Herbs for Pollinators?

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I have posted about herbs for bees before, when I was talking about self-cleaning annuals. But I think this group of plants gets over-looked as a pollinator source and it shouldn’t.

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Not only are the blossoms some of the prettiest around (these are chives, from earlier in the season, and yes, they are edible, although you don’t want to put a whole chive blossom on your salad. Better to break it into pieces,) but their colors are the right colors usually for bees and butterflies–purples and blues and whites.

The photo at the top is oregano.

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This is cilantro, going to seed and forming coriander seeds.

And sage (mine got too winter-killed to bloom this year) blooms in a lovely blue.

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Finally, this is anise hyssop (agastache) which is an herb in the mint family. Most folks just grow it as an ornamental perennial but it can be used for tea if it has been grown organically.

So in addition to growing herbs for use, why not grow some for the pollinators too?

It’s Container Garden Time!

It’s finally warm enough to bring my plants off the porch, outside and to get them into containers. You saw one of them last Wednesday for “Wordless Wednesday.”

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This is an herb container. You may remember the Spanish Lavender from an earlier post. I have surrounded it with rosemary, thyme, chives (already starting to flower) and parsley.

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You can see that I am already starting my “edibles” wall. It has to be this way since my vegetable garden soil is still “poisoned” from last year’s unfortunate incident with the erring landscape company. I may find that I like everything so close to the kitchen that I never go back to the raised beds–who knows?

As for the Spoiler, he’s already said that he likes the flowers in the raised bed.

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I had a container garden lecture on Tuesday so I planted up some containers that I might not ordinarily do. This one is a “riff” on the geranium, vinca, dracena spike combo, but done with houseplants so the whole thing can be brought in for the winter if you choose.

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And since not everyone loves the look of all succulents (and we don’t live in Arizona or the desert southwest, so really, why do we insist on planting them everywhere?) this is my take on a dry container that will go a long time without water. (Actually I do love the look of succulents–but I keep them as house plants instead!)

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Finally, for those of you that were with me last year, you may remember that I did this combo last summer. The two colors of million bells fill in nicely under the croton and blend together to form an orange-y yellow carper over the top of the whole pot. It’s very nice. It the end of the season, I compost the million bells, fill in those spots with fresh soil and return the croton to a sunny window indoors.

So that’s some fun with containers at my house!

Herb Planting

Every year I do a container–or containers–of herbs on the stone wall right outside my kitchen. I have herbs growing elsewhere on the property , although this winter was so cold–and without snow cover when it was the coldest–that I lost a lot of things that had been planted for years–thyme, sage and possibly my lemon balm all bit the dust.  At the moment,  the only thing that I see coming up are chives and ornamental oregano.

I even lost 2 standards that I wintered on my sun porch and I may have lost my bay plant that wintered there as well– it’s definitely winter burned or cold burned. We’ll see.

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So I have some “opportunities. ” I was able to find this nice tender lavender standard (lavendula stoechas ‘Anouk’). 

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Then I found these organically grown herbs. I was thrilled about that.

Even though none of this can go outside in my climate for another month (with the exception of the parsley,  which could go out now if I hardened it off) I think I will plant this all together. The mint will make a nice “spiller,” the standard will be my ” thriller,” and the basil, rosemary and parsley will be the “filler” plants .

This is exactly why I got the 5 gallon fabric pots.  This combo will need lots of root space!

Container Gardeners, These Are For Us

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If you are growing plants in containers, have you tried the fabric pots yet?

I tried one for the first time last year and I liked it so well that I bought 5 more this year. They have everything going for them.

First, if space is an issue, they are a breeze to keep and store. This is a 5 gallon pot. It folds down to the size of a large, glossy magazine–just about as high and thick. I  bought a 5 pack of them. They arrived, folded, in an express mail envelope. Try doing that with any other sort of container!

They’re made right here in the United States, in Oklahoma City, to be exact, by a family company that began manufacturing them for trees.

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This is mine from  last year,  planted with a tomato and some herbs.  The tomato grew so well that I eventually pulled out two of the 4 herbs.

This year I am planning to be even more ambitious . I am planning a couple of tomatoes –1 per bag, obviously–& a bag of cucamelons. I will do a bag of just herbs, to give them room of their own. And I have a fig for one, that’s begging for extra room.

So I should have a nice edible garden–if I can get the Spoiler to haul the soil for me. Thanks to Amie, I won’t be moving much.

And I found–& buy–these all on my own. I get no credit or anything else for promoting this product.  In fact,  I know that there are other fabric type bags out there. I buy these because I like supporting an American company.  You can make your own choices.

A Tale of Two Lavenders

Herbs are notoriously finicky in the house in the winter. It’s not their fault. There’s not enough light for them, and it’s either too dry (for some) or too wet (since many of us tend to over-water and therefore love our plants to death!)

Lavenders can take the dryness, being bred for exactly that sort of condition. Both their silvery leaves and the places they might normally grow “in the wild:” the Mediterranean with its sandy soils and salty air show that it is a tough plant that can take a lot of abuse.

So why then, does it struggle in conditions that gardeners usually give it? Good soil and abundant water? Well, that’s perhaps why–we are loving it to death–we are spoiling it too much, drowning it and probably over-feeding it too. Not good.

So what is that gardener to do? Well, short of neglecting the plant completely, because that isn’t necessarily a recipe for success either, the trick to succeeding with any plant is always the old saying “right plant, right place.” Most of us don’t live in climates anything like what lavender is used to–but we can help it along quite a bit with some easy tricks.

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First of all, to get it through winter as a house plant, choose the right variety. I don’t know the names of either of these for sure, but I am guessing the one on the right is french  lavender (lavendula dentata). It’s not a hardy one for me.  I am guessing this based on the “leaf” shape.

It tends to say nice and compact in the pot indoors because it is a tropical lavender in my zone. But don’t attempt to plant it outdoors unless you are in a zone 8 climate.

The one on the left? No guesses. It was originally bought as a nice little “Christmas tree” shaped plant in December. You can see it’s very happy because it’s no longer shaped like anything but a mop. The instructions say to prune it hard to keep its shape but I do no pruning on plants in the winter. Once it gets a little more temperate–maybe mid-March–I may take the shears to it. Right now I call it “Cousin It.”

But what’s keeping both these lavenders healthy and mildew free in my house in the winter is just the bare minimum of watering and a south window. They’ll go outside for their “summer vacation,” of course, perhaps as early as April depending on what temperatures do here. After that, we’ll see how they fare–particularly “Cousin It.”

Solve Issues With Indoor Herbs Organically

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Rut-roh. What’s the point of growing your own herbs indoors if they’re going to do this?

And lots of herbs grown indoors are prone to this, not just the sage in my photo. Rosemary is notorious for powdery mildew-_- and this is just about the time when all those cute little rosemary trees and wreaths start appearing everywhere.

Well, they’re no longer cute when they’re covered in this!  And rosemary is definitely finicky about being grown indoors.

So what do you do?  If you want some of this sage for stuffing,  you certainly don’t want to spray it with fungicide–or even dish soap, necessarily.

Never fear, I have just the solution ( literally,  and no pun intended). It does require milk, so if you are not a milk drinker, get yourself one of those small cartons like the kids drink at school.

Mix up a small amount–no more than you need for one treatment  because you can’t save it. You are mixing 50% milk and 50% water.

Spray the plant, then discard whatever solution is left. Don’t try to save it over in the fridge. I have tried.  Your sprayer will be clogged by the time you go to use it again–hence my instructions to try to mix only what you’re going to need.

It’s just that simple.  Milk and water. No poisons, no fungicides,  nothing toxic to you or your family–unless of course you can’t drink milk!