spearmint, etc. When people complain about lemon balm going everywhere, I always think much of it is due to reseeding. The p!ant is perennial, and will increase in size each year, but if it's getting out of hand and going everywhere, it may be due to seeds dropping. Lemon balm has small, white flowere which are not particularly attractive, so remove them before they turn into seeds. If you can plant it in a corner or against a barrier, that will help contain its vigorous growth.

Lavender's first and best bloom time is in June. Harvest lavender flowers while it's still in bud. Eventually, each bud will open into a floret. However, these florets eventually fall off, so you'll lose a lot of fragrance by harvesting after flowers open.

Varieties of English lavender and hybrid lavandins are hardy here in zone 6. They're all fragrant, but the main differences are in size of the plant and flower color. Compact lavenders are 12-15" tall with shorter stemmed flowers. Mid-size are 18-20" tall and tall varieties have foliage about 24" with the flowers standing above that. Compact varieties we carry have purple or pink flowers, mid-size have lavender blooms and tall varieties have purple or white flowers. Lavender plants like lots and lots of sun, very well-drained soil and soil with a little higher ph. Mixing in a little lime when you plant lavender is a good idea.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thanks for Landis Valley!

Thanks to all who turned out at Landis Valley and helped to make the show a great success for us. The weather was great (unlike 2008) and everyone seemed anxious to get out after a week of rain. Lots of our local customer's just stop by to say hello and wait to shop until they visit the farm. Saves hauling all your plants around with you. You can always tell the experienced shoppers because they bring baskets, wagons, carts, etc. for their purchases.
People sometimes worry that we'll sell out of an item at Landis Valley and not have any left at the farm. we never take all of our stock to LV. In fact, we have to carefully decide what to take, because we can't take even one of every plant we carry. So there's still plenty of selection at the farm.

It was chilly at night at the beginning of the week. If you have basil planted in the ground and didn't cover it, don't be surprised if it's not happy. I always encourage people to wait until close to Memorial Day to plant basil directly in the ground. Basil, like tomatoes and peppers, likes hot weather.
Even if it's not cold enough to frost, if the soil is not sufficiently warm and nighttime temps aren't in the 50's, basil will just sit there waiting for it to warm up. It's hard to get a jump on heat loving plants unless Mother Nature cooperates.

Lucy had a wonderful time as we were packing up plants to go to Landis Valley. John backs the truck up to the greenhouse and we load the plants in. Lucy just loves to sit in the truck. She doesn't seem to care if it's going anywhere or not. Occasionally, she jumps in the back to check things out, but mostly she stays up front. Sometimes she sits in the driver's seat behind the wheel. If we could teach her to put her paws on the wheel, it would make a good photo.