Search This Blog

Friday, June 19, 2015

Project #3 - The Herb Garden

Herb garden June 2015 - AFTER planting.

Herb garden Spring 2015 - BEFORE planting.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I just moved in to my house last year (summer 2014).  The house came with several garden beds, as well as some very nice hardscaping.  While some of the beds around the house were already filled to bursting with daylilies, hosta, spiderwort, sundrops, irises and roses, others were virtually empty.

So, I am attempting to plant one major portion of the garden at my home each summer.  This summer the garden that I chose to work on was the area closest to the lake.  I decided to designate this bed as my combination herb garden and pie garden.  (Pie garden = strawberries and rhubarb.)

The garden bed, like all others has advantages and challenges.


One side of the bed faces the lake, so it gets sun from that direction all day.

The soil is sandy and drains well.

The previous owners already built in a nice hardscaped path and seating area along with a retaining wall.  Because of this, the space is like it's own garden "room".
The pie garden spring 2015 - BEFORE planting.

There is a pump from the lake, so I can hook up
my hose. Otherwise, I can just dunk my watering can in the lake and water with that. 


The bed is on the North side of the property.  It is not very protected in the winter.

The soil is sandy and does not contain a high amount of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium).

To each side, there are oak trees in my neighbor's garden.  These do shade the beds a bit in the morning and evening, but also keep the sun from mercilessly baking the area.  They are both an advantage and disadvantage.

The chipmunks have made their homes in and under this garden.  They have made holes everywhere and buried several acorns that have developed into oak seedling "weeds".  My dog is no help at all with regard to critter control. She just points at the chipmunks... as if I don't already see!
The pie garden June 2015 - AFTER planting.

  What I Did to Prepare the Area:

  Last fall, I brought in compost from Tuthill Farms. I spread    this over the bed to a depth of about  2 inches. This should help to improve the nutrients in the soil and help hold on to some moisture.

  This spring, I spread corn gluten mean (nitrogen), bone meal (phosphorus), and potash (potassium)  over the area to improve the nutrients in the soil.  These are good, slow-release, organic fertilizers.

  I mulched the area.

  I hooked up a drip hose and zig-zagged it through the garden for ease of watering.  Drip hoses are more efficient at delivering water to the plants than spray irrigation because less is lost to evaporation.  If you are interested in conserving water, but still want to provide for your garden, please consider one of these hoses.  You can find them at any large hardware store (Home Depot, Lowes, Ace etc.). 

I also purchased a live trap and have been capturing the chipmunks one by one.  Once I catch them, I drive them several miles away to empty woodlots and let them go. I may need to continue catching and releasing them for some time.  Each time that I capture one, I see another peeking at me from under a bush or a rock! 

What I Planted (or left planted) in the Herb Garden: 

Sibirian Iris / Iris Siberica (purple-blue flowers) - The former owner planted this, but I like it! I
especially like how the reedy leaves blow in the breeze off of the lake, as well as the seed pods that last through the winter.

German Iris / Iris Germanica (yellow and white, and purple-blue flowers) - The former owner planted this, but I like it as well. Irises remind me of my grandmother.

German Iris

Sedum (type unknown, yellow flowers) - The former owner planted this to fill the cracks in the retaining-wall rocks.  I like it!

Tickseed / Coreopsis (yellow flowers) - The former owner planted this, too. This is a great plant for enticing beneficial insects.

Roses / Rosa (hybrid type unknown, pink flowers)  - The former owner planted this. I sort of like it, but it is not highly useful, and is only doing moderately well where it is located.  They are nibbled on by insects. Last winter, I protected these with rose cones. They did better this year than the year before
 because of the protection. Perhaps they will improve with time and better care.

German Iris & Sedum in the background.
Red Hot Poker / Kniphofia uvaria - The former owner planted this, I like it, but I *might* move it to the sunny front garden at a later time to make room for more herbs.  I haven't decided for sure yet. It is lovely and doing fairly well where it is now.

Apothecary Rose / Rosa gallica (pink flowers) - This is a tough rose that smells good, makes edible flowers, makes large edible hips and was traditionally used as a medicinal plant. It is also the rose for the house of Lancaster during the British War of the Roses - for all you history buffs and Shakespeare fans.

Dwarf Bartlett Pear / Pyrus 'Bartlett' - I am hoping for fruit in the future!  I did plant another pear tree elsewhere in the garden so the two can fertilize each other.

Lemon Balm / Melissa officinalis - The leaves smell like lemon and can be used to make tea, potpourri, or to flavor food.

Angelica / Angelica archangelica - This herb is a biennial.  The leaves taste a bit like licorice.  It can be used to flavor salad, fruit and jam.  It also makes a large umbel shaped flower that beneficial insects enjoy. 

Bee balm with hummingbird moth.
Bee Balm / Monarda didyma - This is another pollinator-friendly tea herb.  The dried flowers taste a bit like earl grey tea.

Sorrel / Rumex acetosa -  This is a perennial plant with sour edible leaves.  It can be used as a salad green.  The leaves are also food for larval butterflies and moths.

Chives & Garlic Chives / Allium schoenoprasum & Allium tuberosum - The narrow leaves and purple or white flowers of this plant can be used to season a variety of foods.  I planted these near the roses to attempt to scare off some of the insects that might nibble the roses.  So far, the roses are being nibbled anyway!

Siberian iris and honeysuckle vine.
Egyptian Walking Onions / Allium x proliferum -  This onion "walks" by making bulbs at the end of its stalks, above the ground.  The bulbs become too heavy for the stalk, and cause the stalk to tip to the ground.  The bulbs then grow in the dirt where they fall.  This way, they "walk" across the garden, one step at a time, each summer.  The bulbs above and below ground can both be eaten.  They taste like scallions to me.

Honeysuckle Vine / Lonicera sempervirens - I am growing this down the sea wall by training it around some chicken wire. I am growing it primarily for the lovely bright-pink flowers and the sweet, sweet smell.

Stinging Nettles / Urtica Dioica - I know, I know it's a weed... but a useful one!  It can be soaked in water to make fertilizer for tomatoes.  When you cook it, the sting vanishes and it can be eaten. It is actually fairly high in protein. It is also host for red admiral butterfly larva.

Joe Pye Weed / Eutrochium purpureum - This is NOT edible. I grew it to make the beneficial insects happy and also to provide a screen at the end of the garden nearest to the property line.  It grows into a very tall plant with a purple umbel for the flower. It blooms around mid to late August.

Chamomile / Matricaria recutita -  This plant makes cheerful little white daises with yellow centers.  the daisies smell a bit like apple and can be dried to make the ever-so-soothing chamomile tea. ZZZzzzz.... /happy sighs/

Pincushion Flower / Scabosia -  This is not edible.  I planted it because it makes cute purple flowers nearly all summer long, and because the butterflies like it.

Salad burnet / Sanguisorba minor - The leaves of this herb are often used in salads (thus the name).  They have a light, almost sweet flavor.

Lemon Grass / Cymbopogon citratus -  I either have to grow this one as an annual or attempt to bring it indoors in the winter. It is a tropical plant that looks like grass but tastes like lemon. It is frequently used in Thai cooking.

Hyssop / Hyssopus officinalis - This makes narrow, feathery purple flowers. It tastes like a cross
between sage, anise and mint.  The beneficial insects love it.  This is another one that I prefer to dry and use as tea, but it can also be used to season salads, soup and other foods. It tends to re-seed itself easily.

Lovage / Levisticum officinale -  This is another tall plant with a white umbel for a flower.  The leaves taste like celery and can be used as a flavor substitute for celery in things like salad and soup.

Winter Savory / Satureja montana - The leaves of this herb have a peppery flavor and can be used to flavor a variety of foods.  I hear that it also helps to decrease flatus (gas) when cooked with beans or Jerusalem artichokes.

Catnip / Nepeta cataria  -  This is the plant that makes the kittens crazy!  I grew it to dry and gift to my in-laws' kitty.  It can also be used to make tea.

Cilantro/ Coriander / Coriandrum sativum - This is an annual herb.  I use it to flavor a variety of Mexican and Thai dishes. It often bolts on me early. Luckily the seeds can also be used as a flavoring.

Nasturtiums and a water bath for butterflies.
Nasturtiums / Tropaeloum majus - These are annual flowers.  The flower petals can be eaten.  They don't taste like much, but they can improve the presentation of any dish with their bright colors.  They also can act as a trap for aphids.  Aphids love to nibble nasturtiums and prefer them to many vegetables. When the aphids appear, you simply allow them to swarm the nasturtium and then douse them (plant and all) in a bucket of soapy water.  Sure you end up killing the nasturtium, but think of all the tomatoes you may be rescuing!

Horehound / Marrubium vulgare - The leaves of these have an interesting flavor.  It is used to flavor horehound candy.  Ever tried it? No?  Get ye to Cracker Barrel! Either there, or the Country Store/Frontier Town in Romeo, Michigan! They sell the candy there!
Dill, fennel, California poppy and hardy kiwi.

Hardy Kiwi / Actinidia arguta - I am training this vine down the sea wall.  Hopefully, once it is
established, it will produce small, non-fuzzy, edible, kiwis.  Usually, a male and female vine are both required. However, the one I purchased is grafted with both male and female branches.  I hope that it will do well. I have never grown this before.

Dill / Anethum graveolens - This is my husband's favorite herb.  It can be used to flavor a variety of foods including pickles, fish and others.  My husband mixes it into his salmon dip. YUUUUUM!

California Poppies.
Fennel / Foeniculum vulgare - The leaves of this plant taste like anise. It also makes a bulb that can be sliced thin and cooked into a variety of dishes.  It is host plant to the swallow tail butterfly.  It is very tall and makes yellow umbel flowers.  It looks and smells wonderful when waving in the breeze!

California Poppies / Eschscholzia Californica - I planted this mostly for looks and to make the bees happy, but the seeds can also be eaten.

Sweet Majoram / Origanum majorana - This herb is commonly mixed with orgeano, basil, and thyme to make Italian spice mix.  It is great for flavoring a variety of dishes. It's flavor is difficult to describe... you should just try tasting it sometime!

Chocolate Cosmos.
Stokes aster / Stokesia laevis - This is NOT edible. I grew it because it provides beautiful purple-blue daisies in late summer to early fall.  The bees adore this plant!

Chocolate cosmos / Cosmos atrosanguineus - I grew these because they smell like chocolate. 'Nough said.  (They are annuals and NOT edible!)

Salsify / Scorzonera - The young leaf shoots, flower petals and root of this plant can all be eaten. The root has a sweet flavor when cooked.  The leaves can be used as a spinach substitute. The flower buds can be added to salad.

Good King Henry / Chenopodium bonus-henricus - The young leaves can be used in salad.  They are bitter and high in iron. The flowering shoots can also be peeled and be used as an asparagus substitute.

Thyme & Lemon Thyme/ thymus vulgaris &Thymus serpyllum citriodora - This herb is great in cooking! It also makes lovely, small, purple bee-friendly flowers.

Oregano / Origanum vulgare - This herb is great in Italian cooking.  I will be using it in the future to make and can spaghetti sauce - yum!

French Tarragon / Artemesia dracunculus - The leaves of this herb are often used in French cooking.  They taste great with poultry, sauces or eggs.

Sage / Salvia officinalis - The leaves of this herb are also great with poultry.  It is the primary herb that I use when making turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving. It also makes purple flowers in the spring
and can grow into a small, woody bush.

Milkweed / Asclepias syriaca - The young shoots of this plant are edible, but I grow it for the butterflies.  It is host plant to monarch butterfly larva. It also makes a beautiful ball shaped flower.

I Am Growing the Following in Pots in the Herb Garden:

Tophat Blueberry / Vaccinium 'top hat' -  I love blueberries!  I am growing this in a pot because it is easier to control the acidity of the soil this way. Blueberries prefer a soil pH of 5.5-6.5.  My ground soil is mostly alkaline (pH 7.8), so filling a pot with more acidic soil  and peat was the only way that I could grow this plant.
The potted herbs.

Spearmint / Mentha spicata- I am growing this a pot because if I don't it will attempt to take over the world!  At the same time, I love this herb.  It is great in desserts, in mojitos and even in spaghetti sauce.

Rosemary / Rosmarinus officinalis - This is a tender perennial. I will have to bring it indoors during the winter if I want to keep it for next year.  Thus, it is in a pot.  It is a great flavoring for meat, bread and many other dishes.

Lemon Verbena / Aloysia triphylla - This is another tender perennial that I will need to bring indoors in the winter. The leaves taste and smell like sweet lemon. It is great in fruit salad or as tea.

Pineapple Mint / Mentha suavolens - This is another mint that is great in mixed drinks and fruit salad. Only this time it tastes and smells a bit like pineapple!

What's Growing in the Pie Plot:

Hidcote Lavender /  Lavandula angustifolia - I lined the walkway with this. I am hoping that when it
grows, I will brush against it as I walk by and be able to smell it as I go. I do occasionally use lavender flowers in cooking, but I mostly like it for its scent. It makes great sachets and potpourri. I think that I will need to protect this plant in the winter as I do with the roses since the garden is on the North side of the yard.  This lavender is hardy to zone 5, but this garden's exposure can cause it to seem like zone 3-4 in the winter at times. 

Potted herbs, blueberry pot, metal duck, weather vane, and pie plot.
Strawberries /  Fragaria - I have both ever-bearing and June bearing strawberries planted. I LOVE strawberries: in shortcake, in pie, raw.... SUPER YUM!

Rhubarb / Rheum rhabarbarum 'Victoria' - I grow these sour stems for the purpose of making strawberry-rhubarb pie and jam. I love it!

Borage / Borago officinalis - This is an annual. It makes purple-blue, star shaped flowers that are edible and taste a bit like cucumber. It is also supposed to be a good companion plant for strawberries. It is said to help deter pests from the strawberries and to attract predatory beneficial insects such as wasps.

Asparagus / Asparagus officinalis - The stems of this plant are harvested and eaten in early spring. It will take a couple of years before I can harvest what I planted, but it will be worth it!

Strawberries, lovage and rhubarb with soaker hose.
Elderberry / Sambucus canadensis 'Johns'  - Both the berries and flowers of this plant can be made in to wine.  The berries can also be made in to jam.  This is a native plant with beautiful white, lacy flowers.  It will take several years before my little elderberry bush is large enough to produce, but it will also be worth the wait. 

As you can see from the pictures, I have only recently planted this garden area.  I plan on taking
photos next year as well, when *hopefully* the plants will have grown in more.  The garden should hit full stride by summer 2017.  You gardeners know the saying, "The first year the garden sleeps, the second it creeps, the third it leaps!"  I am hopeful that the plantings will survive long enough to leap!

Keep reading the blog for further updates.  Please consider sharing the web address with your garden-loving friends.  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment