Basil is a popular herb and easy to grow in the garden. One of the main tricks to getting abundant harvests is to regularly pinch the tips of the plants to both encourage branching and to prevent it from going to flower. Once basil plants initiate flowering, it is difficult to stop the process and when it flowers, the leaves of the basil plants are smaller and less flavorful.
Basil plants, if left to their own desires, grow one main stem. When they reach around 6 inches tall, pinch the stem back by half and leaving ¼ inch above a set of healthy leaves (see illustration). This causes branching and encourages the plant to grow more leaves. As they send out new branching stems, continue to pinch the tips of these stems back. During the heat of summer, basil should be pinched about once a week to encourage a long abundant harvest. Along with pruning, it is also important to provide regular fertilization. Basil grows best in a sunny, warm spot in well-drained, fertile soil.
Tarragon is one of the easiest perennial herbs you can grow. Be sure to start with a plant labeled “French tarragon” and avoid the much lower quality, “Russian tarragon.” Russian tarragon doesn’t have near the wonderful flavors that the French tarragon has.
Grow French tarragon in a mostly sunny spot. It prefers well-drained soil and likes to grow on the dry side but not extremely dry. French tarragon never goes to seed and is only propagated by divisions of a large plant in early spring or by cuttings. One plant usually provides enough herb for a season. Tarragon doesn’t dry well like other herbs so be sure and enjoy it freshly picked. It can also be frozen in small amounts for later use.
Tarragon has a flavor suggestive of anise or licorice and is very sweet. It is used in poultry, fish and meat dishes and in vinegars and omelets. It is also quite tasty when you add a small amount of fresh tarragon to a salad.
Lysimachia nummularia, commonly known as “golden creeping Jenny,” has bright yellow-gold foliage and makes a great low-growing, groundcover.
It is very hardy on the High Plains, can survive limited foot traffic and does best in rich well-drained soil. It can take partial shade, but produces the best leaf color in sun.
If you have a large patch it is easy to divide for easy multiplication of plants for free. Try it as an annual to trail over the edges of pots and tubs. The golden foliage is so bright, it rivals the brightest yellow flower.
Bedding plants can be expensive. Instead, try sowing the seed directly into your garden bed or flower pot. They take just a little longer to come into flower, but it is well worth the effort.
These annual flower seeds can sown between May 10th and June 1st: bachelor’s button, calendula, cosmos, marigolds, larkspur, morning glory, nasturtium, poppies, sweet alyssum and zinnias. Always sow seeds twice as deep as they are wide and keep the area moist until they germinate. Be sure and provide a trellis for most morning glories as they grow as a vine. Mark the location where you plant seeds with plant tags to help you discern weeds from the new flowering plants. Unlike perennial flowers these annual flowers, once they start blooming, they will continue to bloom until frost.
In 1962, an accomplished gardener from New Jersey, Carol Mackie, noticed a shrub with one unique mutated branch having dark green leaves with an unusual white border. She sent cuttings of it to a local nursery who propagated it and made it available to the garden center trade. It is now prized for its pale rose, fragrant blooms and striking leaf color. This Daphne was been named after Carol Mackie who discovered it and it is a perfect hardy, small shrub for the irrigated High Plains. Check out the “Carol Mackie Daphne.”
A great organic based fertilizer can be found at your local feed store. Both alfalfa pellets or meal make a great fertilizer. Alfalfa is high in nitrogen as well as other needed nutrients. (more…)
“Phenology,” is a word describing a connection between climate triggered biological phenomena. It can be used to help you time plantings in the garden. Although it is not perfect, you can use around here with generally good results.
Here are some examples: (more…)
Garden writers often instruct people to “add lime” to soil in order to attain a neutral soil pH (acid/alkaline balance). Unfortunately, this advice comes from writers who live east of the Mississippi where their soil is acidic. They assume everyone has the same soil as they do. This is not good advice in much of the West. (more…)
Check out this great handout on when to start plants for the High Plains vegetable garden. See when to set out seeds, and seedlings. Click here.
As we venture out into the garden, it is time to also grab the old tools. If you need to purchase some tools or replace some old ones what should you look for?
Price, quality, feel, and guarantee are all important. The fiberglass handles are heavier but last well. Look for cushioned hand tools with softer larger handles. Avoid buying cheap tools as they are more apt to break in just a year or two. If you are using old tools consider a lubricating the handles with vegetable oil or linseed oil. Also be sure you start the season with a good pair of gloves.
Garage sales can also be a great source for quality garden tools at a low price.