Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters April 2017 Newsletter
April 2017 Newsletter Print E-mail



 April E-Newsletter

     March seemed to crawl but April has flown by in a rush of new growth, blooms bursting and disappearing, only to be replaced by another group of flowers.  What a magical month April has been!  I can’t recall another April when the spring bulbs and flowering trees and shrubs have been so lovely.  Normally, as soon as they open their blossoms a freeze shrivels the petals or a storm blows them away, but this year we’ve had week after week of breath-taking beauty.  The redbuds and magnolias have been especially pretty this year, the daffodils and narcissus were gorgeous, and now the lilacs are magnificent.  Maybe I especially appreciate it after all the snow and rain we had last April.   The thousands of bulbs planted last fall have really been a joy to behold. The potager is already producing early crops (radishes, lettuce, spinach and various herbs) and I’m planting more every day.  The first beans have sprouted and the brassicas are growing by leaps and bounds.  The berry rows are leafing out nicely and the gooseberries and strawberries are already blooming. So far, I’ve transplanted 3850 seedlings that began life in my basement or greenhouse!  Our family that lives in Germany came for a visit, our other daughter joined in the fun, and David’s big Purdue Drill Team reunion helped fill the month.  
Upcoming Events:
Herb Society of America Conference:  May 5 & 6, Little Rock, Arkansas.  I’ll be attending this special event, so look for a report in next month’s newsletter.
Indiana School for the Blind Plant Sale:  May 1-13
     A great assortment of annuals, perennials, herbs, hanging baskets, native plants, and vegetables (including heirlooms!) grown by students and volunteers.  Support a great program.  Weekdays 12-5, Saturdays 9-4; closed Sundays…and remember cash or check, no credit cards.  7725 N. College Ave.

Hancock Co. Herb Society & MG Assoc. Plant Sale:  May 5 (8-6); May 6 (8-3)     Two groups unite to host an extensive plant sale.  Hancock Co. Fairgrounds, 620 N. Apple, Greenfield.

Town & Country 28th Annual Plant & Herb Sale:  Sat., May 13th 8-1
     Center Lake Pavillion, Canal St.  Warsaw, IN… Lots of herbs, perennials and annuals.  Vendors featuring garden crafts and gifts.  Free refreshments.

Delaware Co. Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale:  Sat., May 20th  8-11 a.m.
     Senior Center, 2517 West 8th St., Muncie, IN

It’s Hummingbird Time!
Get out the feeders!  We’re getting reports of hummingbird sightings!  There are coral bells, red honeysuckle, American columbine, and other hummingbird favorites already blooming in our gardens.  The hanging baskets of nasturtiums will soon bloom and they are truly hummingbird magnets.  Plant cardinal flowers, nicotiana, penstemons, or any salvia to make them happy!

Garden Tips
     Deadhead daffodils and tulips as soon as flowers have faded so the plant will put its energy into making more bulbs rather than trying to produce seeds.  Also remember that these plants must retain their leaves until they are totally brown and dried up, so don’t mow them or pluck off yellowing leaves.
     Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs until right after they bloom.
     Check your iris….the borers seem to be unusually prevalent this year.
     Shear thymes and savory to keep them from getting too leggy.  I generally cut back to wherever there is sign of green.
     Clipping asters, mum, and sedums when they are about 6” tall to about 3” will make them more dense, and less likely to flop later in the season.  It will also produce lots more blooms!   You can also do this with monarda, phlox and many other perennials.  
      Putting a pinch of “Soil-Moist” in the planting hole of water loving annuals (like begonias, impatiens, petunias, etc.) and mixing it in well before setting in the plant will greatly reduce watering later in the summer.  This is the same product I use in all my containers and hanging baskets, so I don’t have to water them as often.  Saves time and money!  Also works for veggies!

Did you know:
*A recent study found that diets high in salt contributed to more bone loss. Salt tends to leach the calcium from bones.  That’s just one more reason to use fresh herbs to flavor recipes rather than salt!  Snip those herbs over salads, grilled veggies and meats.
*77% of Americans own a smartphone
*One of the fasting trending items for new homes is the “Urban Cultivator” (which looks much like a wine cooler or glass-fronted dorm fridge) for hydroponically growing 8 kinds of herbs and microgreen simultaneously.  Hooks right into your plumbing and has high-efficient lighting and fits under most kitchen counters.
*Some grocery chains are campaigning for consumers to purchase less-than-perfect fruits and veggies.  Called “ugly foods” or “misfits” they will be sold as delicious lower-cost options, in an attempt to reduce America’s huge food waste.

Free Salads!
If you don’t use harmful chemicals and poisons in your lawn and garden, then you can have some delicious salads for free!  There’s nothing I like better than weeding a garden and gathering a huge bowl of salad greens at the same time!  This week, from the garden, I gathered purslane, chickweed, and dandelions.  Thrown in for good measure (and good flavor, too!) were volunteer seedlings of chicory, sorrel, cilantro, mint, anise hyssop, and salad burnet.  I snipped in a few chives, garlic chives, and parsley.  A simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil was all it took to complete a tasty, and I might add, extremely healthy salad.  My paths were clear, my beds weed free, and I didn’t have to cook!  The joys of the garden!  What a giggle!

An Herb to Know:  Alpine Strawberries
     Nothing is so sweet and charming as a tidy, dark green Alpine strawberry plant, hanging with fragrant white flowers and dark red berries.  Fragaria vesca var. semperflorens differs from common garden strawberries and the wild strawberry because it grows as an attractive clump that stays put, without forming runners, so it makes a lovely edging or container plant.  The pretty three-part leaves have serrated edges that hold dewdrops in the early morning, and because of the leaf shape, the strawberry has been linked to the Triology and carried in religious ceremonies in Europe.  In spring, delicate white blooms with yellow centers are produced in abundance, followed by shiny, bright red fruits.  Often, plants continuing producing fruits until the frosts of autumn shrivel their blooms.  If moved indoors, fruit may be picked all winter!  While the fruits are small compared to today’s commercial strawberries, they are packed with flavor and sweetness.  Alpine strawberries are a delightful way to introduce children to the joys of gardening.
     The name strawberry does not come from the common practice of mulching large plantings with straw, but more likely from the Anglo-Saxon word “streauberige” which means “strew.”  In fact, the leaves of wild and alpine strawberries were commonly used as strewing herbs.
     Strawberries are not often thought of as a medicine or a cosmetic, but in former days the berries were used to whiten teeth and to soothe sunburn.  The leaves and berries were common treatments for dysentery, gastro-intestinal problem, urinary diseases, fevers, as a gargle for sore throats, and as a spring tonic to help purify the blood after a long winter.  The leaves were often used as a tea to help excessive menstruation and also as benefit to an easy pregnancy.  Most authorities feel the leaves lose much of their flavor when dried.  Note that only the leaves of the alpine or wild strawberries have significant medicinal properties.  The common garden variety has little or no value.
     Alpine strawberries are easily grown from seed, and there are several excellent varieties available in the marketplace.  “Mignonette” has slightly larger berries.  “Rugen” is the most commonly found and “Temptation” is said to be slightly sweeter.  They grow well in any sunny location, reaching a height of about six inches and forming a clump about six inches in diameter.  Older plants can be carefully divided.  Good drainage in winter is necessary to prevent crown rot, so raised beds are excellent.  They grow well in containers.  Indoors in winter, give them as much light as possible and you will be rewarded with berries to garnish salads or beverages.

Flowerpot Appetizer
      Here’s a cute idea for your next garden-themed party.  Use new terra cotta pots.  The size depends upon you.  I like to use tiny 2” pots for individual servings, 3” pots for a small group, and larger pots for large groups.  Wash them well.  This recipe makes a little over 2 c. of spread, which will fill 2- 3” pots.
     Beat together:  1 8-oz. Pkg. Cream cheese, 1 c. sour cream and 2 oz. Shredded Monterey Jack or pepper cheese (about ½ c.).  Add 4 T. chopped parsley, 4T. chopped chives and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, and a dash of hot pepper.  (Or use garlic chives, sorrel and lemon balm, or whatever herbs and combinations you like best!)
     Pack into pots.  Cover surface with more chopped chives for “grass”.  In the center, place upright sprigs of edible blooms, so it looks like the flowers are growing in the pot.  I like to use scented geranium blooms, but pansies work well, too.  Just be sure they are chemical-free and safe to eat.
     Serve with miniature garden shovels and trowels as the spreaders, on crackers or thinly sliced toasted bread.

April bids us farewell and May is here to greet us.  I’ll be traveling to the HSA conference in Little Rock, and visiting some of the plant sales mentioned above.  Otherwise, you’ll find me in the gardens.  
Hope your May is filled with May flowers, and Herbal Blessings, Carolee