Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

NOTE: To use the advanced features of this site you need javascript turned on.

Home News Newsletters July 2019 E-Newletter
July 2019 E-Newletter Print E-mail

July E-newsletter 2019
     How can it be the end of July already?  I always feel so blessed this month, with the 4th of July reminding us how lucky we are to live where we do, watching the wheat fields turn golden, and normally seeing the corn skyrocketing to the sky.  It’s been a little different this year, with all the rain.  I didn’t even bother to spend hours picking black raspberries because they were so water-logged they had no flavor.  Thankfully, the potager’s raised beds have allowed crops to thrive despite the rain, so I’ve been harvesting loads of green beans, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and squash.  The onions, garlic, and shallots have been pulled, cured, and braided to hang in the Lady Cottage until autumn.  The tomatoes were later ripening than normal, but just as they were beginning to turn red, the raccoons found them and ravaged the plants, even knocking the green ones from the stems.  That was certainly discouraging.  I suspect it’s because there is no sweet corn ready for them to raid, so they are looking for alternatives.
     There’s been a bit of extra time, since there was no need to drag hoses to water this month, so I’ve been weeding & deadheading at a more leisurely pace.  The flower gardens have been lovely, and it’s a good feeling to have them tidy, especially before our family from Germany came home for a visit.  We had a family gathering at my mother’s, and made a batch of delicious lemon verbena ice cream, and also a batch of strawberry ice cream with just a dash of balsamic vinegar, like they do in Italy.  Yum! Yum!
      Now that the pea vines, onions and garlic have been pulled, the potager is transitioning to fall crop...pumpkins, winter squash, more beets, carrots and spinach, and the heat-tolerant “Wando” peas.  I’ve even planted rutabagas for the first time, now that I know I like them.  We’re picking the first of the melons, which with all the rain have climbed all the way to the top of the trellises!
     It’s a more relaxing time in the gardens, which seem quieter without all the daylily blooms.  Soon it will be time to add the mums for fall color, and to order the bulbs for fall planting, but for now, I’m just enjoying this gorgeous weather!

Upcoming Events:
Wabash Garden Fest:  Saturday, Aug. 17.  Plants, garden décor, fairy items, lots of herbal products and more (over 50 vendors!)  Free admission.  Food on site.  Speakers throughout the day.  Paradise Spring Park, 9-3:00.  Wabash, IN.
International Herb Association Annual Conference:  Sept. 22 & 23.  Pre-conference tour of United Plant Savers on Sept. 21.  A full day of internationally known speakers on Sept. 22, with a craft & hike day on the 23rd.  More info and registration forms at  Site is Burr Oak Conference Center, Gloucester, Ohio.

Herb to Know:  Ladies Mantle
     While I’m working in the gardens, my mind often wanders back through the various trips I’ve been privileged to take.  Currently, because of an upcoming trip to London, memories of English gardens and plants come to mind.  In England, Ladies Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) grows larger, with bigger, frothier chartreuse flowers that have longer stems than what we usually grow here in the states.  It is such a popular cut flower that fan-shaped vases with individual tubes were specifically designed to showcase its blooms, which can also be dried for winter arrangements.
     While not as common here in the States, Ladies Mantle can be found in most gardens in Britain, and has been since medieval times.  In the early morning, ladies (or their servants) would go into the garden with a straw and a small container to gather the dew that hung from the pleated, pointed leaves.  This valuable fluid was used to prevent facial wrinkles, added to hand lotions, and eye creams.   The plant itself was often used medicinally for “women’s illnesses,” thus its common name.  Other sources indicate that the pretty fan-shaped leaves, with their scalloped edges resembled the Virgin Mary’s cape, and that’s how it earned its name.  I think the first explanation is more likely.
     I grew Ladies Mantle in the “My Fair Lady” herbal cosmetics garden at the old farm.   It is a hardy, trouble-free perennial, growing to about 12” in height when not in bloom, and about 12” across.  The very attractive foliage makes it a desirable plant even when not in bloom.  It can tolerate full sun, although it seems happier in light shade.  Ladies Mantle should be given more space in American gardens, because it can tolerate drought and is deer and critter resistant.
     If you can find it, the tiny dwarf Fairies Mantle (Alchemilla alpina) is a lovely plant for fairy gardens or other small gardens.      

A Visit along the River
      Recently, David and I joined a group of MG lovers on the “London to Brighton” Run held annually in southern Indiana.  We visited lots of interesting places, and I learned a lot more about Indiana.  For instance, did you know there is a “Pie Trail”? We all know Hoosiers love pie, but I had no clue there was an official “Pie Trail.”  It’s now on my to-do list!  For more information, visit which has 30 stops.  Or another Indiana Pie Trail, which placed 4th in the USA Today’s TOP 10 food  trails listing, included Storie’s  in Greensburg (where the tree grows in the top of the courthouse)  where we stopped for a 10 o’clock pie break (MG drivers know how to travel!)  For info on this Pie Trail, visit!  


We also visited an interesting popcorn machine museum, but I didn’t take any notes, and neither of us can remember where it was, or its name!  The perils of aging!  But it was fun, and is supposed to be one of the largest of its kind in the entire U.S. Popcorn has always been an important crop in Indiana.  There is even a Hoosier town named Popcorn.  And, below is a photo of a brand from the Hoosier state!

We drove lots of curvy back roads along the Ohio River, which was fun as well as scenic, and ended up at the grand Belterra Resort and Casino, not for gambling…just for lunch!  I’m always amazed at how much there is to see in our Hoosier state!

In the garden:
     It’s time to cut off the stalks of lemon balm, unless you want it to self-seed all over the garden and paths. Put it into a sun-tea jar and make lemonade, or dry some for winter teas.  It “maketh the heart merry” so don’t waste a single stem!
     Weeds are making seeds now, too, so remove them to save lots of work later on.
     Cut off daylily seed pods as they form.  Making seed 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 they are hungry.
      Basil & parsley will appreciate a light side dressing of compost or fertilizer now.  Keep those basil flowers cut off…throw them in the food process to make pesto, or sprinkle them over salads.
      Remember the caterpillars you see on parsley, dill, and fennel will become butterflies so don’t disturb, squash, or spray them!
      Cilantro seeds are beginning to ripen and fall off the stems.  Gather some of them to plant 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.  Some areas have been getting abundant rains, but there are pockets where it is very dry.
     There’s still plenty of time to plant bush beans, carrots, beets, “Wando” peas, broccoli, summer squash.  Next month, I’ll be adding spinach, turnips, and late mini-cabbages.

Recipe:  Ratatouille
    In summertime, cooking is kept to a minimum by purposely making more so that leftovers can be turned into another meal.  In this case, marinated grilled vegetables later become a delicious ratatouille!  I’ve eaten this dish many times, but never made it myself.  Here’s my version, which I feel has more flavor and texture than most recipes.
     Marinate “steaks” of an eggplant and a medium or large zucchini, sliced a bit over ½” thick; 2 green peppers that have been halved and seeded, and thick slices of a large onion by placing all in a zip-lock bag with ½ c.  olive oil, 3 T. balsamic vinegar, 2 T. finely chopped parsley, 1 T. finely chopped oregano, a generous pinch of salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper.  Marinate at least 3 hours, checking after an hour.  If all the liquids have been absorbed, make another recipe of marinade and add it (It depends upon how large the eggplant and zucchini are, because they really absorb the liquids.)  Enjoy some of these vegetables hot off the grill.  Refrigerate the rest for a day or two, then make the ratatouille as follows:
      Dice the eggplant and zucchini into 1/2” cubes, hopefully there will be about 2 c. of each.  If not, adjust the recipe accordingly.  Dice the onions and green peppers, about ¾ c. each.
      In a deep skillet or heavy pot, cook 4 strips bacon until crispy.  Set aside to drain.  Remove all but 1 T. bacon drippings.  Over medium heat, add a finely chopped clove of garlic, a bay leaf, and 2 c. diced tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add all the diced vegetables.  Cook just until everything is nicely hot.  Adjust salt and pepper, if needed.  Crumble the bacon over the top and serve immediately.  4-6 servings.  Serve with thick slices of bread.  Enjoy!
     P.S.  Any leftover ratatouille can be refrigerated, and served cold spread on crisp pita crackers as an appetizer.

Every minute in my garden is a treasure, and brings me great pleasure. Now another month is nearly over, and we look ahead to August.  The summer is passing quickly, but I hope your summer is filled with….

Herbal Blessings, Carolee