WHAT ARE HERBS?

Herbs are one of the fascinating plant species on the planet. Humans have grown herbs for millennia and eaten herbs from the very beginning of time. They have added to our lives in several different ways. The humble little plants have been utilized in the following areas: flavoring food, medicinal remedies, fragrances, dyes, landscaping, pest control, and industrial uses. In recent years growing herbs has experienced a giant leap in popularity. One major factor is that they provide an attractive method of entry into the gardening fraternity because they are so easy to grow.

There are many plants that are included in the herb family. This causes a little bit of a challenge in defining members of the family. The strict botanist school definition of an herb is that it is a plant that does not form woody tissue. Ergo the name herbaceous to describe such a plant. Practical herb gardeners are a little more liberal in their definition of herbs and include plants with flowers, leaves, roots, stems, or fruits that provide any of the manifestations ascribed to herb plants. These qualities include ornamental, aromatic, medicinal, culinary, and household uses. Many plants with woody stems are included in the definition of herbs. Cultivated types (cultivators) such as thyme, lavender, and rosemary along with vines, trees, and shrubs are in there. Many cultivators are included in the legion of herb plants on the market today.

Under the right conditions, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. They can do well in a wide range of growing conditions and soils, but the key factor is drainage. Herb plants do not like “wet feet,” and they must be planted in well-drained soil, or they will not live. Richer soils will cause   the plants to grow larger stems and roots rather than the oils which produce the desired flavors and aromas. When planning an herb garden, consider the native origins of the herbs to be included in the garden. Herbs originally from the Mediterranean Sea area will vary in their requirements from East Asia.

Annual Herbs

Annuals herbs are plants which go through their whole life cycle from seed to flower, and again to seed in one growing season.  Once this happens, the plant dies.  If you collect seeds, you can replant in the same year (e.g., spring and fall), or save and replant the following year. Common annual herbs are:

  1. Basil
  2. Cilantro
  3. Chervil
  4. Summer Savory

Biennials Herbs

Biennials are plants which require two years to complete their life cycle.  The top of the herb may die, but the herb will overwinter with proper protection in most areas, here are a few:

  1. Dill (this herb is a biennial but is normally grown as an annual.
  2. Parsley (often grown as an annual)
  3. Sage (hardy for longer in zones 5-8)
  4. Stevia

Perennials Herbs

Perennials herbs, if well cared for, can last for years in the correct climate conditions.  This makes them an excellent investment in both time and money. Of course, you may end up with more of them than you could possibly eat, which is the case with all the large rosemary bushes in my landscape. We use what we want, and the rest look good and attract pollinators.

In cooler climates, the plant to may die back in the winter  and will return in the following spring; assuming cold temperature do not exceed their tolerances.  Perennials herbs will continue growing through the winter if you live in some of the more temperate zones. Some common perennial herbs are:

  1. Bay leaves
  2. Chives
  3. Fennel
  4. Lavender
  5. Marjoram
  6. Mint
  7. Oregano
  8. Rosemary
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Winter Savory

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Rain and snow in your landscaping

Do Your Landscape Reseach

As you consider landscaping your yard, keep in mind that rain and snow are factors for the success of your plan. That means you must follow a careful plan to achieve the best result. You will need to conduct thorough research on landscaping, including finding relevant books on the subject in the library. The success of your research will point you in the right direction about yard landscaping without destroying your yard. The research will also give helpful ideas and concepts which can be combined to improve the appearance and quality of your yard.

Find Precipitation And Drainage Patterns

When implementing your yard landscaping, proper attention should be given to the impact of rain, snow, and drainage. If in the winter you discover your yard is muddy or you are experiencing pool of water across the garden, perhaps you need proper drainage. While it is okay to handle your landscaping as a DIY project; it will be helpful to invite a professional to look at your drainage. In this regard, the expert can do a better job and make your effort at landscaping more rewarding.

Understanding Your Local Weather Patterns

If your yard landscaping is adequately set up, you can maximize the rain resources for the benefits of your plant without ruining your yard. In this way, the rainwater will feed your plant and trees and will not cause puddles that may make your yard flooded while it rains. When you have adequate information about widespread rainfall including it levels and timing, it will help you to plan for the success of your landscaping. Also, this information will help you to make landscaping survival plan for summer.

The Need for Snow in Colder Climates

You also need snow for successful yard landscaping. While it is cold and icy, the melting snow will help to water your garden, and the ice will warm up the soil to sustain the sleeping plants and keep them alive. In the spring, the plant bulbs will crack open and spring back to life giving your garden lushly beauty.

PRECIPITATION Distribution and Collection

Therefore, the proper distribution of rainwater across your yard is vital to the success of your planned landscaping project. You can cross check this when it rains by going around the yard to note the flow of the water and also where it collects into puddles. Use the information you gathered to plan your landscaping project. Even when you have to call in a professional to work on your drainage, the facts gathered would be useful for them to know what to do to plan the right water movement for you.

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The legacy of Heirloom Seed Plants

Gardeners are discovering that a number of traditional fruits and vegetables seem to be going out of existence. Over 75% of the varieties of seeds which were available nearly 100 years back are not available these days. This failure of cultural and genetic supplies has become a quiet revolution for saving seeds and heirloom gardening.

Native Bees With A back Full of Pollen Climbing Out Of  A Squash Flower
Native Bees With A back Full of Pollen Climbing Out Of A Squash Flower

History of openly pollinated plants

In the past, most of the species in agriculture were open pollinated. Two plants that were identical genetically or similar in looks were pollinated simply through insects, animals or wind. As a result, the desired specimen of similar looking crossbreed was produced, the seeds of which used to be procured for use in the next season. Thus seeds were saved every year to allow the next generations to use them in the future.

Heirloom Bean Seeds
Heirloom Bean Seeds

Availability of seeds at present

In the last 50 years, that system has changed as the availability and distribution of these seeds is now controlled by multinational corporations and seed corporations, etc. The breeding of hybrid quality spices to produce sterile seeds has completely controlled the system, but the quality of the crop received from those seeds was not good.

Effect of seed breeding culture

Actually, some of the programs of breeding seed are known for growing food without nutritional value and flavor. The poor quality of the tomato crop is the right example of this seed breeding culture. In order to expend their shelf-life and to make their shipping easier, the rich and juicy flavor of the tomatoes has been sacrificed to leave fake and weak supermarket tomatoes with cardboard like flavor for us.

Evolution of seed saving organizations

Luckily, a lot of seed exchange networks and seed saving organizations were initiated in the 1970s to promote and save the resources of native American genetic plants as well as immigrant plants from all over the world. These seed-saving organizations also work as their suppliers. Most of these organizations claim to provide over 500 exclusive species of herbs, vegetables, grains, and fruits.

Raised bed Vegetable Garden
Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Importance of heirloom gardening

Heirloom gardening can be one of the most important elements of the movement of waged workers. These gardens are developed with a variety of almost 50 years old seeds pollinated openly regardless of their size, garden in the backyard plots or in the large organic farms. Most of these heritage gardens might have developed in the early period of colonial civilization.

Importance of traditional seeds

The historical or traditional elements of some of the heirloom herbs and vegetables found by some of the gardeners were very tempting. In the beginning, for some people, they look attractive due to their good taste. Heirloom gardeners have shifted to surprising and unique colors, textures and flavors of the old varieties of fruits and vegetables along with providing richly flavored and familiar vegetables. They also allow knowing about the history of many global species of rare breeds.

Variety of heirloom species available today

The heirloom kitchen garden at present may include the late variety of premium flat cabbage of 1840s introduced by the immigrants from Germany, the variety of lettuce grown in 1700s in the colonial gardens, mixed varieties of century-old potatoes from the highlands of Andean and improved variety of long orange carrot brought in 1620s by the Dutch breeders. Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Czech Black Peppers, and Howling Moon Corn are some of the hot, ornamental and flavorful plants found in today’s heirloom gardens. They may also have one of two trees of sporting Wine apples, ball tomatoes brought from German Black Forest region and Moon and stars watermelons that look like a big yellow colored moon with small stars on its oblong crust of dark green color. They may also have the variety of hollow Crown Parsnips grown in the 1800s that can be used to make wine or marmalade.

They can also plant Ashwagandha, yucca, wormwood, and decorative wheat along with heirloom culinary and medicinal herbs and old-fashioned decorative flowers like sunflowers for making arrangements of dried flowers in the additional space in their heirloom garden.

Young Pumpkin Seedlings In Peat Pots
Young Pumpkin Seedlings In Peat Pots

Use of Heirloom seeds to develop a garden

Just reading the names of Heirloom seeds in the catalogs can be enough to encourage you to order them and grow in your garden. Actually, most of the seed catalogs are like old literature containing information about the seeds found in the barn of a polish uncle to the garage in suburban New York. Some of them may describe a good range of historical dialogues like the seeds of a snap bean, the Scarlet Runner bean, grown in the pre-revolutionary period by the colonists and collected by American natives. These plants were grown for their beans with nutty flavor in and before the 1800s. Though it is grown by contemporary Americans for its exceptional decorative value, in Great Britain, it is grown as the most popular bean of green color.

Garden Vegetables
Garden Vegetables

Reason to grow openly pollinated seeds

Another important aspect of growing openly pollinated varieties is saving seed like banking genetic seeds. Every gardener is helping, regardless of its size, in keeping the source of genetic seeds workable by planting these heirloom gardens. Some of the gardeners have taken an advance step by cultivating certain plants with an aim to save their seeds and sharing them with others in exchange. However, basically, anyone who saves seeds to be used in years to come can be appreciated. For instance, if this year you have grown delicious and productive variety of yellow potato onions of modest size then you can produce 3-8 times onions every year from which you can use, share and save to use as seed in future.

Package Of Garden Seeds
Package Of Garden Seeds

Where to get heirloom seeds?

Certainly, you need not start an heirloom garden to get these seeds. You can get seeds of heirloom fruits, vegetables and decorative plants like roses of old fashion from local garden centers. According to some of the popular county organizations like Behnke Nursery and American Plant Food Company, they can provide minimum 40-60 varieties of heirloom seeds for sale. You can know about their availability from other garden centers also. You can easily take the first step to develop your heirloom garden by buying seedlings as it can be a good option for you to take the next step of starting a large and attractive world of saving heirloom seeds.

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How many strawberries to plant per person?

A Basket of Strawberries Near Strawberry Patch
A Basket of Strawberries Near Strawberry Patch

Nearly everyone loves strawberries. However, most of them never even see a strawberry plant, much less grow one. Growing your strawberries, however, can be a fun and healthy alternative to spending money on commercial strawberries in the market or grocery store. Strawberries should be a permanent fixture in a garden. It is hard to predict the number of strawberry plants to order when planting but the following guidelines will help you to know how many strawberries to plant per person.

First, each strawberry plant typically produces about a 1/4 of strawberries annually. Varieties such as Ozark Beauty produce two major crops and a few berries throughout the year. When planted together, they total about 1/4 of total production.

Varieties like Tristar and Tribute (day-neutrals) produce scattered berries over the growing season, and other time s up until the first frost. day-neutrals usually produce a bit smaller strawberries, but they can produce up to a quart in a good environment. Last, the most popular types are June-bearers which produce one main crop of larger berries, totaling more than a quart of the total production.

Freshly Cultivated Strawberry Patch
Freshly Cultivated Strawberry Field

Generally, for fresh consumption, a minimum of six to seven plants per person is required. Thirty to thirty-five well-cared strawberry plants should feed six people. When you are plan on freezing strawberries, fifty to sixty strawberry plants would be advisable – a minimum of ten plants per person. These figures are the minimum. If your family is a voracious strawberry eater, it’s advisable to increase the number of strawberry per person to at least ten for fresh eating and more than a hundred for preserving for year-round consumption.

Make sure you read the information about growing strawberries to get the plants off in the right direction once you have planted strawberry. And, don’t forget that late-season care is essential for the highest strawberry production. The attention you give strawberry plants will determine the number of strawberries you will harvest.

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Perennial – How To Grow Garlic (Chinese) Chives

Garlic (Chinese) Chive flowers
Garlic (Chinese) Chive flowers

Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives (Allium tuberosum) are a quick growing, hardy, plant which needs very little maintenance or care. They are a prolific grower, and 1-2 plants are generally enough for a home garden. They are a good choice for a beginner garden and, also, add value to established gardens. They look especially beautiful as a border around a garden with their bountiful blooms. The garlic chive is similar to regular chives, yet, is distinctive for its garlic flavor as opposed to regular chives, which taste like onions. They are also called Chinese chives, Chinese leeks, or allium chives.

Garlic Chives Description

  • Chive plants grow 10-20″ tall. The plant sports tall grass-like foliage that is flat and narrow. As it grows, the leaves curve downward with their tips pointing to the ground. This creates a fountain of green foliage that remains orderly and pretty all through the growing season. At the base of each leaf, the stem is a small white bulb which is edible, as are all parts of the plant.
  • In the fall or late summer, they produce beautiful white flowers that bees and insects adore. The flower stalks emerge from the base of the plant and stand tall above the green leaves. A round bulb-like ball forms with dozens of tiny star-shaped flowers. Flower heads should be removed before going to seed since they self-seed easily and can quickly spread and become an invasive if not monitored.

Are Chives Perennial?

  • Yes! Garlic chives grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. They have a long growing season and will grow all year-round in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze. In climates where the ground freezes, they will die back during cold weather and reemerge in the spring.

Growing Chives

Location

  • To begin, choose a space in your garden which will be a good permanent place for them. Since they are perennial, they will need a designated spot. They need between 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. They like rich, well-drained, soil yet are adaptable to growing in a variety of soil types.

Planting

  • Garlic chives can be grown from seed or started from divisions. To start them from seed, plant them 1/4″ deep and 6-8″ apart. Garlic chives grow slowly, just a few inches a year until they reach their mature height of 10-20″.
  • To start growing chives from a division, carefully dig out a mature plant. Divide the plant into sections and plant each section in its own location with plenty of space. When you plant from divisions, hold off harvesting any leaves for the first year as they establish themselves.

Maintenance

  • Once they are established, garlic chives need little care. They are very hardy and tolerant of heat, cold, and drought. Sometimes the center of the plant will die when it gets too large. If this happens, pull up the plant and remove the parts that are still good. These can be replanted as divisions.

Harvesting

  • The leaves can be cut and used as soon as they are 3” tall. Cut down the leaves to the base, leaving just a bit of green showing. Like most greens, the leaves should be cut back on a regular basis to encourage new growth. The flower heads of Garlic chives can be cut off and used in salads. The small bulb roots can be pulled up for use in cooking. They have a strong garlic/onion flavor that can be used for a variety of culinary purposes.

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How To Grow Blackberries

Ripe Blackberries On A Garden Vine
Ripe Blackberries On A Garden Vine

Blackberry season is one of the highlights of summer. The blackberries’ fruit can be eaten freshly picked or baked into pies, cakes, and crumbles or made into jams. Blackberry plants are perennial and quite easy to grow once Blackberries are established.  Having blackberries growing in your yard will brighten up the summer days and bring lots of beneficial bees, bugs, and butterflies into your garden.

Blackberry Plant Description

  • The blackberry plant is a bramble and grows long vines, also called canes, with thorns. Blackberry will grow wild and untamed if blackberries are not pruned back every year. Blackberries vines become loaded with fruit in the middle of the summer.
  • Blackberries are classified into three categories according to how Blackberry grow: erect, semi-erect, and trailing. The erect varieties stand tall and don’t need support to keep it upright. Erect blackberry varieties have prolific thorns and are the hardiest of the blackberry types. The semi-erect varieties can have few thorns or be thorn-less, and these Blackberries usually produce more fruit than the erect variety. Blackberry often need minimal support. Trailing blackberry varieties need support, which are the least hardy.

Growing Blackberries

Location

  • The blackberries’ plants need a designated location in full sun and well-drained soil. It is important not to plant them anyplace where potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants have been planted in the previous four years. A disease common to all of them can hide out in the soil and get passed on to the blackberries.

Planting

  • Transplants, called canes, should only be bought from reputable garden supply stores to reduce the possibilities of disease. Most canes are one-year-old, and the variety should be chosen with the climate of your area in mind. Many varieties don’t fare well in cold or harsh climates.
  • Arranging the canes along a fence or wall makes them easier to maintain and reduce the chances of them sprawling and becoming unmanageable. Planting in a circular patch is also common. Keep in mind how far you will need to reach to access the berries. You should be able to access the middle of the patch with an arm’s reach otherwise you will miss a lot of berries. Once the bramble has matured, it is difficult and prickly to reach over the vines and thorns.
  • Plant blackberry canes in individual holes. The crown of the cane needs to be 1-2 inches above the ground. Plant the canes 2-3 feet apart in rows that are 6-8 feet apart. Blackberry will benefit from mulching with wood chips or pine needles to keep weeds at bay.

Care and Maintenance

  • Blackberry plants should be watered every week with 1-2 inches. Each spring, Blackberries need to be cut back to encourage new growth and keep them from getting out of control. Erect varieties should be pruned to 3′ the first year, and then the lateral branches pruned to 12”. Trailing varieties need to be thinned to 6-12 canes per foot of row and trained onto a trellis.
  • Fertilizer should be applied every spring to provide essential minerals and facilitate healthy growth.

Harvesting

  • Blackberries do not separate from the core when Blackberries are ripe as raspberries do. The fruit should be pulled gently off the bush and tasted for ripeness. The berries will ripen and need to be harvested throughout the 3-4 week season.

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How to Grow Raspberries

Raspberries Fruit On The Vine
Raspberries Fruit On The Vine

Raspberries are the perfect summer treat. Raspberries can be quite prolific, producing baskets of berries, if raspberries are cared for well. Having raspberries growing on your property adds beauty and delight; walking out to your yard and picking raspberries fresh off the bush is one of the small joys of life.

Raspberry Plant Description

  • Raspberries are a bramble, a wild bush with thorns. Raspberries grow in large patches that will spread if raspberries are not cut back and maintained. The prickly thorns are small and prolific. When harvesting, it is easy to avoid the thorns if there are clear paths through the bramble to reach the berries.
  • There are several types of raspberries. The name of each indicates the color of the fruit. Black raspberry plants have juicy blackberries. Red raspberries plants have deep, red, berries. Purple raspberries are purple. The golden raspberry is a red raspberry without the pigment.

Growing Raspberries

Location

  • These plants are perennial so choose a designated spot for them. Raspberries like full sun and well-drained soil. Raspberries should not be planted in locations that have grown eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers in the previous four years. Raspberries share a common disease which can live in the soil and get passed on from crop to crop. Be careful to choose a location that doesn’t flood or have standing water as this will also increase the possibility of disease.

Planting

  • Raspberries grow from transplants, called canes. Raspberries should be obtained from a garden center with a good reputation. Diseases can easily be transmitted from one cutting to another, and once a plant is infected, there is no way to save it. It is recommended to plant 6-10 canes at a time to get a raspberry patch established.
  • The majority of transplants sold are one-year-old canes. Another option is tissue-cultured plants, which are generated through micropropagation. These are more expensive yet less likely to suffer disease issues.
  • New raspberry canes should be planted in the spring. Planting along a fence or wall or in a circular patch will make them easier to manage. It will also be easier to pick the berries this way. The canes often look like raspberries are dead when you get them from the garden store yet once raspberries are planted and watered, raspberries will begin to show life.
  • To plant raspberries, dig a hole for each cane. Place the cane in, keeping the crown 1-2 inches above the ground. Raspberries should be planted 2-3 feet apart in rows that are 10 feet apart. Raspberries will spread widely over the years, and appropriate space is important. Mulch around the plants with wood chips, bark, or pine needles to reduce weeds which compete for nutrients.

Care and Maintenance

  • Raspberries are susceptible to drought and drying out so be sure to keep them well watered. Raspberries need about 1-2 inches of watering per week.
  • Before any growth in the spring, cut back each cane to 12-15”. Weekly watering is for their health and to prevent them from growing out of control. Each year, apply fertilizer in the spring to maximize health and growth.

Harvesting

  • In late July and into August, the berries will be ready to pick. Raspberries generally go through several stages of color before raspberries are quite ready. To check readiness, pinch each berry very lightly with your fingers and tug gently. If it pulls away easily, it is ripe. If it holds on, leave it on the bush to ripen further. Berries need to be picked as raspberries ripen and their season usually lasts several weeks. Harvest as frequently as needed.

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