Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Your Herbs

In many cases herbs are the first thing that new gardeners grow, herbs can be grown indoors in containers, on small balconies, and other small places since they tend to be smaller in size. So now that you have your herbs, how should you preserve them so that you can enjoy them throughout the coming months?

Before you preserve and store your herbs you will have to harvest them. When harvested before blooming your herbs will have the best flavor. This is because their essential oils are the highest at this time. 

If your herbs have a very strong flavor such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint, sage, or bay then you will want to dry them.

To dry your herbs you can either air or room dry them for small amounts, but if you have a large a mount of herbs to dry you may want to invest in a food dehydrator to help the task go by a little more quickly.

For room/air drying you will want to fasten your herbs together in small bunches of stems with either a rubber band or twine, tie these bundles tightly since the stems will inevitably shrink as they dry. Then you will need to hang your herbs upside down in a warm, dry place. As the leaves become brittle, strip from stems and store in glass jars that are labeled and dated appropriately.

For your herbs that are more tender or have more subtle flavors, you will want to freeze them. You can freeze your herbs either as cubes or as a paste.

To freeze as a paste you will want to gently puree the herbs with a small amount of olive oil. (According to Mother Earth News the ration should be 1/4 c. oil to 1 c. herb leaves). Then you can freeze your paste in a plastic freezer bag.

To freeze as cubes just chop the herb leaves coarsely and pack them into ice cube trays loosely, add water to the tray and freeze. Once your cubes are frozen you may remove them and store in a plastic freezer bag for up to three months, so be sure to label and date your freezer bags. These cubes can be added to sauces or soups to amp up your flavor in your food dishes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

September Gardening Tasks for Perennials

September is the time that the days begin to cool and being outside for extended periods of time becomes more enjoyable. So while you are outdoors there are a few things that can help your garden along. Or at least make your garden prettier.

Tasks for Perennials:
You will want to start now and continue working with your perennials over the next few months (once your soil has cooled to less than 60 degrees).  Plant your spring blooming bulbs in well drained soil and plant about 3x deeper than the diameter of the bulbs. For this particular month you will want to focus on planting:
  • Tulips: Plant so bulbs aren't touching. For abundant tulips plant 10-20 bulbs in a hole that is one foot in diameter.
  • Early blooming perennials can be divided. Be sure to give plenty of water after they are replanted.
  • Dig up, divide, or transplant any of your perennials that are becoming crowded.
  • If you want some fall color in your yard now is the time to plant:
    Mums, Winter Pansies, Flowering Cale, Cabbage
  • Plant your seed perennials by scattering them in rows or in an open bed. Once it is spring these seedlings can be moved to their more permanent locations.

To make dealing with the replanting of bulbs easier, you may want to consider investing in a bulb planter.

For more September gardening tips visit: September Gardening Checklist

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Starting Composting

If you are planning on having a garden next year, now is a great time to look into composting. Compost is a great material that will help your garden to grow.

Composting is also a great way to cut down on how much you are sending to the landfills. When you compost you will be reusing many degradable products that are ordinarily thrown out.

So how do you start your compost?

To make things easier you can invest in a composter to hold your compost or you can create your own compost pile.

First you will want to select a spot that is near a water source, this spot needs to be dry and shady.
Then  you will add your brown and green materials (list for appropriate materials below). Be sure that the larger pieces are shredded or chopped, you will add the materials continually as you collect them.
Moisten your dry materials when they are added.
Once you have established your compost pile, you will want to mix in grass clippings and other green waste, bury vegetable and fruit waste under 10 inches of your compost material.
If you are using a compost pile, cover with a tarp to keep it moist.
When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color your compost is ready to use. This can take anywhere from two months to as much as two years.

Green Compost Material:
Bone meal
Coffee grounds
Egg shells
Fruit and fruit peels
Grass clippings (fresh)
Juicer Pulp
Plant Trimmings (that have not been treated with pesticides)
Tea leaves
Vegetables & peelings

Brown Compost Material:
Buckwheat hulls
Coffee filters
Coffee Grounds
Corn Cobs
Cotton/wool/silk scraps
Grass clippings (dried)
Leaves (dead)
Peanut Shells
Peat Moss
Pine needles
Shredded paper egg cartons
Shredded newspaper
Tea bags

Do NOT Compost:
Pet Feces
Meat and Bones
Diseased Plants
Seeding Weeds
Wet Grass
Inorganic Materials 

As you add materials to your compost, you will want to turn your pile periodically. Every 3 to 5 days tends to be a good amount of time. If you have a spinning composting bin, the turning will be easier, if you have a compost pile then you will want to use a pitch fork or shovel.

Previous Compost Posts:
Revisiting Composting

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