Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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


 July E-Newsletter 2017

July passed as quickly as a burst of fireworks! It was another busy, but enjoyable month highlighted by daylilies and the first tomatoes and melons. I’ve spent much of it in my potager, where the hours fly, and some in the kitchen canning and freezing the potager’s bounty.  Also this month, I attended the Garden Writers’ of America’s Regional gathering in Indianapolis, visiting some amazing gardens. (See more below.)  We attended a big MG event in Akron, OH and a wedding just north of Milwaukee, where I found a lovely garden center (see more below.)  Back at home, we noticed the cicadas singing, signaling only six weeks until frost.  I’m hoping they are wrong, aren’t you?

Upcoming events:
Wabash GardenFest:  Saturday, Aug. 19
Held at the historical Paradise Springs Park in Wabash, IN, this annual event features dozens of vendors, garden speakers, a decorated chair auction for charity, food, and more.  Although I won’t be attending as a vendor this year, it’s a lovely opportunity to purchase herbs, perennials, dried flowers, herbal products, garden décor, and lots of other crafty items.

International Herb Association Annual Conference 2017:  September 8 &9th
The International Herb Association is holding its annual conference at the Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners, Michigan, celebrating Hops, Herb of the Year 2018 ™.  There is a great line-up of speakers and subjects. The lunches and Awards’ Banquet will be featuring lots of delicious seasonal and herbal dishes. Pre- and post-conference tours may be sold out on the buses, but if you drive you can follow along to at least see some of the great herbal places.  There will be vendors with plants, all sorts of herbal products and an authors’ book table, along with a silent auction and a live auction at the Saturday banquet. See the list of programs for both days, single, or half days—the schedule is online at

Herb to Know:  Nasturtium
     One of my favorite herbs is the colorful nasturtium.  Easily grown from seed, this lovely annual is a staple in my potager and in containers on the deck.  It is a valuable companion plant for many vegetables, such as squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins because it attracts aphids, which in turn attracts hoverflies.  (I simply cut off the infested tips to destroy the aphids if there are more than the beneficial insects can devour, or spray them with insecticidal soap.  Better to have the aphids concentrating on a couple of nasturtium plants than on my veggies!) In southern states, nasturtium is a perennial and the vines can reach 12’ in length.  It cannot tolerate freezing temperatures, so in cooler zones treat it as an annual.  Simply plant the seeds in a sunny location, or start them two weeks before frost-free date indoors.  They grow best in cooler temperatures, so I keep some in containers in partial shade during the hottest months.  Replacing “tired” plants that have “cooked” in the heat of summer with seeds planted in late July will provide flowers through to frost. Colors range from cream through pale yellow, soft apricots, bright yellow, deep orange, reds and nearly black. 


Many of them have contrasting centers:  white with a deep rose center, apricot with bright orange, pale yellow with red, etc.  Some varieties, like “Gleam,” have flowers with spurs and some such as “Whirlybird”are spurless.  There are also some with double flowers and the “Alaska” series has variegated leaves.  Despite the origin of the name Tropaeolium, which is Greek for “to twine” in addition to climbing nasturtiums (Empress of India and Phoenix, 6-8’ here) there are dwarf varieties (Tip Top and Cherry Rose, 6-8”) and cascading types for containers and hanging baskets (Gleam, 12-14”.)  Some experts assert that the name instead means “trophy” because the flower resembles a Greek soldier’s helmet.  In fact, one legend says the flowers sprung from the blood of a Trojan warrior.  The round leaf mimics the shape of his shield.  There are two species, T. minor and T. major.  The first, T. minor, was found growing in Mexico and Peru.  Nicolas Monardes, a Spanish physician who wrote the first herbal about the New World’s useful plants, brought these nasturtiums to Europe in 1574.  He called it “Flowers of Blood” for their deep red color.  Gerard wrote that he received seeds of nasturtium from France in 1597.  The English dubbed it “Indian Cress” for the flavor of is rounded leaves.  Parkinson grew the plant and called it “yellow lark’s heels” for the spurred flower.
     The larger species, T. major,  did not arrive in Europe for another hundred years.  However, they quickly became a garden favorite for their showy flowers and easy culture.  Because T. major has larger seeds, they were often pickled and barrels of them were included on ships to help prevent scurvy.  The entire plant has a high Vitamin C content.  Oil pressed from the seeds was also used by sailors to keep muscles from getting stiff.  Early physicians prescribed ½ teaspoonful of fresh juice pressed from the leaves to help combat colds.  A tea steeped from the leaves was used as a blood tonic and to aid the digestive system.
     All parts of the nasturtium are edible and have a lively, peppery flavor and scent.  In fact, the name nasturtium comes from the Latin nasus (nose) and torquere (to twist) and translates to “nose twister.”  The colorful flowers and young leaves can be added to salads or sandwiches, or even pasta dishes.  An herbal vinegar made by steeping the flowers is lovely in salad dressings, stir-fry, and marinades. Freeze herbal butter made with nasturtium flower “confetti” to top grilled fish, pork, or chicken. The fresh seeds are sometimes used as a substitute for horseradish, or pickled to replace capers.My newest recipe, using fresh nasturtium seeds, is at the end of this newsletter.  Another favorite is here:  Colorful Stuffed Mushrooms
1 1/2 lbs. large fresh mushrooms, remove stems, rinse caps
1/4 c. snipped chives, including blossoms if available
2-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. finely chopped radishes
1/4 c. finely chopped nasturtium petals
1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts

Chop mushroom stems, add to cream cheese, along with other ingredients.  Fill mushroom caps with mixture.  Sprinkle additional nasturtium “confetti” on top.  Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.  May be made a day ahead.  Makes 18-30, depending upon size of mushrooms.  

Amazing Gardens in Indy
     During the GWA Regional meeting in Indianapolis, members were fortunate to visit public gardens and several very private gardens.We began at Holliday Park for a presentation on the history and evolution of “The Ruins,” the façade of a building formerly in New York City, and moved to the park. 

Recently, The Ruins have been renovated to make them safe for visitors, and thoughtful gardens have been established around them.  They reopened in the autumn of 2016, and provide a space for not only park visitors to admire the gardens but also to stroll down the tree-lined allee to a rain garden.  

Our second stop was only minutes away to a newly renovated private garden that featured an antique gazebo and even older Chinese dogs made of white marble, welcoming visitors to stroll the circular path along perennial borders.

  Next was an elaborate shade garden stoned into the side of a steep slope with curving paths, and serene sitting areas.  I didn’t count the hostas, but there were hundreds.  Several metal sculptures added a touch of whimsy to the gardens. It was hard to believe in that we were just a stone’s throw from some of the busiest streets in the city.

The fourth garden of the day included a 2-acre prairie alive with pollinators, and a dream of a children’s garden.  We all were tempted to climb over the tunnel, and a few even ventured up the log steps into the rustic wooden fort.

  The final destination was an estate that could have been in Europe rather than Indianapolis, with parterres, elaborate hedges and an English mixed border that surprisingly doubled as a rain garden.  It was being put to the test during our visit, with over 12” of water covering many of the plants.  The 2 acre garden was immaculate and filled with color, even though its owners don’t live there, preferring to spend time at their second home in Maine during the summer months.  Personally, I can’t imagine that even if I were rich enough to have a second home, I would want to leave such a beautiful garden.

Bayside Garden Center
     If you happen to be in the Milwaukee area, take time to visit this jam-packed garden center on the city’s northern side.  Bayside is a small suburb near the coast, and is also host to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, which is worth a visit as well. It’s hard to miss the garden center. 


Just look for the bear that welcomes visitors to the parking lot.  Adjoining the lot are row after row of perennials.  There were several notable plants I wanted, but we already had a fully loaded vehicle and weren’t coming straight home.  Drats!  Once you make your way through the rows, you can go to the huge shrub area, a covered area for shade lovers, or do what I did and head to one of the many greenhouses.  


My favorites were this one filled with dahlias and a few other bloomers, and the one shown on the right with orchids.  Several of the greenhouses that had earlier held annuals and veggies were now filled with potted mums, as well as this large area outside. 

A visit to the well-stocked shop was last, and it was impressive. In addition to all the usual garden décor, whimsy, and essentials they also had some unusual items for outdoor entertaining.  Isn’t this cooler adorable?  Yes, it’s actually a rolling cooler.  The salesperson said they’d had other models (VW bug, etc.) but all had sold quickly. Do visit Bayside if you are traveling near the eastern edge of Wisconsin.

In the garden:
     It’s time to cut off the stalks of Lambs Ears & lemon balm, unless you want them to self-seed all over the garden and paths.  Use that lemon balm in sun tea to “maketh the heart merry.”
     Cut off daylily seed pods as they form and remove old flower stalks.  Making seeds drains lots of energy that the plant could use to make more flowers or stronger root systems.  Most of the daylilies are hybrids, so the seed won’t come true to type anyway.
     Be sure to feed hanging baskets, containers and window boxes.  The 3-month time release fertilizer may be “used up” and regular fertilizers will have been “washed out”, so the plants are hungry.
      Basil & parsley will appreciate a light side dressing of compost or fertilizer now.
      Remember the caterpillars you see on parsley, dill, and fennel will become butterflies so don’t disturb, squash, or spray them!
      If you didn’t prune lavender just after it finished blooming, do it NOW!  Remove dried flowering stalks to prevent seeds from dropping.  Seed-grown lavender is inferior, and will just crowd the mother plant and reduce air-flow, which can promote disease.
     Cilantro seeds are beginning to ripen and fall off the stems.  Gather some of them to plant in another location, now or next spring or to use in baking, if you wish.  Those that fall to the ground will germinate to provide another crop of cilantro in early autumn.
     If you have not had rain lately, be sure to water shrubs, especially blueberry bushes, flowering shrubs, trees, and perennials that you planted this spring.  In driving around, it appears some locations have had nice, periodic rains, and some areas are getting dry and brown.
     Keep deadheading zinnias, marigolds, and other annuals to keep them flowering until frost.
     It’s time to plant fall vegetable crops:  late beans, turnips, lettuces, broccoli plants, kale, carrot, cabbage, and spinach seeds.  Keep them watered!  A bit of filtered shade during really hot spells will help keep them growing.  I use web flats or plastic laundry baskets to provide a bit of shade but still allowing good air flow.
     Now is the time to pot strawberry runners if you want a new bed next year, or to replace plants that may succumb to winter hardships.


Recipe: Chicken with Nasturtium Seeds
I recently developed and published this quick and easy recipe on my blog ( If you enjoy hot peppers, use 2 T. of nasturtium seeds.  If you prefer it a bit milder, use only 1 T.
In a cast iron (or oven safe) skilled heat 1 T. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add 6-8 chicken legs or thighs, sprinkling lightly with salt, and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  While chicken browns, preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Make a sauce by combining:  1/3 c. olive oil; ¼ c. lemon juice; 1-2 T. fresh nasturtium seeds, coarsely chopped; 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed; 1 tsp. salt.  Peel and quarter 3-4 medium potatoes.
     When chicken is browned, add potatoes.  Pour sauce over top and place in preheated oven.  Bake, uncovered, about 35-45 minutes, until chicken is done and tender.Serves 3-4.

Every minute in the garden is a treasure, bringing bounty, flowers, and great pleasure. As we look ahead to August, we know that summer will soon be coming to an end and autumn approaches.  The garden season will come to an end as well, so please take time to enjoy it.  I hope your remaining summer is filled with….

Herbal Blessings, Carolee