Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Gardening Tips

Why Grow Herbs? Print E-mail


1.  They’re beautiful!  The range and textures of colors of herbs is amazing.  From deep green curly parsley, graceful slender chives, fuzzy scented geraniums, and glossy silver thymes the visual combinations are endless.  They do not rely on flowers for beauty.
2.  Herbs are easy to grow for the most part.  Of course, sage, lavender, and thymes need little water, while basil, chives and mint need lots.  Follow a few simple guidelines and you’ll be successful.
3.  They can thrive in a small space.  Put them in a small garden or in containers!  Use short herbs as edgers, put them in window boxes, or tuck them into perennial borders.
4.  Herbs produce a huge harvest in a small space.  Most herbs thrive when they are harvested multiple times.  The more you pick them, the more they produce.
5.  Fresh flavor is at your fingertips, and the flavor of fresh herbs can’t be beat.
6.  Big money savings!   A small jar of dried herbs is around $6.00!  A tub of herbs can save big bucks!
7.  Grow your own—you can’t get more local than that!  Many herbs actually come from Europe, Russia and other distant lands.  Labor & shipping costs will only continue to rise.
8.  Healthier eating—using herbs for flavor reduces the need for oil, salt, & sugar!
9.  Wonderful fragrances—the clean scent of lavender, the brightness of mint, the
sweetness of rose geranium, the magic of lemon verbena, and lots more are there for you to experience!
10.  Butterflies will thank you—many herbs are host plants or fabulous nectar producers.
11.  Less waste—ever buy a bunch of herbs & half of it goes to waste?  Grow your own and pick only what you need.
12.  Every herb plant is a link with history.  The lavender or mugwort you grow is a descendant of those cherished by monks, queens, wise women, and herbalists through the history of man.
13.  Variety—you can grow herbs that are hard to find in the marketplace, like summer savory, lemon balm, and unusual mints.
14.  Herbs provide many tasty teas, or garnishes for other drinks.
15.  You’ll experience automatic aromatherapy.  A few minutes in the herb garden can relieve a day’s worth of stress.
16.  With a bit of study, you’ll have some basic first aid.
17.  With a bit of study, you can make natural cleaning supplies and reduce the number of chemicals under your sink.
18.  With a bit of study, herbs can provide simple cosmetics and perfumes.
19.  Pick a bouquet of herbs and scent your kitchen as you cook.
20.  Pick tiny bouquets for hostess gifts, or one for each person at a dinner party.
20.  Many herbs have flowers that can be dried for ornamental use.
21.  A few sprigs of herbs in the closet can repel harmful insects.
22.  It will get you outdoors a few times a week, to harvest, to water, or to rub a leaf for pure enjoyment.
23.  You’ll learn, and life-long learning helps keep you young and involved with the world.
24.  Having a bounty of tasty herbs will lead to experimentation in the kitchen.  No more ho-hum dishes.
25.  You’ll have fun!
26.  You’ll be part of the world of herbs, a world that’s filled with interesting people and more importantly, interesting plants!

Seed Starting Tips Print E-mail
Gardening Tips from "Carolee's Herb Garden"

Carolee's Herb Farm

Check back as more tips will be added throughout the year!

Seed Starting Tips

When sowing tiny slow-growing seeds outdoors, place a 5" "ring" of plastic milk jug around the seeds to keep them from washing away during a rain.  It will also remind you where you've planted each variety (write the name on the plastic) so that they won't be disturbed, laid on by the cat, or eaten by birds.

Press the bottom 1-2" into the soil.  A covering of clear plastic wrap will help keep seeds moist until they sprout, although you may need to remove it on very sunny days.  Be patient!  Some perennial herbs require two years to germinate.

Some seeds, such as parsley or larkspur, should be placed in the freezer as soon as your order arrives.  Take them out to sow in small flats, or in the ground, and return any leftover seed to the freezer.  Soaking parsley seed overnight helps speed germination, but I find them more difficult to sow evenly once they are wet.

-- Carolee
Tips for Successful Butterfly Gardens Print E-mail

Tips for Successful Butterfly Gardens

The Butterfly Garden at Carolee's Herb Farm

   1. Choose a sunny, well-drained site for your butterfly garden, preferably where you can view it easily, but away from traffic (both auto and human!).
   2. For a more effective garden, and better viewing, group plants together, rather than scattering them all over the yard. The adults will find groupings easier, and find their stay more rewarding.
   3. Choose some plants that bloom in each season: spring, summer, autumn.
   4. Choose plants that provide food for the caterpillars as well as those flowers that are good nectar sources for the adults.
   5. Place caterpillar plants where you won’t mind the eaten foliage. Tuck them behind floral plants, and use masses of them, so no one plant is totally devoured.
   6. Provide sun, shade, water, and protection from the wind.
   7. Pesticides kill butterflies and caterpillars, so be sure the plants you grow have not been given a systemic pesticide (such as Marathon). Never use harmful sprays or poisons. If you have insect problems, look for alternative methods.
   8. Butterflies are most active on balmy, sunny days. On windy, chilly, or rainy days, they seek shelter.
   9. Female butterflies are very particular, and lay their eggs only on plants that the hatching caterpillars will find edible. Do not disturb these host plants (such as dill, parsley, fennel, butterflyflower) as they may be harboring eggs.
  10. If you’d like to increase the number of butterflies in your garden, put out a food mixture of 1 cheap beer, 1 very ripened banana (peeled & chopped), 1 cup brown sugar, slightly mixed together. I like to keep this in a shallow container that can be covered, and bring it in at night to prevent other critters from dining!
  11. Research shows that purple is the favorite color of butterflies. Yellow is second, but preferences vary from species to species.

Plants preferred to lay eggs on:

  • Black Swallowtails: Dill, parsley, fennel
  • Monarchs: Butterflyflower (Asclepias)
  • Great Spangled Fritallary: Violets
  • Painted Lady: Rabbit Tobacco, Pearly Everlasting
  • Red Admiral: Nettles
  • Question Mark: Hops, Nettles
  • Giant Swallowtail: Rue
To BEE or not to BEE Print E-mail
Most people watch the winter skies, and listen to weather reports because they are worried about road and travel conditions, school closings, high heat costs, or power outages. Beekeepers keep tabs on these as well, but they have an additional reason for watching the thermometer during the long winter months. Sometime, during the month of January, or early February at the latest, there must be a day above 55 degrees. Just one day will do, but two would be better. Why?

Because beginning in autumn, when the temperatures turn cool and drop below 55 degrees, the honeybees must stay enclosed in their hives. They close the hive entrance with a type of waxy seal to keep out winter winds. They carry on limited work, such as patrolling the hive in search of predators, tending the brood chambers and the queen, and fanning the hive to move air within for warmth. During these long, long weeks the bees cannot leave the hive to defecate, or to eliminate dead members.
Hopefully, by mid-January, Mother Nature smiles down on the Earth, the sun shines, and the temperature rises above freezing. The bees remove a section of the seal, and groups of bees leave the hive on a much-needed cleansing flight. While groups are taking their turns outside, other worker bees are busy with housekeeping chores, removing debris and cleaning. With luck, all the bees get a chance to fly before the temperature falls again.

However, during some especially nasty winters, the temperature does not rise soon enough. The accumulated waste material can harbor diseases. The bees do not get a chance for a cleansing flight, and the entire hive population can perish!

Winter woes are not the only thing a beekeeper has to worry about. In recent years, tracheal and varroa mites have nearly wiped out all the honeybees in this country. These are tiny insects that attack the breathing tubes, and eventually kill the bees. No cure has been found, and the mites seem to develop a resistance to the few chemical controls that are available.

Why should this worry the average person? Well, nearly 80 percent of our vegetables and fruits are pollinated by honeybees. 95% of apples, peaches, almonds, blueberries, cucumbers, strawberries and melons are the result of honeybees’ visits to their flowers. Without honeybees, crops are greatly reduced, and food prices rise. Not to mention that honey and beeswax are a $140 million industry in the U.S.

I have always admired the miracle of the honeybee. No one else can take pollen from beautiful flowers, and turn it into sweet, delicious honey. They are fascinating creatures. I had hives at my old farm, but didn’t moved them with me with I came. Keeping bees takes a lot of work, dedication, and it must be done in a very timely manner. I thought I would be too busy to give them proper attention with the problems and time needed to get my business going in a new location. However, I have always been interested in bees and was delighted to discover, in 1992, a "bee tree" in my woods here. It was a very large colony, and its members did a fantastic job pollinating all the herbs and flowers.

Then in the spring of 1994, no bees emerged from the tree. Like most wild bee colonies in the Midwest, my bees had died. Beekeepers suffered similar losses, and it looked like the honey business was doomed in the U.S.

Fortunately, help was on the way. At Buckfast Abbey, in Devon,England, Brother Adam was involved with his life’s passion, the honeybee. Since 1919, when he took over the Abbey’s bee operation, Brother Adam had been selectively breeding bees for disease resistance. He traveled throughout the world, seeking native strains of bees that seemed to ward of most common bee ailments. By carefully crossing these, he produced the now-famous Buckfast Bees. American beekeepers imported the Buckfast queens to breed resistance into their remaining bees. Buckfast bees are not only disease resistant, but they are excellent housekeepers, which helps reduce disease. They are also some of the most productive and gentle of all honeybee strains. While the problem of mites has not been solved, the new colonies seem to be able to survive, given the help of attentive, knowledgeable beekeepers.

When I visited Devon last summer, I made a pilgrimage to Buckfast Abbey. It is a lovely, tranquil place. Brother Adam passed away in 1996, at age 99, so I was not able to meet him. However, he passed his passion and his legacy on to younger brothers who continue to carry on his work at the Abbey. It was a thrill for me to be able to stroll through the national Lavender Collection, which is planted there, and see the Buckfast honeybees at work in the fragrant blossoms. One can visit the Abbey shop, and purchase honey or beeswax candles that are produced there.

Happily, we have hives again at the farm, as a 4-H project by Christina, one of our high school employees. We’ve planted more bee-friendly plants that produce lots of pollen over a long season. They are positioned far from the sales areas, so visitors won’t have to worry about interfering in their flights. We are looking forward to a SWEET season of lavender, anise hyssop, clover, and goldenrod honeys! And, we’d love to hear from other beekeepers!