November – a sad, sad month for gardeners. This is it. Really no more room for excuses. Potted plants either have to be sent to glory (i.e., the compost pile) or overwintered indoors. Overwintering geraniums, scented geraniums, chives and parsley is pretty easy. The tough ones, and the ones I want so much to salvage, are lemon verbena and rosemary; two of my favorite herbs.
Two winters back, I successfully overwintered a large rosemary plant in our unheated garage. It still grows, and tonight, I’m going to bring it into the garage again for its winter rest. Last night’s frost might have already done it in; I’ll know when I get home. The lemon verbena was brought into the garage about 2 weeks ago. It’s a delicate herb, and herbalist friends of mine swear by overwintering it in a root cellar or unheated garage. I’ve had no luck with either. This winter, I’m keeping it in a spot in the garage, away from the windows, but where I can see it everyday, so I’ll remember to water it about once a month. Ditto the rosemary.
Wish us luck! There’s nothing harder than spending a summer loving your babies just to watch them wither when November arrives. Blast winter.
May all beings have happiness and its causes,
May they never have suffering nor its causes;
May they constantly dwell in joy transcending sorrow;
May they dwell in equal love for both near and far.
- Buddhist Prayer of Recovery
Some beach somewhere, there’s a big umbrella casting shade over an empty chair. Palm trees are growing, warm breezes blowing. I see myself there...
It’s been a strange growing season here in Zone 6. Nothing has really done well, even the cucumbers, which usually thrive in my garden. Tomatoes are late and sporadic. Herbs are doing OK, and the flowers are blooming, although all the rain has encouraged some fungus. The cosmos are beginning to look like they’ve seen better days. I’ll be making pesto this weekend with all the basil, however, and am delighted! I freeze some of my pesto for winter dinners. It’s like opening a can of summer! A gardening friend of mine in Pasadena, California, just messaged that it appears that summer is ending. NOT! Anais, don’t say that! Summer will reign forever!
Just a quick mid-summer garden update. Spearmint is flourishing, thanks to its amazing ability to root almost overnight in water. Since early June, I’ve been clipping spearmint from the Guilford and Clinton gardens, putting them in jam jars, letting them root, and then planting new clumps everywhere. We have spearmint far and wide! The other day, I made spearmint sun tea. It is mouthwatering. I also made a black sun tea infused with sprigs of lavender from the garden. Refreshing and sweet. Cucumbers are in abundance, tomatoes are finally turning red, flowers are blooming and need a little pruning now, the brown turkey figs are starting to weigh down the tree (can’t pick them until they’re ripe!), sunflowers are opening, the new bean plants are climbing the poles, jalapeno, cherry and banana peppers are plumping up, last winter’s geraniums are making a comeback (we lost one), and I planted 3 new San Marzano (sauce) tomato plants given to me by a coworker (thanks Jess!). Lemon balm is getting leggy in its pot, but the ground patch is thriving. Lemon verbena is radiant (I’ll try to overwinter it again this year), and pineapple sage smells heavenly. This weekend’s project: Lavender cookies! I cut a handful of lavender flowers last week and they’ve been drying. I’ll grind them up in the coffee mill and add it to a basic sugar cookie dough. The essence of summer. Finally, the crickets are buzzing their hot afternoon song. Thank you, Mother Earth!
Last night, I started two pots of Romano pole beans under the grow lights in the garden room. The bush beans we planted in May seem to be hibernating. I’m not sure what’s wrong, other than the excessive rain, which has yellowed the plants some. I wanted to plant pole beans anyway, so yesterday afternoon on my lunch break, I swung by the local nursery and picked up a packet of heirloom Romano pole beans. This is an old, reliable bean that has been around for generations.
Problem is, I’m planting in July.
Well, that may not be a problem. Many bean growers “succession plant” through summer – meaning they start a second or even third bean bed well into summer, for early to late autumn harvests. I succession plant basil and parsley through summer, and have fresh herbs well into October.
In our climate here, with such short summers, will it work with the beans? We’ll see. I’m giving them a quick start under the lights, so they should be ready to go into the ground in about two weeks.
On a less tentative note, last night’s dinner was fab. We boiled penne, and while it was cooking, we got out the food processor, threw in parmesan, raw garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and the following fresh herbs from the garden – lemon balm, lemon verbena, parsley, oregano, basil, pineapple sage and chives. Whirred it all up and tossed it with the cooked penne. Divine. I love summer.
Thank you, Mother Earth!
Someone out there in the woods of Guilford loves to nibble baby mango trees. So they went ahead and ate both of them! I suspect chipmunks or deer, but my jaw dropped last night when I went out to check on them and they had been dug up and spirited away. Good thing I have another mango ripening in the kitchen. This time, I'm going to cover the baby mango with a wire basket or some such contrivance. Back to Square One!
A LOT of gardeners don’t know this: Like all the mints, lemon balm and lots of other herbs, you can easily root basil in water to produce more plants for your herb garden in much less time than it takes to germinate seeds, and less money than it takes to go to the nursery and buy more basil plants!
The trick to rooting herbs successfully is to take as long a cutting as possible remove ALL the leaves that would otherwise soak in the water that you’re rooting your basil in. Any leaves kept underwater will quickly get soused, bacteria-ridden, slimy, and eventually, dead.
So take your basil cuttings as CLOSE to the soil line as possible, gently remove ALL the leaves but the top sets, use a thin-necked bottle (so the cuttings don’t sag into the water), keep the water fresh by changing every few days, and in a week or two, you’ll see new roots sprouting from the submerged stems. When the roots are about an inch or so long, pot up your new basil plant and put it in the sun!
This is a photo of a coupe of basil cuttings I took this morning. I’m using an old glass medicine bottle with a thin neck, and you’ll note that there are NO basil leaves submerged in the water. I popped it on a windowsill in the bedroom and expect to see a new root system very soon.
This is how I keep basil going all summer. Thank you, Mother Earth!