The Sweetest Taste: Growing a Garden From Last Years Seeds

Spring is here! Unless you live on the east coast of course, looks like dead of winter there.

Either way it’s a good time to get the garden started.

Some of the garden is even starting itself, which is what so delighted me. I had the sweetest taste of last years seeds. I had been looking closely at some of my outdoor plants, when I realized that a whole bunch of little leafy greens were popping up in my bed. I plucked one, smelled it, and sure enough, arugula! I had left a plant or two to seed the ground last year, and now without lifting a finger I already have a small crop of arugula. Time for salad!

This is what I am striving for, a garden that comes back mostly on its own, or at least with hardly a cent spent on my part. So here is a list of plants that I’ve found to be good for starters.

 

Arugula: I listed this above already, but really, it’s like a weed. I also harvested some of the seeds from last year as well. They say the leaves are tastiest when picked smaller, so I plan on harvesting them frequently through the summer, but once again letting a few seed.

 

Strawberries: My strawberries never die, even in the cold snowy months. I only ever came close to killing them when I didn’t water them enough. I plan to try to separate them this year and plant some in a bigger open area (they’re in a pot).

 

Mint: This one looks dead when the winter strikes, but last year it came back wonderfully. Bugs were my only problem.

 

Sage and Rosemary: These ‘died’ over the winter, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be back very soon, much like the mint.

 

Tulips and other bulbs: I know you can’t eat these (well you can eat tulip bulbs, not sure how tasty they are), but they make your garden beautiful, and I really can’t suggest a better type of flower for a just-starting-out gardener. Bulbs are so easy, and so hard to kill! I planted amazing red tulips last year, they were promptly torn up by the neighborhood kids. This spring they’re sprouting strong and green!

 

Starting your garden early: I’ve started my garden on my windowsill. The weather is pretty nice outside, but it could get cold again at any time. I also want to let some of my plants get bigger and stronger, because last year I had so many problems with insects. So far I’ve successfully sprouted, zucchini, Asian string beans, arugula and parsley. I’m using a little ‘greenhouse’ which fits on my windowsill, then replanting the bigger plants into small pots which also fit there. This is a good reason to keep those little pots that your pregrown plants come in! I would also suggest you use brand new dirt, just so you don’t bring in all the bug eggs.

I’m going to start flowers soon as well. I have some marigold seeds that I harvested last year, also some pretty purple flowers I picked off of a neighbors plant ; )

 

How’s your garden going?

The Witch’s garden: The garden that keeps growing, and growing…

A lot of people go out and buy new plants every year. This is something I want to avoid. Not only does it take extra money, but also extra time (two things I’m not exactly rolling in). So for the last few years I’ve been trying to create a low maintenance, but useful and enjoyable garden. After some experiments (and dead plants), I’ve had some success. This is still a work in progress, but here’s what I have so far..

 

Mint: This grows like a weed and comes back even after the winter. It even managed to survive being mostly eaten by something that obviously grew wings and flew off (to terrorize various other villages presumably). Even better, this plant does nicely in the shady nooks I have!

 

Strawberries: These do extremely well. Mine haven’t borne much fruit yet, but I suspect they lack sufficient pollination, so next year I will try pollinating them myself.

 

Arugula/rocket: This one took me by complete surprise. Thought I’d try it, since Arugula has such a nice flavor, but the plants went to seed quickly, very quickly. I realized then that this is one of the tricks to having a garden that costs little money, re-seeding. See most people who plant Arugula promptly harvest the leaves for salad. If you’re patient and grow one crop (or even half a crop, even one plant) for seeds, you won’t ever have to buy Arugula again. I will try planting some of the seeds I’ve harvested next year, but I’ll also let the plants die and drop the remaining seeds, and see what comes up by itself.

 

Baby Broccoli: Haven’t a clue about this stuff, just came across it in my local garden shop, saw it liked sun and had a good spot for it. Like the Arugula it has gone to seed wonderfully! Will try planting this again next year.

 

Greek Oregano: This has done well too, very hardy. It’s flowering now, so fingers crossed it will seed as well. Will see how it weathers the winter.

 

Plum tree: This is my little bit of luck, got this for cheap at a discount store (got a peach as well, but that was ravaged to death by the local kids). It has done so well! Every year I get some fruit (not a lot yet, since it’s still a baby, but enough to be satisfying), with minimal work. I know I’ve had the best of luck though, as evidenced by Tilly’s post on their plum trees here. I might have to cover it one of these years when the frost hits early.

 

Morning glories: File this under the inedible list, and in fact I didn’t even plant these, the former tenant did, and they just keep coming back, and coming back. Even though they’re taking over my garden (gotta watch them, they try to choke the other plants too, have to unwind them and give them something else to climb), there are benefits. For one thing they’re beautiful, and hardy, and better yet, they’re extra variety to attract the bees.You can read more about supporting the bee population here. Although the bees seem more interested in the clover that’s dotting the communal grass area…

Irises: If you’re looking a low maintenance pop of color in your beds, this is perfect! I personally love irises, they’re just so gorgeous and come in so many different surprising colors. The only word of warning on this one is that the roots tend to over crowd, so it’s good to dig them up ever two or three years and either give away, or discard the extra roots.

 

This year I’m experimenting with-

Rosemary

Radishes: This is from fridge to garden food, bought a bag for ninety nine cents, a few started sprouting before I could eat them, so I popped them in the ground. I’ll let them seed and see what we can do next year.

Parsley: This looks like a good indoor herb. Nice and simple.

Chives

And a few plants that haven’t come up yet…

So we’ll see how it all turns up!

What are your experiences with planting in limited space, with a limited budget?

 

 

 

The Witch’s Herb Garden: Drying Herbs

The Witch’s Herb Garden: Drying Fresh Herbs

I’ve always wondered about drying herbs (or any plant for that matter), I mean how useful would that be! But it all seemed so…mysterious? Difficult?
I had already started an herb garden, just a small one, a little of this, a little of that (everyone loves mint right). All those nice herbs were just going to seed until I decided to give drying them a try. Here’s what I learned along the way.

What do I need to get started?: Very little. Of course you need the herb you would like to use (doesn’t really matter where you got it, maybe you asked a neighbor nicely…). Maybe a little something fresh to throw in your cooking, maybe a little something to use in a spell, your choice.
I use sowing thread to hang my herbs, you can buy a pack of it for super cheap at the local massive chain store of your choice. A little piece of cloth is also useful, just to wrap around the herbs to keep off dust, but this is optional really.
The last thing is something to store them in. You can use any glass jar or plastic container you’d like, just make sure it’s clean, dry and sealed. If you want to do powered herbs you can pick up a neat set of glass vials from the craft store for about ten dollars. I love these, they work so perfectly! The bonus is if you get the right set you can just keep them all tidy in the package.

Let’s get drying!: I suggest starting small, do a little test batch if you can, three or four leaves/sprigs of your chosen plant. I just recently dried some oregano for spaghetti, it came out splendid!
It’s usually suggested to harvest to leaves early in the morning after the dew has dried up, simply for fuller flavor, but if you’re drying something strong like sage or oregano this isn’t all that necessary. Try both ways if you like, or just one, maybe you’re not an early riser.
Pick the best leaves (but not all, unless you want to kill the plant), wash them, dry them a little. Shaking them dry should be sufficient but patting with a paper towel never hurts either.
Take them by the stem and tie them together. I like to double my thread over then tie the end to the stem so that you have a neat hanging loop all ready to go.
Here’s the hardest part, find somewhere to hang them!
For years I was under some strange impression that herbs were supposed to be hung in the sun, not true. The best place is somewhere shady and dry, the least humidity the better. Otherwise you might end up with a moldy rotten mess.
There are all kinds of clever ways you can hang them. One of my favorites is the idea of a simple board with hooks, maybe some cute words painted on it, but no need to get fancy (unless you want to). Just hang them anywhere you could hang anything else.
Now it’s time to wait. It won’t take any longer than a week. The thinner the herb the faster the dry. If in doubt, check them every few days.
Once they are dry it’s all up to you what you want to do with them, the world is your oyster! I like to crush mine to powder and store them for use in cooking, and maybe an odd spell here and there (the more time and care you put into a spell the better).

Have an herb garden? What are your favorite herbs to grow? How do you use them?

Blessed be!