A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘mint’

Walking in the Garden and Enjoying Life

We have a small yard and a small garden, but I love to take walks through the garden and take close looks at the plants I have growing there.  There’s always something new that keeps me interested and reminds me why I started gardening in the first place – I enjoy growing things!  Yeah, there’s never a lot going on in the garden and what ever does happen does so at the pace of flowers, bees and snails, but that’s another reason for the garden.  It has become a quiet, meditative spot to reconnect with nature.    Slowly, the garden has grown from an herb garden to a few flowering plants, to a vegetable garden, a butterfly garden and I keep adding plants.  My wife jokes with me saying that I’m addicted to planting stuff.  I can think of a thousand other things that are more harmfully addictive, so I  don’t think (and really, SHE doesn’t either) that that’s a bad thing!

I thought I’d share some of the garden with you today.   Tomorrow, I’ll share a little bit more.  There’s just too much to write about and photos to share to put it all in one post!

Starting at the veggie bed, the continued growth is easy to see.  The cantaloupe is working its way up the trellis I made a week and a half ago.  Every morning, a new batch of bright yellow flowers open up, which brings in the bees and wasps.  If you can believe it, all of these vines (except for the little bit on the far left of the photograph – that is cucumber) are from one cantaloupe plant.  I’m having a hard time believing it myself!

the cantaloupe a week and a half ago

cantaloupe trellis Sunday - click to enlarge

Walking around the corner of the house to the back door, the few flagstones I put by the back stoop have sweet alyssum and yellow thyme between them.  The dainty white flowers just keep going and going.  I’m not sure how long alyssum will last in the coming months, but they make a lovely addition to the garden – one that the bees really like.  The stones keep us from trampling the grass and making a dirty/muddy mess.  If I had my way, I’d put a lot more down and maybe add some stepping stones, too, around the yard.

flagstones and alyssum - click to enlarge

sweet alyssum - click to enlarge

Right past the back stoop, the herb garden is overflowing with chives, oregano and parsley.  If you look really closely, you can even see some thyme sticking out between the chives.  In the pot on the right is some spearmint and the pot on the left, against the wall, is peppermint.  In the other pot on the left, I have stevia growing.  I take a leaf of peppermint and a small piece of stevia and chew them together for a peppermint candy-tasting treat.  They are wonderful steeped together in tea and do not require any sugar.  In fact, as I write this, I have a little indigestion and that sounds like a great calming tonic.

herb garden 5/1/11 - click to enlarge

The parsley is over three feet tall and blooming crazily.  It attracts myriad flying insects including flies, wasps, bees, yellow jackets and more.  They all love its sweet nectar, which is why I leave it there.  The black swallowtails do not seem very interested in it so far this year.

parsley flowering - click to enlarge

The Greek oregano is standing about 18″ tall now and the first flower clusters have started to open.  They will also be a welcome treat for winged friends of the garden.  I’ll let them flower until they’ve had enough, then trim them back to within several inches of the ground.  Oregano leaves are great when dried – even stronger than fresh – so I’ll be sure to hang the leaves to dry and bottle them for later use.

Greek oregano flowering - click to enlarge

Last year, I had only three chive plants and I used them so much that they really didn’t get very big.  This year, I decided to plant six of them.  I still use them regularly, but they are so prolific that they far surpass my needs!  They do, however, make a nice border and I should send up bright pink flowers as we get further into the warmer months.  I’m anxious about that.  The flying insects really love chive blossoms, and they’re also wonderful to eat.  I’m going to make chive blossom vinegar with some of them when the time is right and I’ll be sure to share that with my readers on the blog.  Suffice it to say for now that the wonderful pink color of the blossoms bleeds out into the vinegar and imparts its characteristically mild, garlicky-onion flavor.   This is a great base to make homemade dressing or as a splash of flavor in chicken marinades.

garlic chives - click to enlarge

stevia (a.k.a. sweet leaf) - click to enlarge

The rosemary bushes are getting so big.  Now that the farmer’s market is going here in Round Rock, maybe I should trim them back and share some with the community.  There really is so much to go around!  It is such an easy plant to maintain, it grows year round and is one of my favorite herbs for flavoring!   Pictured here is the prostrate rosemary bush, not the typical variety for cooking … the one I use for cooking is the Tuscan Blue cultivar (rosemary officinalis).  The rosemary bushes are part of my herb garden, but I have them planted right in the middle of the butterfly garden.  Where they’re located, the wind constantly whips through them, stirring up the delightful smell of rosemary and wafts it through the yard.

prostrate rosemary - click to enlarge

Come back to the garden tomorrow for updates on the butterfly garden!

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Butterflies and Blooms … and then some

Texas Lantana

Whirling Butterfly Gaura

Red Salvia Greggii and Indigo Spires Salvia

Pearl Crescent butterfly on Trailing Lantana

Pearl Crescent butterfly on Four Nerve Daisy

Pearl Crescent

Peppermint flower

Butterfly/Native Garden bed 2

Gulf Fritillary sunning itself after a Purple Moss Verbena nectar breakfast

... taking flight!

White Salvia Greggii and Indigo Spires Salvia

Mammoth Sunflower

sunflowers and sky

Butterfly Weed and Trailing Lantana

Boisduval Yellow butterfly on Trailing Lantana

Divebombing the Four Nerve Daisy

Dragonfly enjoying the warm rocks

Spearmint ... Mojitos anyone?

I thought these were Jalapenos ... but they look more like Anaheim

The herb garden after a trim (marjoram was too leggy, so I pulled it out).

What'cha doin', Katydid?

Highlights from the Garden

There was no shortage of things to do this past weekend and the weather was perfect.  Even Sunday with the overcast sky and misty air provided a break from the direct sun as I pulled up the broccoli plants.  I wasn’t too happy to find a couple handfuls of grubs happily munching away at the roots.   I put them in a shallow pan and let the birds have a snack in the side yard.  Don’t want such a  delectable bug go to waste, and they certainly don’t need to be in my garden boxes!   I was surprised at how dry and compacted the soil was, so I worked it over pretty good.  Then I added half a bag of compost and about a cup of bone meal and worked that into the first six inches.  In place of the broccoli, I transplanted two jalapenos, four cayenne peppers and three Cal Wonder orange bell peppers.   They were all growing in paper pots, which made the transplanting go pretty quickly.

I also spent a couple of hours transplanting a Double-Knockout Rose bush next to where the hibiscus was last year.  It gets about 6 hours of sunlight a day, and will be shielded from the hot afternoon sun.  Right now it’s about 1′ x 1′, but it should grow to be 3×3′.  On the South side of the house, under the dining area window, I transplanted two Whirling Butterfly Guaras.   They have lovely delicate-looking white flowers, grow 3-4 feet tall and spread to the same width.   They also attract butterflies.  I was told that they do really well along a warm southern wall, so hopefully these will thrive where I put them.

Other than accomplishing these tasks, I took a look around the garden to see what else is goin’ on:

Carrot tops are forming near the forest of spinach that is full of fresh growth.

The spinach has had enough of the warmer weather already and has started going to seed.  I can collect these for sowing this fall.

Meanwhile, in the herb garden, one can barely tell that the curry plants have been removed.  The sage, oregano and thyme stretch their legs a little to fill in the space.

Wildflowers, in their first wave of blooms, come to life with shades of purple and pink.   We even got our first red poppy.  There are a host of other plants getting ready to bloom in the next wave.

The squash is doing quite well and needs to be thinned to two or three plants.  The zucchini is having a rough start.  I discovered that the neighborhood black birds have been camping out on my zucchini hill.  They left a little present for me, and a few broken stems.  😦  I had four cukes planted, but lost one to the wind and another to the heat.  It looks like the last two will survive, which is good, I needed to thin them to the strongest two anyway.

And our dog, Libby, gets in the picture as if to say, “I’m prettier than spearmint, so pet me already.”

Herbiliciousness

The herb garden is going crazy!

Herb garden 4/3/10: German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Mexican Oregano, Curry, Sage, Chives, Marjoram

The Herb Garden: June 6, '09 (left), Sept. 6, '09 (center), and April 3, '10 (right).

Looking back at early pictures of the garden, it is clear that they are thriving.  There isn’t much room for the basil plants anymore, but I’m going to put them in anyway.  They could use the competition.  In the center picture, you can also see the broccoli seedlings – of which we are still enjoying harvests.  The mint cuttings there were put in the ground and have taken over the corner of the yard.  Also pictured are rosemary cuttings, which are also pictured below.

The sage plants have certainly rebounded from just a couple of weeks ago.  They didn’t care much for the wet winter, but the warm, sunny weather we’ve enjoyed lately have really turned them on.  🙂  As you can see, they’re preparing to flower:

The culinary sage getting ready to flower

You can see by these pictures how dense the garden has become.  Look at how prolific the oregano is – there’s no stopping it.  It snakes in and around the other plants, finding more sunshine towards the edge of the bed.

Sage, Curry and Thyme (oh, and oregano poking through)

Marjoram bush and sage

Thyme, Sage, Oregano and Chives

The parsley is taking over and needs a trim.

Spearmint and peppermint

The lavender is finally blooming as well!  It is a fantastic sight to see the lavender stalks shoot up, then two little “bunny ears” stick out the top before the entire bud bursts forth with dark purple blooms filled with yellow pollen.

Spanish lavender blooming

Lavender bloom up close and personal

Can't get too much lavender

My daughter took this of a bug sitting on the lavender

Last fall I took rosemary cuttings and planted them. They've got lots of growth now.

Weeds, Spinach, Flowers and More

It was time to do some major clean-up of the yard this weekend.  We’ve only mowed the lawn once since last September, so it was starting to look pretty shaggy.  Unfortunately, our lawn mower is in disrepair and I had to hire a guy to come out and do the mowing for us.  First, however, we had the rather large task of pulling weeds …  I didn’t realize until we got started how much of the yard was actually weeds!  UGH!  THIS is why I don’t like grass …

After pulling several hundred weeds, I also decided to pull two of the spinach beds and switch them over to the summer crop.  I pulled up five heads of lettuce and I harvested a full grocery sack of spinach leaves from the second and third spinach beds – too much for us to consume by ourselves.  We had some family over on Saturday, so I sent my sister and sister-in-law home with a sack full of spinach and lettuce heads.   My sister wrote on her Facebook page yesterday, “I’m enjoying the best salad I’ve ever had!”  I’m glad she’s enjoying it!

While we’ve harvested the spinach a few times, we have only eaten it raw.  Sunday night, however, I heated some olive oil and fresh garlic in a skillet and then sauteed a couple huge handfuls of spinach.  When they were cooked, they still had a crispness to them, and their flavor was oh sooo sweet!   It tasted so much better than the organic baby spinach we usually get at H-E-B.  I could eat spinach everyday like this!

In place of the harvested spinach, I went ahead and transplanted cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash.  The seedlings were getting quite large, and it was time to get them in the ground before they started going downhill.   I have four paper pots of seedlings for each veggie, and each one of those pots has two seedlings.  I ended up transplanting three pots of each and I’m waiting to see how these transplants develop before thinning them.  I want to keep the strongest seedlings, and I want to have a total of three plants per hill.

Meanwhile, the broccoli continues to produce sideshoots and there are a few main crowns still forming.  I’ll be pulling these up in the coming weeks as well, but would like to squeeze a few more harvests out of them.  It’s been nice having fresh broccoli twice a week now for the past few weeks – all from only nine plants.  I continue to be surprised at how quickly the sideshoots form.

broccoli's main crown

another crown, still getting started

sideshoots everywhere - these are incredibly tender and delicious

I sat in the corner of the yard to get a good feel for how things will look when all of the landscaping is finished.  Michelle joined me out there, too.  In fact, she sat out in a chair and enjoyed the sun most of the afternoon.   She’s loving it already.  I told her I can’t wait until later this summer when all the plants are bigger and producing flowers.   “You’ll love it all the more when butterflies come dancing by you as you sit.”

It appears that even the container plants are anxious to get blooming.   The plants I’ve chosen for the butterfly garden have offered up some pretty colors for us:

Four Nerve Daisies

Trailing lantana

Purple Moss Verbena

Texas lantana

Spanish lavender

The Copper Canyon Daisies are also blooming, although they are supposed to be a fall-bloomer.  Perhaps they’re confused?  I thought I got a couple of photos, but obviously I’m confused, too.  I really love the smell of this plant!

Lastly, as I was sitting by the mint bed, I snapped this photo.  I’m continually amazed that all of these were cuttings from one small plant…

I heart herbs, and my kitchen herb garden

Herb garden 3/12/10

The herbs have been enlivened by the warmer, sunny weather, offering up a whiff of fresh aroma as I sit on the stones and pick out the few weeds that managed their way in.   The oregano has become quite a thick blanket of ground cover for the bed, entirely flanking the thyme plants in front of them.  The edge of the bed doesn’t seem to deter it either, as it snakes its way over the edges of the retaining wall towards the afternoon sun.  In the enlarged photo you can see just how dense it has become and how it is now threatening to engulf one of the chives.  The great thing about oregano is that it roots easily along its snaking arms, and it is rather easy to propagate because of this.  Just snipping off a section that has rooted is enough to grow an entirely new plant.  I’m going to cut a few off this weekend if I can make the time – I told my mother in law that I was going to provide some more herbs.

Greek Oregano

Mexican oregano

One of the strongest scents I encounter sitting on the stones is that of the curry plants, which are strictly there for their ornamental and olfactory presence.  I love Indian food, and the smell of the curry plant reminds me of warm curry dishes.   Indian curries are made using a variety of spices and, although they do not use curry powder as is traditionally sold in stores, they use many of the same spices that are contained in the premixed version.   The curry plant smells just like that blend.  Makes me want a plate of steaming  veggie samosas and peshwari naan.  Although the plant looks like it has rigid needles, it is a very soft plant, and the slightest touch releases that warm aroma.

Curry plant #1 is purely an ornamental that smells like the popular spice blend.

Curry plant #2

The English thyme is also rebounding nicely from its winter hibernation.  There for awhile, I was wondering if they were doing okay because they looked brown and, frankly, kinda’ dead.  Not so.  As you can see, they are covered with bright green growth.

English thyme plant #1

Thyme plant #2

The sage plants were also having a lot of trouble maintaining their foliage over the winter.  I’m not sure if that’s normal, or if it was attributed to the increased rainfall.  They are starting to show their true color again, too, with tender young leaves all over.    I’m sure they’ll be full, bushy plants again soon.

The sage got really wet over the winter and didn't like it.

Sage plant #2 making a comeback

The chives have erupted in a fury of green tentacles rising out of brown, shriveled leaves.  I have over twenty more seeds that have sprouted and are temporarily growing in paper pots under lights until I can transplant them.  Chive germination is somewhat unique in that one tiny, slender little blade of grass pokes out then sort of unfolds outward.

Chive plant #1

Chive plant #2

Chive plant #3

Four chive seeds that have germinated

The marjoram is another strongly perfumed herb and one of my favorite to brush up against.  It has become a well-rounded plant since it doesn’t have to compete with the basil plants – currently.  I’ll be putting at least one basil plant in the herb garden this year – two last year was way more than I needed.  I still have a lot of dried leaves that have lasted me since the other two plants met their demise at the first frost.

Marjoram

Parsley has taken over half a row that I allotted to grow lettuce.  There are still two heads under there managing to mature, but I’m going to have to do some trimming on the front side of the plants to get them back towards their space.    Again, overkill on the parsley – at least for my uses; however, parsley attracts a few species of beneficial insects, including hoverflies, parasitic wasps and tachinid flies.   Those are added bonuses, I really want to keep all of the parsley because it is a food for black swallowtail butterflies.

The parsley is surely not growing sparsely.

The several rosemary plants that I have are doing okay.  A couple of them have some dark leaves due to being too wet in their containers.  Some cuttings got pummeled by thunderstorms, but they’re doing okay now.  And the cuttings I planted late last fall are filling out in their pot.   I pulled the mother out of the ground as it was almost gone.  The corner of the house is not a good place for the rosemary – too much rain spills off the roof and rosemary hates wet feet.  I dried what was left and have a good salsa-sized jar of dried leaves for cooking – something I use just about everyday.

Transplanted rosemary cuttings from last fall, now well-established.

We can’t forget the two mint plants that I bought last summer and then cloned a zillion of them.  Well, not really a zillion, but maybe ten, which have multiplied to about a zillion now.  🙂  The spearmint is definitely the more aggressive of the two, while the peppermint struggles.

Mint spreading by runners

Spearmint abounds

Peppermint again. These were planted the same time as the spearmint.

Peppermint is very slow growing compared to spearmint.

For nostalgia’s sake, here is the freshly planted garden:

Herb garden 06/07/09

I have several Mexican mint marigold plants that I’ll add to the herb mix in the coming weeks.  I have three or four that I grew from seed and a couple other plants I picked up at a local nursery.  I’ve not tried growing it before, but it is a Texas Native, and can be used just like french tarragon in recipes.  I have a rich, creamy mushroom, caper and tarragon sauce I like to make to put over pasta and I’m sure this will be a great, homegrown substitute.

Look what’s coming up!

Many of the seedlings have emerged and are reaching towards that yellow ball of fire in the sky.  What a miracle it is – every time – to see fresh new life emerge from a dry seed.  Look at what’s coming up:

Zucchini sprouts - Black Beauty variety

Cucumber sprouts - Straight Eight variety

Danvers Half-Long carrot sprouts - the first of many

An eager sunflower wearing a helmet?

More sunflower sprouts

Squash sprouting - heirloom Yellow Crookneck variety. Looks like a lima bean.

In addition to the new seedlings, there is exciting new life in the garden as well. Dry, withered chive leaves have given room to explosive new shoots.  Prostrate rosemary offers up a delicate flower for Spring.  Dry thyme branches burst forth with green growth.  Oregano continues its crawl without missing a beat.  Broccoli ready for harvest.  Wildflowers preparing their colorful flowers with a fluffy mass of greens.  Lettuce heads crowding together in the dappled light of an old fence.  Crinkly spinach leaves unfurling.   Yes, Spring is definitely in the air!

Broccoli crown before harvesting

A view of the densely populated wildflower bed

New chives growing

First rosemary flower

Spinach bed 1

Beautiful Red Sail lettuce

Spectacular spreading spearmint!

Lettuce bed with new transplants and sprouts

Another view of the wildflower bed

Spinach bed 2

Broccoli bed (after harvesting first crown)

Lots-o-Lettuce!

The marjoram is doing well

New thyme growth

Probably the next crown to be harvested

Lettuce bed 2, also with new transplants

And, last but not least, some of the plants awaiting transplanting inside under lights:

Mexican Mint Marigolds

Ring-O-Fire Cayenne plants

Cal Wonder Orange Bell Peppers

Spinach (bloomsdale variety), verbena and sweet alyssum (back)

Broccoli plant - Calabrese variety