Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters April 2018 Newsletter
April 2018 Newsletter Print E-mail

April E-Newsletter 2018

     Whew!  And wasn’t April interesting, with snow and temperatures well below normal at times and then soaring to the upper 70’s only to plummet back down to end with frosty nights.  Early on it was too wet to mow and fields were muddy, but every day I gave thanks for my lovely raised beds, which allowed me to plant early and often.  There are already 40 varieties planted in the potager, not counting the perennial herbs, strawberries, rhubarb and perennial edible flowers.The peas, spinach, radishes, garlic, shallots, onions and lettuces are thriving, and the fava beans are already blooming.  I’ve even risked planting some of my favorite “string” beans, Royal Burgundy, which can tolerate cooler, moist soils in case Mother Nature turns it cool again.  The early daffodils took a beating with snow, hail and strong winds, but now the mid and late-blooming daffys are gorgeous, especially with the coordinating tulips just opening.Hopefully May will be a lovely month for planting, and all the farmers can get caught up in the fields.

Upcoming Events:
     Indiana School for the Blind Plant Sale:  April 30-May 12.   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., Indianapolis.
     Hancock Co. Herb Society & MG Assoc. Plant Sale:  May 5(9-6) Two groups unite to host an extensive plant sale.  Hancock Co. Fairgrounds, 620 N. Apple, Greenfield.
     Trowel & Error Garden Club Plant Sale:  Sat, May 19, 8-1.  Join my local garden club for its annual plant sale, held at the Historical Museum in Hartford City (corner of Kickapoo &  High, go east on Kickapoo off Hwy 3, a few blocks north of Hwy 26) Not a huge sale, but you’ll find some interesting houseplants, lots of tomato & pepper plants, reliable perennials, gently used garden goodies, and more.  I’m taking several herbs, perennial flowers, a few annuals, magic lilies, etc.
     Hamilton Co. Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale:  May 19, 8-3.  Hamilton Co. Fairgrounds, Noblesville, IN.
     Allen Co. Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale:  May 19 & 20th.  Note hours are 12-2:30 each day.  4001 Crescent Drive, Fort Wayne, IN.
     Minnetrista Garden Fair:  June 2-3  Dozens of quality garden décor and plant vendors, garden tours, speakers, food.

It’s Hummingbird Time!
Get out the feeders!  We’re getting reports of hummingbird sightings!  Coral bells, red honeysuckle, American columbine, cardinal flower, salvias, nasturtiums, nicotiana, penstemons and other hummingbird favorites in your garden will 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 we use in all our containers and hanging baskets, so we don’t have to water them as often.  Saves time and money!  Also works for veggies!

Don’t forget!  You can get lots more gardening info at my blog at

Did you know:
*In some cases, Mason bees are even better pollinators than honeybees.  They take less space, do not require tending, and are less aggressive because they are not defending a queen.
*These plants can tolerate drought, and are also good for pollinators:  Agastache, Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coneflower, Gaillardia, Lantana, Sedum, Russian Sage.
*Dandelion stems can be harvested and used instead of pasta
*Room fresheners that claim to “Remove Odors” actually just remove your nose’s ability to smell!!!  

Three Herbal Grasses
     Spring arrives, bringing the lush green grass the winter-weary eye has been craving.  For those with lawns, it’s time to mow, but for the herb lover it’s time to grow!  May I suggest three wonderful, useful, fragrant herbal grasses for your gardens?

The first is the most widely known and most used.  Lemon Grass has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years, mainly potted on decks and patios as a deterrent to mosquitoes.  When I first became interested in herbs back in the 1960’s the only lemon grass available was Cymbopogon citratus, or West Indian lemongrass which I bought as a trimmed bunch of lemon grass stems at an Oriental grocery and placed in a glass of shallow water to root.  The stems were about the size of my finger in diameter and 8” long.  Asian cooks chopped the tender, white parts (picture “scallion”) for an array of recipes and steamed the tougher green parts with rice (to be removed before serving) or simmered them in water to make a tea or syrup.  This tropical plant grew to almost 3’ tall and by moving it outdoors in summer and indoors as soon as frost threatened it lasted for nearly 20 years until a greenhouse disaster resulted in its demise.  The leaves were a light green color, flat, and about ½-1” wide.  It was difficult to find lemon grass plants in garden centers or other stores because it only grew from divisions. 
However, this changed in recent years with the arrival of East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) which is easily grown from seed.  The difference is that the second, seed-grown type does not produce those succulent white stems that are essential for Asian cooking and this one grows to only about 1’ in height.  Often the East Indian type has dark markings of deep maroon on the leaves, which only grow to about ½” in width. Both types have that lovely lemony scent.
The second grass for fragrance is Vanilla Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum).  I was delighted to find it at the recent HSCI spring symposium and quickly purchased a plant.  It is also easily grown from seed, and although some sources list is as a perennial, I’ve found that it must winter indoors in my area. The plant remains fairly short and clumpy rather than tall and graceful like the other grasses mentioned here. The vanilla fragrance of this European native is discovered when the leaves are cut and dried.  Snipped leaves can be used in potpourri or incense.  
The third grass is Sweet Grass (Hierochloe odorata) which was and still is used by Native Americans and other basket weavers.  This durable dark green grass grows to about 2’ tall.  When cut and dried it develops a lovely sweet scent.  It is often sold in braids or woven into the edges or handles of baskets where the warmth of a hand will release its fragrance.  An easy-to-grow hardy perennial, Sweet Grass should be planted in an area where it won’t be mistakenly mowed, and where it is free to spread a bit.  Or, plant it in a large pot.  It is easily propagated by divisions.  I simply cut my potted plant into sections like a pie, and repot each section into a separate pot.
     Three herbal grasses…easy to grow, and no need to mow!

Asparagus/Sorrel Salad
It’s a perfect time for this easy salad since both sorrel and asparagus are at their best!  Feel free to experiment with various greens, adding scallions, lovage, or extra asparagus!
     Wash and tear into bite-sized pieces:  2 c. sorrel leaves, 2 c. romaine lettuce (with the big Romaine recall, you may prefer to use dandelion greens, spinach, or other salad greens.)  Divide mixed greens evenly into 4 salad bowls.  Cut 4 spears of cooked, cold asparagus into 1” pieces for each bowl (a total of 16 spears) and spread over greens.   Spread the slices of 1 cold, hard-cooked egg (1 per bowl) prettily over each bowl.  Dice ½ of a red bell pepper.  Divide into 4 parts and sprinkle 1 part over each serving.  Grind freshly ground pepper over each serving.
     Make a dressing by mixing:  1/3 c. plain yoghurt, ¼ c. Catalina salad dressing, 1 T. lemon juice.  Spoon over salads.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Another month is nearly over, and the gardening season is in full swing.  As you work, be sure to take time to enjoy the gorgeous magnolia trees, spring bulbs, the songs of birds, and the wee little insects and shiny rocks you may discover as you work.  Life is beautiful, but you have to take time to notice!  

Herbal blessings, Carolee