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Friday, July 31, 2015

Herbs, Berries, New Attempts, Flowers & Failures: A Mid-Season Summary

If you live in Michigan, you know that this summer (2015) has been unusually rainy and cool.  Fortunately, there has been an increase in temperature recently that caused many of the plants to put on a sudden burst of growth.  This was not only great to see, but prompted me to start my mid-season harvest / herb trim.

My mid-season herb & berry harvest


Fennel: The bulb is looking nice on this, I harvested a few of the fronds to dry. They make great seasoning as well as tea. They have a nice anise/licorice flavor.

Hyssop: I will also be drying this for tea. It has a very sweet anise/licorice flavored leaf and flower.

Tarragon: This herb is great for seasoning poultry and eggs. I will be drying it for that purpose.

Catnip: I grow and dry this to give as gifts to my friends with cats.  The kittens love it!

Mint: This is so versatile! I dry it as tea, use it to flavor spaghetti sauce, use it in mojitos. The list goes on and on.

Chamomile: I dry the sweet apple-ish flavored daisies as tea.

Majoram: I dry this to use in my herb mix for Italian seasoning.

Rosemary: I use this fresh with a variety of dishes including pork, bread etc. I also dry some.

Winter Savory: I will be drying this one as well. I use it to flavor meats and stews.

Oregano: I dry this to use in my Italian seasoning mix. This is the herb that makes pizza sauce taste like pizza sauce.  In fact, if I get enough tomatoes, I may make and can/jar pizza sauce.  I will certainly  make and can/jar spaghetti sauce.  Check the blog later for recipes and how-to!

Thyme: I dry this and use it in the Italian spice blend. I also use it to season poultry and fish.

Indigo Rose Tomatoes - PURPLE BLACK!

Gooseberries: FAILURE ALERT! I didn't put netting over these this year, so the birds, squirrels and chipmunks ate most of them. I only got one bowl full.  I will freeze these to use in smoothies and yogurt.  Next year, I will definitely protect the bushes with netting. I would like to get a harvest large enough to make jam!

Onion: I only planted a few of these this year. I grew them from seed.  They seem to have done pretty well. I will be planting more next year when I install the vegetable garden.

The first Tomatoes of the season: I have only had a couple of cherry tomatoes and one Roma ripen so far, but there are many more hanging off the bushes - still green. I can't wait for them to ripen! I only put in 4 tomato plants this year.  I will be planting more next year when I put in the vegetable garden.

My Herb Drying Rack in the Basement

This could not be more simple.  Just find a cool dry place.  Set up a clothes line, clothes rack, or pound some nails into some rafters. If the herbs are long enough, you can lay them across the clothes rack. Otherwise, just tie the herbs together by their stems and dangle them upside down from the clothes line or rafters.  Make sure they are spaced out for good air circulation.  Also, remember to label them. Some of the herbs look very similar once dried.  You can also taste them to figure out what they are if you forget to label.

 Once the herbs are dry, just pick off the leaves and put them in a dry jar.  The herbs should keep for at least a year. But they will lose flavor over time.

Northern Kiwi Vine


1. Northern Kiwis - I have never grown a kiwi vine before.  But this year I bought one from the nursery and planted it so that it can grown over the sea wall near the lake.  It did not put on a whole lot of growth this year, but the leaves do look healthy.  I will need to wait 2-3 years to see full production of fruit.  I do hope it survives the winter! 

2. Cuttings - I have never tried to propagate a plant from cuttings before.  This year, I tried to propagate the rugosa roses, wild roses, raspberries and gooseberries.  I did this by cutting off a bit of new growth and placing the stems in some seeding medium and watering with willow water. (The you tube video where I learned to make willow water is here:

The cuttings were placed into some larger pots.
FAILURE ALERT: The raspberry cuttings and wild rose cuttings did not survive.  I think this is because I left too many leaves on the cutting.

SUCCESS: The gooseberries and rugosa rose cuttings did survive!  I have potted them on. They seem to have very good roots on them.  I am hoping that I can sell the rugosas in an upcoming garden club sale in a year or two. I want to grow the gooseberry in a shady place in my yard. I plan to start more cuttings in the future.
 3. Ginger - I tried starting to grow a ginger root over the winter in a sunny location.  This FAILED.  I was surprised, because I had grown one successfully this way when I lived in Washington D.C.  However, after some thought, maybe it wasn't so surprising.  The windows in D.C. were much warmer.  I had thought that I killed the poor root and placed it in the compost bin.  Lo-and-behold, it sprouted in the compost bin!  Lucky day!  I re-potted the ginger and now it is growing happily on my back deck in the warm, July weather.  I hope that it produces good growth so that I can bring it indoors in the fall - and that it will survive the winter.


Many of my June blooms are still going strong: daisies, black-eyed-susan, day lilies etc.  But there are some new flowers getting started now.  (I love how gardens change through the season, don't you?)  Here they are:


More phlox

Day Lilies Glowing in the Sunset

And the peppers are starting to produce!

 White veronica, liriatris, day lilies and a rose.

That's all for now!

Check back later in the season for:

Spaghetti sause canning with a pressure canner.

Pimp my soil 3: Veggie garden mix and pH adjustment

Late summer flowers

And possibly more!


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