Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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August 2017 Newletter Print E-mail


August E-Newsletter 2017

And another month has sprinted past on winged feet!  Schools are back in session, football season has begun, and one can sense that Mother Nature is impatient for autumn to arrive.  Leaves are beginning their subtle changes in color tone; the cicadas sing louder and longer.  Silks on ears of corn have turned black, signaling that harvest will soon begin.
     Here at the potager the scramble to get every bit of the bounty harvested, consumed or preserved has increased in pace.  It seems as if every day there are cucumbers and peppers to be pickled, tomatoes to be canned in some form, beans to be picked, and melons to be savored.  The fall raspberry rows have been weeded and covered in netting to keep the birds from stealing the crop.  Amazingly, it seems that it was only days ago that this same process was done for the gooseberries, but that was the end of May!  How time has flown again this summer.

Upcoming Events:
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

Gardens Galore!
     This month I attended the national Garden Writers of America conference in Buffalo, NY.  As always, it was a sensational conference, with lots of networking, learning sessions, and garden tours.  Buffalo hosts the largest “Garden Walk” in the US.  Each July, over 400 homes open their gardens to the public, and the public is delighted.  Between 2,000-4,000 people visit EACH garden on the two days it occurs…that’s thousands of people, many of whom travel from long distances for this special event.  Many of the gardens are in historic neighborhoods, with tiny homes that have been refurbished in recent years.


  These were my favorites, because these homeowners are passionate gardeners, making the most of small spaces.  It was a mecca for ideas, and I gathered dozens of gems I plan to incorporate in my own gardens, for these are small “do-able” gardens in urban settings, packing the most punch in tiny areas.  Because the houses are so small, they make the most of outdoor living spaces, like this outdoor living room:

And place seating wherever there is a bit of room:

And, the space on fences is precious so it is put to good use for growing, in addition to privacy:


Or, for adding décor or painted to provide even more flowers!

This is one of many homes that utilized the concrete driveway as garden space by using pots of color in combination with the fencing.  The gardener has actually covered his entire driveway with over 150 containers that brim with flowers and foliage, with meandering paths connecting various garden “rooms.”


This garden featured an elaborate train layout.

These shaded gardens featured hundreds of hostas.  Hostas seemed to be a really popular choice for Buffalo gardens, because many neighborhoods are old, with large mature trees and nearby buildings providing shade.

Even the dreaded hellstrips between sidewalk and street become valuable garden spaces:


And one homeowner was able to find a sunny location for his vegetable garden on his garage roof!

Other neighborhoods have larger homes and larger gardens, like these:

If you want to see some great gardens and glean lots of innovative ideas, mark your calendar now and plan to attend next year’s Garden Walk, the final weekend of July.  While you are there, you may want to visit the Buffalo botanic gardens with its historic conservatory, or the Japanese garden, both pictured below. 

And don't forget, Niagara Falls and the Niagara Botanical Gardens are just a short distance away, but don't forget to take your passport to visit!

Herb to Know: Feverfew
One of my favorite herbs for the potager’s interior borders is feverfew, Chrysanthemum parthenium, or sometimes Tanacetumparthenium.  A member of the Compositae, or Daisy family, its clusters of dainty white flowers with flat golden centers brighten any flower border.  Sturdy stems and attractive deep green divided leaves also make it a delight in any bouquet, so I’m also adding it to my cutting garden.
     A short-lived perennial, feverfew grows readily in any sunny location and average soil.  Choose a spot with good drainage to prevent rotting over a soggy winter.

  It will happily self-seed, providing new plants year after year, or you can gather the seed heads when they turn deep brown and sprinkle them where you’d prefer plants.
     While the single-flowered form is most common, feverfew also comes in a double form, which dries well for winter arrangements.  Another favorite is the golden-leaved form, often sold as “Golden Moss” feverfew or chrysanthemum.

  This golden plant varies from the taller (18-24”) common feverfew in that is remains a small mound, only 8-10” tall so it is a lovely plant for the front of the border.  It does not flower as abundantly as common feverfew, having smaller white daisy flowers on weaker, shorter stems.  In milder climates all feverfews may stay green all winter, but here in Zone 5, they disappear, returning slowly in spring.  
     With the common name “feverfew” one would naturally expect that the plant reduces fever.  However, despite folklore, research shows that it has no effect on reducing temperature, although it may aid in the headache that often accompanies a fever.  The Shakers used feverfew tea for colds, intestinal gas, worms, irregular menstruation, and anxiety.  English herbalists suggest using feverfew for menstrual cramps, melancholy and vertigo.  Today, feverfew is used for migraines (1-3 fresh leaves on bread and butter three times a day, but not during pregnancy or without a doctor’s supervision.)  Interesting to note is that in some studies, those using feverfew for migraines also found significant reduction in pain from arthritis.  It can also serve as a mild laxative and as a beneficial mouth rinse after tooth extraction.

What I’m doing in my gardens:
1.  Deadheading annuals, except for those I want to self-seed.
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.  
4.  Ordering bulbs, especially for the potager…tulips are edible, you know!
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 in my shed on 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 and September are the months I do most of my perennial and shrub 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 next year.
11.  Planting various lettuces, radishes, turnips, greens, etc. for fall crops.
12.  Prepping a bed to plant hardneck garlic the end of September.  

Recipe:  Orzo Stuffed Green Peppers
Sorry, I forgot to photo this dish before we devoured it!  We’ll definitely be making it again and again, because our pepper crop is super this year!  I’m going to also make this dish and freeze it for easy winter meals.
     Cut off tops and hollow out 4 large green peppers.  Place in baking dish.  (If peppers won’t stand, cut off a bit of the bottom to make them level.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
     In a large skillet, lightly brown 4 breakfast sausages that have been cut into coins or broken apart (or use ½ c. bulk sausage.) Add 1 c. chopped bell pepper; ½ c. chopped onion; ½ c. chopped celery.  Cook until vegetables are tender.
     Stir in 1 ½ c. diced tomatoes; 2/3 c. orzo; ¼ c. chopped parsley; ¼ c. shredded cheese; ½ tsp. chili powder.  Spoon mixture into peppers.  Add ½ c. water to baking dish and place in oven.  Bake 25 min.  Sprinkle tops of each pepper with additional cheese and bake another 10 min. or until peppers are tender.  Serves 4.

Herbal blessings, Carolee