Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters August E-Newsletter 2015
August E-Newsletter 2015 Print E-mail


August E-Newsletter 2015

     August…when leaves begin to dry and fall from the limbs, the school buses again rumble down the road and birds begin to gather in flocks to fill the trees or line the power lines.  There’s football games to listen to on the radio on perfect Saturday afternoons as I’m out collecting seeds, taking cuttings, weeding, or storing away as much of the garden’s harvest as I can.   It won’t be long till frost, as the cicada’s song reminds us, so we must enjoy every flower and fragrance while we can.
     The excitement this month has been watching the construction of my new potager, a French-inspired “patterned” kitchen garden that I spent weeks designing last winter.  It has been fascinating watching my sketches come to life, and I've spent many happy days staining raised beds, laying landscape cloth, hauling mulch, shoveling soil, muscling those beds into place, and even planting a few beds with fall crops.  Some of you have seen a few photos of the progress on Facebook. If you are interested in following the progress of my new garden, or in creating your own potager, please visit my NEW BLOG!

      Yes, I have taken the plunge and begun a blog, even though I am technically challenged, so it is very time-consuming while I am on this SLOW learning curve.  Hopefully, I’ll improve and you will stick with me through the challenges.  I’ll be writing about the new potager, what I’m growing there, what vegetables are most productive and tasty, gardening events and trends, books I’m reading, nature, good gardeners that I meet…well, just whatever I find interesting that I think might interest you, too!   So, be patient while I figure it out.  You can see the first two posts at  Be sure to leave your comments and suggestions.

 Upcoming Events:   
     Saturday, Sept. 12:  “Gateway to Gardening,” a symposium sponsored by the Kosciusko Co. Master Gardeners in Warsaw, IN.  A full day of speakers with topics “Fall Garden Clean-Up,” “Winter Tree and Shrub Interest,” “Using Bulbs for Spring Color,” and “Holiday Decorations from Your Garden .”  I’m looking forward to this special day.  Contact Kelly Heckaman 574-372-2340 or visit the Purdue Ext. website for registration info.   
     Tuesday, Sept. 15:  I’ll be speaking at the Toledo Botanic Gardens.  5:45pm.


Kylee’s Garden Party
     I was honored to be invited to attend Kylee Baumlee’s first garden party.  Kylee is a noted garden writer for both “Ohio Gardener” and “Indiana Gardening” magazines, an outstanding blogger at “Our Little Acre” and for the Lowe’s blog, and author of "The Design Stylebook: Indoor Plant Decor".  I met Kylee when she visited the farm several years ago, and we became friends while attending various Garden Writers’ events.  We’ve traveled and roomed together several times, and she is a delight.  Her mother Louise Hartwig (shown above in the hat) is also a talented gardener and founder of the Van Wert Children's Garden.

     I’d visited Kylee's garden a few years ago, but she’s made lots of changes and improvements.  One of the things I wanted to see most was her new “berry barn,” a pretty standard construction in Europe, but seldom seen here in the States.  She also has protective covers for her strawberry beds.

     It was a beautiful day to be outside under the trees.  Kylee served a delicious luncheon with a variety of infused waters (I had cucumber/strawberry, and it was delicious!)  We toured the gardens, and I was not surprised to see several interesting plants and planting combinations.  Note in the center picture that Kylee has painted the trunk of a dead tree the Pantone Color of the Year, which changes and will get repainted next year with whatever color Pantone announces.  In the third photo, notice the colorful pillars which she designed for Lowe's.  You can find information about that on the Lowe's blog.

“An Evening with Carolee”
     The Grant Co. Master Gardeners hosted a special evening at “Grains and Grill” in Fairmount, IN to recognize my forty years of service in the horticultural field.  It was a lovely evening and the herb/vegetable garden that I helped install there looked terrific.  The waiters and cooks were busily picking basil, parsley, rosemary and bowls of cherry tomatoes when I arrived, and all those ingredients were incorporated in our delicious herbal dinner.
     I was touched by all the tributes given, and all of the cards from those who were unable to attend.  The gift certificate for Gardeners Eden will be used to purchase something special for my new potager.  The decorations were lovely, and there was even a special toast at the end of the evening with flavorful herbal lemonade.  Thank you to Lou Rae Rumple, Stacy Clupper, and all of the other Master Gardeners who worked hard to make it such a special evening, and to those who traveled to attend.
     This group will be hosting a gardening symposium “Raindrops, Renewal, and Recycling” next March that I hope to attend.  It’s obvious that they know how to throw a good party!

Wabash Garden & Herb Fest
     The third Saturday in August has been the date for the Wabash HerbFest for 18 years.  I think I’ve attended 15 of them, and it is always fun.  There were informative speakers throughout the day, and the weather cooperated with partly sunny skies and a welcomed breeze.  The variety of vendors is always interesting.  It was great to see lots of old and new friends, and to be back in my old stomping grounds.

Herb to Know:  Mountain Mint
     Protecting and planting for pollinators of all types is the hottest trend in today’s gardens.  I’ve been trying to be more observant, and increasing the plants that are visited by various bees, beneficial wasps, butterflies, and moths.  One of the plants that seem to attract the most variety of tiny fliers is mountain mint.  One afternoon I counted 17 different types of insects feasting on its flowers!  And, it blooms for a long period, several weeks in June, July and August, and again in autumn if the faded blooms are clipped off.  
     There are several types of mountain mint, but the one that the pollinators seem to prefer is Pycnanthemum muticum, or Clustered Mountain Mint.  I grew it in the Cottage Garden and harvested it for dried arrangements, moth repellent mixtures, and teas.  The gray-green leaves have a strong minty/pennyroyal scent.  The flowers are round pin-cushions about ¾” across and appear off-white, but it examined closely there is a tinge of lavender.  It is happiest in partial shade and reaches about 3’ in height.  It will spread, but if placed in a dry area, this happens slowly.
     When I had honeybees, they were ecstatic when the mountain mint bloomed, and produced a nearly clear honey with a noticeable minty flavor.  Many native bees and beneficial wasps seem to find the plant irresistible.  If you look carefully at the photo above, you may see honeybees, beneficial wasps, and a small native bee.  Hoary Mountain Mint and Virginia Mountain Mint are also beneficial to pollinators, but I don’t see nearly as many visitors as on the Clustered Mountain Mint.  However, both of these plants are also useful.  The Hoary Mountain Mint dries with beautiful silvery foliage, and the Virginia Mountain Mint makes an excellent tea.  They are all pretty in the garden.

Did you Know?
     *You can be part of the “Million Pollinator Garden Challenge” simply by growing plants that provide pollen and nectar, whether in a large meadow, garden, or even some pots on your patio or driveway.  Provide a water source and do not use pesticides of any kind at any time.  Register your garden at  If you need additional help, see and click on “planting guides” and then enter your zip code.

     *Researchers have found that the best plant for reclaiming highly polluted soils so they can become food gardens again, by absorbing such heavy metals as lead, mecury, and toxic chemicals is cannabis!  Yes, that's marajuana.  Now wouldn't you want to put that in your pipe and smoke it?

What I’m doing in my gardens:
1.  Deadheading daylilies and removing dead foliage
2.  Checking irises corms for borers.  Those rascals are nearly 2” long and voracious!
3.  Taking cuttings of scented geraniums, thymes, lemon verbena, lavenders, and dozens more.  Doing them now gives me an opportunity to do more if the first batch doesn’t root!
4.  Ordering bulbs, especially for the new potager…tulips are edible!
5.  Weeding each garden and tidying the edges.  Lots of weeds are trying to drop seed now!
6.  Collecting seeds…I put them into envelopes, label them, and put them on a table to finish drying.  Later, when I have time, I’ll alphabetize them into seeding categories (Early perennials; Early annuals; Mid-season perennials, late annuals, etc.) and store them in plastic bins.
7.  Cutting bunches of herbs for drying:  mountain mint, feverfew, tansy, annual statice, mints, thyme, sage, etc.  I’ll be blending some teas, bath herbs, and culinary blends if we ever have some rainy days.
8.  Deadheading perennials that have finished blooming and those, such as garden phlox that will keep blooming if I clip off faded flowers.
9.  Planting, planting, planting!  I just don’t have time in spring, so August is the month I do most of my perennial planting.  As long as I keep them watered this is a great time.  They’ll be well-rooted before winter comes.
10.  Pruning old canes from the blackberries and tying up new canes to a horizontal route so they will be more productive.
11.  Enjoying hibiscus, both perennial and tropical.  Aren’t those flowers amazing?
12.  Planted a new crop of green beans & carrots in early August, and now planting various lettuces, radishes, turnips, greens, etc. for fall crops.
13.  Prepping a bed to plant hardneck garlic the end of the first week in Sept.  
14.  Cutting and braiding sweet grass.

Recipe:  I’m loving the cipollini (pronounced chip oh lean nee) onions that I grew from seed this year.  They are an Italian heirloom that is small, flat, and very sweet.  We’ve grilled them, and they are delicious raw, but I asked my daughter in Italy to look for more dishes that feature them.  Here’s the first one she sent.  I’ll be making this often, because it is easy and really delicious as an appetizer or with a salad for a luncheon, or as a side dish for supper.
Cipollini Crostata
    Dissolve 1 T. yeast in 6 T. warm water.  Stir in 1 T. olive oil and ½ tsp. salt.  Stir in 1 ½ c. flour, working it into a dough.  Knead on a lightly floured board until it is smooth.  Form into a ball, cover loosely with plastic wrap (or upturn a large bowl over it) and let it rest for 1 hour.
     Meanwhile, cook two slices of bacon until crisp.  Remove slices to paper towel and allow to cool, then crumble into small bits.  Peel and slice 2 c. Cipollini onions.  Return skillet that bacon was cooked in to medium heat, add onions stir gently to coat with the bacon drippings.  Cover and cook slowly until they are soft and caramelized lightly.  Remove from heat.
     Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
     Place ball of dough on a baking sheet that has been brushed with olive oil.  Press and stretch into a rectangle about ¼” thick, but creating an outer edge about ½” thick.  Spread onions evenly over the dough, leaving edge bare.  Dice half a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (about ½ c.) into small slivers and sprinkle over onions.
     Make a sauce by whisking together 1 egg, 3 T. sour cream, ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of salt.  Pour slowly and evenly over the onions.   Brush edges lightly with olive oil.   Sprinkle entire crostata with reserved bacon bits and ½ tsp. finely chopped rosemary.  Bake about 20 min., until nicely browned.   Allow to cool for about 5 min., then cut into 2” squares.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  It’s just as tasty the next day, if there are any leftovers.

Just under the wire for August!  Enjoy these last few weeks of summer weather, do some planting for the pollinators, and make some sun tea next week when those 90 degree temps return.  And, Happy Labor Day Weekend to everyone!  I plan to spend mine playing in the gardens and listening to lots of college football and opera!  Don’t forget to check out the new blog.

Herbal blessings, Carolee