Archive for the 'Herbs' Category

Harvesting and Drying Herbs

Once planted, herbs benefits are immensely useful in so many ways. After an herb has grown and flourished, now is the time for harvesting. Timing is the critical factor. Can Herbs Survive your Green Thumb?

The best time to harvest your home herb garden is right after the leaves are dry from the morning dew and right before the flowers open for the day. Calm, dry midsummer mornings are a perfect time to harvest your herbs. Remember that the essential oils from herbs dissipate on overly humid days. Too much moisture while harvesting herbs produces fewer essential oils. The wind and hot heat can affect the essential oils as well; so timing is very important.

After you have chosen the perfect day for harvesting, next make sure to inspect your herbs for insects or damaged leaves. The herb will need a fair amount of foliage for re-growth so make sure you do not harvest no more than a third of the herbs foliage at any given time. If you are going to use a fresh herb straight from the garden, always clean them first before adding to a recipe. You can do this by placing the herbs in a bowl of fresh cool water. Do not run the herb directly under a faucet. If you have a large quantity of herbs you can always clean them in a sink. To drive away insects without damaging the plant, add about two tablespoons of salt to the water. Once clean, remove them from the water and dry them in a salad spinner.

When preserving your herbs for later use, you can either dry them, freeze them or even preserve them in a medium. To dry herbs, remove any foliage from the base of the stems and then bunch 6-12 stems together and fasten with a string or twine. Hang the bundle, away from sunlight, in a cool dry place. To dry individual leaves, place them on a screen for a good airing. Turn them often so they dry evenly. Other methods have been used in the past such as dehydrators, ovens or microwaves to dry herbs but have usually produced unsatisfactory results. The heat from the appliance dries the herb too rapidly so the herbs end up loosing their natural oils. The old fashion way works the best.

A fairly simple method of preserving herbs is to freeze them. First cut the fresh herb into about ¼ inch pieces and lay on a flat cookie sheet lined with waxed paper; then place the sheet in the freezer. After they are frozen, bunch them together in baggies and return them to the freezer for use at a later date.

A medium is usually used to preserve herbs. White vinegar for instance can be used as a cover on mint, tarragon or basil. Using this method will preserve the herbs for several months. To make a flavored salt as well as preserving your herbs at the same time, alternate layers of fresh herbs between layers of salt while drying. The salt draws the moisture and flavor from the herb. Once completely dried, separate the brown herb from the flavored salt and store both separately in airtight containers, preferable one that does not let the light in.

There are many different types of herbs for many different purposes. Each herb has it’s own unique characteristics as far as their use, harvesting, chopping or preserving them. To get the most out of your particular herb that you are interested in, research it well.

This is but a small excerpt from my latest e-Book: Holistic Herbs~A Beginners Guide to Herbal Gardening Here! If you’d like to learn more about the wonder of herbs, sign up for my free mini course.

Successful Gardening!

Kali S Winters

Vegetable Garden Layout

Your vegetable garden layout will depend upon what vegetables you intend to grow, the planting space available and if you would like to opt for companion planting. When I first started growing vegetables, I planted my sweet peppers in between my tomatoes and cucumbers. Well, I ended up having to supply extra water to my peppers because the tomatoes and cucumbers stole all the water due to their larger root system. Peppers have smaller roots.. So here are some helpful tips on how to layout your own garden and start planting vegetables.

Sit Down and Plan

Before choosing a layout you need to decide on what type of vegetables you would like to grow and where you would like to plant them. Here are some other factors you need to consider for your vegetable garden layout:

* Garden Space * Amount of Light in the Space * Drainage System * Soil Amendments * Type of Vegetable * Additional Space (if needed) and of course the root system of the actual vegetable itself!

You should also think about whether you want to grow one type of vegetable like lettuce and tomatoes or if you want one type of vegetable with different varieties, such as romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce. Research the amount of light and space each vegetable requires for optimal growth.

Make a list of vegetables you want to plant and find out the plants requirements, then compare it with the garden space you have available. This should give you an indication of where you are able to plant each particular vegetable in your allotted space.

Choose your Garden Layout

There are three basic vegetable garden layouts: rows, beds and the “potager” style.

The more traditional layout style consists of planting seeds in a row. This type of arraignment would either mean planting one type of seed in a row or different seeds in a row. Regardless, the style is in a row formation.

A similar layout and a more popular approach is the raised vegetable garden beds. This bed type is similar to the rows style but on a smaller scale. The layout allows access to the plant beds from all sides. The beds are raised off the ground with some being as high as 3 feet. This is particularly convenient to avoid stepping on the beds which tends to pack down the soil, making it difficult to dig and aerate in the spring or fall. Plant beds are great ways to maximize a garden space and you can even use raised beds for easier gardening.

The most decorative style of layout is called the “potager” which means kitchen garden in French. This layout is described as geometric which allows you to layout your garden in circles or arrange plants by color or even food type. Gardens like these often contain vegetables, flowers and herbs planted together.

Companion Vegetable Planting

The idea behind companion planting involves planting different kinds of plants together so that they help each other grow. A perfect example of this is planting beans, corn and squash together which were commonly done by Native Americans. While the corn gives the beans a place to climb, the beans gives its three companions nutrients in the soil and the squash serves as a shade to the roots of the plants beside it. This not only prevents weeds from growing, it also saves up on water.

Other great companion vegetables are onions, which scares slugs and aphids away, tomatoes, which grow well with carrots and basil, which improves the taste of tomatoes. Another example is horseradish and potatoes which when planted together give your potatoes protection from disease.

Companion vegetable planting is certainly worth considering when vegetable garden planting. My new book, “Holistic Herbs~A Beginners guide to Herbal Gardening,” has a complete vegetable companion chart. You will get the chart for free along with 6 other bonus books when you order my book Here!

Successful Gardening!

Kali Winters

When & How To Prune Rose Bushes

If not properly pruned, rose bushes can develop into a large tangled mess and produce small, inferior blooms. If you would like to grow an attractive, well shaped, sizable rose bush that produces large lovely blooms, then follow the rose gardening tips outlined below.

Pruning your rose bushes at the right time of year can be just as important as how you prune. Rose bushes go dormant during the colder months and should not be pruned until they come out of this stage. This could be as early as January in warmer climates or as late as April in colder regions. In colder climates, it is best not to prune until all traces of frost has disappeared.

Another important aspect to consider when rose bush trimming is the proper use of hand garden tools. A good set of pruning shears as well as good quality leather garden gloves, is a definite must have. The shears must be sharp, otherwise you will risk tearing your stems instead of just cutting them. A well lubricated, fine toothed, sharp, cutting saw is ideal to use on the older, much larger stems.

You never want to cut your stems straight across. Always cut at an angle between 40 to 65 degrees. Additionally, make sure that the shear’s cutting blade is on the underneath side of the stem in order to produce a clean cut. Always cut upward. This way, any injury to the plant will be on the upper part of the stem. Try to make all cuts at about one quarter inch from a strong outside bud union or eye, the eye is where the new growth stems form.

It is also a good idea to have some type of sealer or pruning paint to seal the larger cuts. Just apply the pruning sealer to the cut ends immediately after shearing. This will aid in the healing process and it will also help keep the insects out as well as eliminating any possiblity of disease.

Take special care in the amount that you prune at any given time. This will all depend upon what you are trying to accomplish and on how well established the plant is. Moderate pruning, leaving 5 or more stems of up to 24 inches in length, will produce a large bush with nice, moderately sized, blooms. Light pruning, stems 3 to 4 feet in length, will produce an even larger bush but with smaller blooms on shorter stems. Light pruning is good for new or weaker plants. Heavy pruning, 3 to 4 stems from 6 to 12 inches in length will produce the largest, showiest blooms, however if the plant is too new or weak you may end up reducing the plants life span. It is best to wait until the rose bush has matured when applying the heavy pruning method.

When pruning roots, remove all suckers. Suckers are shoots that grow from the root stock. This is different from the grafted bush. Suckers may eventually take over the plant completely and kill the bush, so it is very important that they be removed.You can recognize a sucker when you see that it is coming from below the bud union and by the different leaf form and color. Always pull the sucker off rather than cutting it as cutting will stimulate growth again. Pulling if off causes the wound to form a callous.

Additionally when plant pruning, cut out all weak, spindly and deformed stems, and if possible cut out branches growing toward the center of the bush. If stems cross each other, remove the weaker one. Proper shaping and pruning makes for a lovelier bush and allows proper air circulation which will produce a much healthier plant.

This is but a small excerpt from one of my bonus books which you will get free when you order my ebook: Holistic Herbs ~ A Beginners Guide to Herbal Gardening. Learn more about Disease Free Roses!

Successful Gardening!

Kali Winters

Basic Tools For Gardening

Nearly every gardener has some type of lawn and garden tool, it’s nearly impossible to have a garden without them. The type of lawn and garden tool you use will obviously depend on the size and extent of your garden, what you are able to handle, if you want to spend a lot of time in your garden to get the job done quickly, and finally, how much money you would be willing to spend.

While many gardeners do not have expensive or high-tech gardening tools, all of them have some type of gardening equipment for cultivating. Tools for cultivating can include both hand held tools and power tools. The type you buy depends upon how serious of a gardener you are. Gardening hand tool include your everyday items such as shovels, spading forks, rakes, trowels, and diggers. They can all be used to get a garden ready for planting and are relatively easy without too much emphasis upon strength for operation. Other tools include a wheel cultivator, pickax, and mattock.

While gardening power tools are a little more expensive than hand tools, they really cut down on the hard labor. The most essential piece of gardening equipment is undoubtedly the tiller. The tiller will break up the ground and get it ready for planting, chop up any debris, and help mix in fertilizer and compost. If you don’t want to spend the money on a tiller you can hire someone or rent a tiller for one time use. Other power tools that are very popular include chippers, garden shredders, and chain-saws.

If you have shrubs, hedges, or small trees in your yard, pruning tools are a vital piece of gardening equipment. Pruning shears are good for branches about ¾” in diameter, while lopping shears can handle branches from a half inch up to about 2 inches. Pole pruners are on a pole and can reach branches about 15 feet above ground. Hedge shears and pruning saws are both larger, more heavy duty pruning tools for the serious gardener.

Since your plants must be watered in order to survive, and lets face it, it doesn’t rain whenever we want it to, gardening equipment for watering is a must have. The one thing you can’t get along without is a water hose, everything after that is optional. Many gardeners use sprinklers or a drip irrigation hose. There are even timers you can purchase for sprinklers or drip hoses, if you are willing to drop the extra cash.

Gardening without gardening equipment would be a nightmare. Sure there are some people who enjoy getting a little dirty while they plant their gardens in their backyard, but even those types of people have the most basic of gardening tools, like a rake or a hoe. Gardening equipment is a part of gardening, just as important as the dirt and the seeds.

Successful Gardening!

Kali Winters is a Herb Gardening enthusiast and author who spends much of her time teaching others how to setup and maintain amazing Herb Gardens. Grab a copy of her latest book, “Holistic Herbs~A Beginners Guide to Herbal Gardening” Better yet, learn more about gardening in general Here!

6 Culinary and Medicinal Herbs for Small Containers

Herbs adapt very well to their environment, as do plants in general. Most culinary and medicinal herbs need plenty of sunlight, and well-drained soils, in addition to frequent watering. Most culinary herbs are resistant to pests, and are easy to grow even for beginner gardeners.

Herbs will gather all the nutrients they need from the soil. After several harvests the leaves may begin to lighten or even yellow, this is a sign that they may additional nutrients. Almost any fertilizer will do, but I recommend making your own compost out of kitchen scraps. This is a great way to add nutrients back into the food cycle.

Here are 6 of the best herbs for small containers:

1. While mint tends to be overwhelming outdoors, often overtaking smaller plants alongside it, in individual pots, they can be a delightful aromatic addition to your kitchen. The small pot constricts growth and produces smaller, even more flavorful leaves. Mint makes an excellent addition to summertime drinks with a clean, refreshing taste.

2. Basil is the perfect houseplant. It smells wonderful, it is relatively hearty, and it tastes absolutely wonderful. Weather it is fresh pesto, Caprese salads, or just flavoring the marinara sauce, there is a reason that basil is in everything. This plant loves to grow in the window and as long as you remember to water it often, and pinch off the tips before it goes to flower, it will bring fresh herbs all year long.

3. Rosemary grows tall and lanky with leaves that look much like pine needles. Dried, crushed, and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper gets you rosemary chicken after 30 min in the oven. One of the most delicious healthy dishes you can make for the family on the go. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, and likes plenty of sun and water.

4. While oregano can easily be found in many verities I there are a few that are better suited for small containers. Be sure to read the label carefully and look for one that is right for small gardens. Oregano is a must for every serious herb lover.

5. Chives, like many herbs are used both in cooking and for medicine. Delightful on a baked potato and also a fungicide! Isn’t food wonderful?! It is when you are cooking with fresh herbs. Chives are easy to harvest and are considered one of the fine herbs of French cuisine.

6. Chili Peppers make a beautiful addition to the muted greens of most herb gardens. Give your herb garden a kick with some compact Thai and Mexican varieties. Bright red and full of power, chili peppers can lower your blood pressure with its abundant antioxidants and capsaicin, while still leaving you burning for more.

Weather you are a experience gardener or the recipient of a Herb Garden Gift, you can benefit from the experience of growing your own herbs. It’s easier than you think, and the results are simply priceless.

If you liked this article please consider purchasing a herb garden gift for someone you know. It makes for a heartfelt gift that keeps on giving for years to come.

Author’s Bio:

Learn more about Herb Gardens including where to buy a wonderfully unique Herb Garden Gift from at Stem Garden – Grow Fresh Herbs in Your Kitchen.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening is becoming more popular as technology improves and costs decrease for supplies and equipment. Growing indoors can be very rewarding and the results are absolutely fantastic when done correctly, that said they can also be devastating when things go wrong.

In this article I would like to dispel some myths about indoor gardening as well as give some tips for simple ways to improve your harvest.

Myth #1: You can grow in any room indoors.

Growing indoors even in the best circumstances is more difficult than you would think at first, and depends a lot on “what” you are trying to grow. For this article I will focus on food bearing plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers, and other succulent garden plants, as well as herbs and fresh flowers and orchids. Plants such as garlic and carrots that create bulbs are even more challenging and will not be discussed at this time.

Tip #1: No matter what plants you decide to grow indoors, you will still need to meet its basic requirements for growth.

Mainly, good ventilation from the outside, Light, and fertilizer as well as a exhaust for the heat from the lights and built up oxygen that the plants cannot eat. Plants Breath CO2, but with global warming and all there is plenty of that in regular air, so just make sure your ventilation is good into and throughout the room. Light and fertilizer depend more on what you are trying to grow. Be sure that water is nearby unless you like to carry heavy things a lot. Even long hoses only go so far.

Myth #2: Indoor gardening doesn’t involve getting down and dirty.

Cleanliness is close to godliness. Growing indoors can be a messy job. Weather you decide to use hydroponics or soil, there is usually some sort of spills involved.

Tip#2: Plan for the worst! Enclose the growing area in a cheap and easy home-made reserve reservoir to prevent run-off and spills from damaging your home.

Create a wooden frame of 2x4s that sits flat on the ground and lay a giant plastic sheet (available at home depot) that tucks over the board on all sides. Be sure to measure before hand, but often you can get 12 x 30 ft or more. The idea is to create a giant tub below the plants in case of emergency. This is especially important for hydroponic systems that are not on the ground floor.

Springtime in the Rockies the Iris War

My iris need water and fertilizer so I am braving the winds. It is 46 degrees after being in the 60s over the weekend, those rascals on NOAA, our online weather “channel” are saying an inch of snow this afternoon and another overnight.

I glance over my shoulder to see the snow capped ruggedness of Pike’s Peak against the cerulean sky filled with puffy white clouds. As I look down I see my tulips in yellow and flame finally blooming in spite of the weather forecast. Contrasting with the tulips are the brilliant purple hyacinths and the two tones yellow daffodils.

Then I see what I have been fearing since we live trapped one of our two rabbits a day ago. Nimrod, the hunter I am married to humored me and bought a “live trap”. We caught one of the bunnies and transplanted him about five miles away in a lush field with some rocks and a culvert for hiding places. With one down and one to go, I could only dream they were both boy bunnies. As I get ready to water my flower beds I now realize my grave mistake. There is a tiny little heather gray little one looking at me with great brown eyes. It is the size of my open palm. I am thinking kitten only this is no feline. This is an iris munching herbivore with huge front teeth. Oh, no, maybe both of our “guests” are female.

Some things I consider vermin. It doesn’t bother me in the least to dispatch them with a shot gun. Now before you have a tizzy, let me remind you I am referring to the Richardson ground squirrels better known as “picket pins” because they stand straight like a picket fence. They also were digging tunnels under the concrete which supported our propane tank – a couple more holes and splat-boom the propane tank would hit the ground and possibly blow up. These squirrels have carried bubonic plague in nearby Colorado Springs. They are so prevalent that they run all over our roadways. You see them flattened every few feet this time of year. They eat their own buddies who have been run over and look like rats. OK?

Beginner Gardening Made Easy

Families are trying to save money any way they can, and  gardeningmay be one of the best ways to do that!You can grow healthy food right in your backyard. Not only will you be able to walk outside forfresh vegetables or flowers, you will know exactly what has gone into the foodyour family is eating. You can growhealthy organic food just steps from your kitchen window!

Start the gardeningprocess by planning what kind of garden you would like. Do you want herbs, flowers vegetables, or amix of all three? If you choose flowers,do you want annuals that need to be planted every year, or perennials that havea shorter blooming period but will come back next year? Also consider the region in which you live. Some plants are more likely to thrive incertain areas of the country. Often seedpackets indicate which areas of the country produce the best results. Your local gardening center will also be ableto point you in the right direction.

Once you decide what you want to plant, you need to find thebest spot in your yard. Look for a placewith easy access to water, proper drainage and direct sunlight. Consider putting the garden in a spot thatyou look at every day, such as outside a kitchen or bathroom window. It will not only be a lovely sight, but willhelp remind you when the garden needs water and weeding.

Now that you’ve chosen the spot, it is time to startdigging. It is important to find theright time for this job you can ruinthe soil’s structure if you begin digging when it is too wet or too dry. A good rule of thumb is to dig only when thesoil is moist enough to create a dirt ball in your hand, but dry enough thatthe ball will fall apart when dropped.Use a spade or spade fork to turn over eight to twelve inches of soil,and mix in organic matter as you work.Continue to mix organic matter with the soil for approximately threeweeks before planting your seeds. Thiswill improve your soil’s water retention and soil buffering. Test your soil’s pH before you plant. Some plants prefer more acidic soil, some prefermore alkaline, and some are happiest in neutral soil. Getting the right soil pH may mean thedifference between a flourishing garden and failing one.

While you are improving the soil in your garden, start shopping for plants. Visit your local gardening center, read magazines and brochures, or surf the Internet to find inspiration for what you would like to plant in your backyard. There are plenty of annuals, perennials and vegetables that are great for beginning gardeners. Cosmos, marigolds, impatiens, geraniums, sunflowers and zinnias are perfect first-time annuals. Beginner’s perennials include lambs ear, lazy susans, coneflowers and daylilies. If you are interested in vegetables, consider planting lettuce, peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers in your first garden.

If you purchased small plants instead of seeds, gradually introduce them to bright sunlight. Many greenhouses and gardening stores keep their plants inside and away from direct sun. Start by putting the plants on a covered porch, then move them to an area that gets sunlight for a portion of the day and finally plant them in the ground.

Water your plants only weekly, at first. Use a soaker hose in the mornings for the best results. Any more water and you will run the risk of drowning your plants. Once they are well established, water according to the guidelines for each plant, as well as your area’s rainfall.

Don’t forget to keep your garden tools clean! While this may seem counterintuitive since you use the tools in dirt, it is important. Dirty gardening tools can attract microbes that will harm your plants. Using clean gardening tools is one of the easiest ways to keep your plants free from disease and infestation.

If a backyard garden sounds too ambitious, consider container gardening or square foot gardening. Container gardens are a great way to reuse old porcelain bowls, tires or other items you no longer need. First, decide whether you would like to keep your plants inside or outside, then you can choose the containers you want. When picking a container, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. The height of the plant at maturity, whether it needs partial or full sun and the length of the bloom time are all factors that will help you decide which kind of container you will need.

Square foot gardening is another great option. These are small, intensely planted gardens. It is a form of organic gardening done in closely planted, raised beds. Square foot gardening is a fine option for people who live in areas with bad soil, first-time gardeners or those with disabilities that prevent them from caring for a traditional garden. Square foot gardens require less weeding, less water and fewer pesticides than conventional gardens.

Now you are ready to begin planting! Gardening is a fun way to connect with nature and to give your family fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers to enjoy all summer long.

Butterflies in the Garden


Who doesn’t love to have butterflies in the garden?  Those marvellous vibrantly coloured insects with their fragile wings are a delight to watch.  However, you need to be careful if you have cats or puppies as they just love to chase them and unfortunately, they often catch and kill them.

To attract butterflies you need to choose plants for butterflies, not necessarily plants for you.  Hopefully you both like the same varieties, but butterflies are only attracted to nectar rich flowers and not all varieties of butterflies are attracted to the same plants.  You also need to provide plants to support the butterfly throughout its lifecycle.

Butterflies do recognise colour, so large plantings of the same of the same flowers that attract butterflies will work best.  Some butterflies are attracted to weeds so if you have a meadow or some uncultivated part of your garden, that might be suitable.

Some common plants that attract butterflies are of course Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) as well as Honeysuckle, Vibernum, Lilac, Lavender, Lantana, Azalea, Cornflower, Lupin, Verbena, Violet, Snapdragon and Hollyhock.  Herbs too, such as Mint, Sage, Parsley and Oregano attract butterflies.  This list is by no means exhaustive, just includes those plants which most people will recognise – there are dozens more so research is necessary to find out which plants attract your local butterfly population.

Most people probably don’t really like the idea of encouraging caterpillars but the butterfly needs to be supported through its larvae stage as well.  While larvae eat a huge amount very quickly, they only do so for a very short time so damage to plants is minimal.

It’s not only plants that attract butterflies but water too.  A birdbath or some other raised bowl would be ideal, preferably out of easy reach of cats, dogs and children.

Another factor for butterflies in the garden is sunlight as sun loving flowers attract more butterflies.  However, butterflies also need shade, not only from the sun but from wind and rain as well.

One last word of warning if you want butterflies in the garden and that is go easy on the pesticides as butterflies are easily killed by them.  Try a dilute solution of washing up liquid and removing infected foliage if you have trouble with plant pests and diseases.

Liz Canham is a keen gardener who has exchanged the relative ease of gardening in Southern England for the trials of gardening on the Costa Blanca in Spain, where her garden is at a 45% angle on the side of a mountain. To take advantage of her experience visit her website, Gardening for All and get some great gardening tips.

Methods of Rodale Organic Gardening


For those interested in organic farming, it is a great idea to know something about Rodale organic gardening, and how it can help you. This method of gardening specializes in the knowledge of proper organic farming, and provides information and guides to others who are interested in it. A method of gardening which claims to be soil-centric, it can give technical inputs on how to make better soil conditions for growing.

The handling of soil in a correct manner allows the soil to become very dark, as it gets carbon which makes the soil richer and compost filled. Its advantage is that the compost will help it retain moisture and also absorb oxygen from the air. This in turn stimulates and feeds the organism in the soil. Soil which is brown in colour will not perform anywhere near this dark type of soil. The darker the soil, the better it is, as the black color indicates that it has been made from plant material, and how very good it is as a fertilizer.

The basic theory from Rodale organic gardening states that if you create and add compost to your soil two to three times a year, you will not need to fertilize. Basically the system promotes five principles for organic farming. Advocating that too much money should not be spent on organic farming, it recommends thinking long term. The intent being that over a period of time with continuous handling, the soil becomes very very fertile. Generally compost takes over three months to get ready.

Rodale suggests that compost beds should not be walked upon as it prevents nutrients from mixing well. It also prevents aeration. An infested plant must be destroyed. Rodale also suggests the help of insecticidal soap for pest control. Even natural pesticides are considered harmful to the soil as the soil may get contaminated. As chemical pesticides are not used, planting a variety of herbs and annuals throughout the garden helps bio-diversity. And in the cycle of life, this will ensure that birds appear in the garden helping to keep pests under control.

Clint Sidney is a gardening enthusiast and enjoys giving information about Rodale Organic Gardening . You can learn more about gardening at .