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Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

Chives are one of those things that are just a glory to have in the garden.  They taste fresh, green, herbaceous, and I put them on everything!  Today I started cleaning out my beds and discovered the chives already going full force!  Yay, spring!  Oregano is another herb that is fantastic fresh from the garden.  Last year I also borrowed a dehydrator and dried a TON of oregano–it puts the stuff from the grocery store, even the stuff from Savory Spice Shop completely to shame (and I LOVE Savory–no offense, guys).

However, chives and oregano are bullies.  They are the kind of plants that just muscle their way in to any part of the garden they want, and they stay there (until I come along).  Oregano will send roots out several feet, and little sprouts will come up all along the length of the root.  And a small 4 inch pot of chives can grow to a patch a foot in diameter in just a year or two–not to mention it reseeds itself like crazy if you aren’t careful.

For this reason, I highly recommend planting these guys in containers, rather than in your garden.  They are hearty enough to last in a pot, and they can’t choke out other plants if they don’t have any to compete with!  My chives and oregano, though, are not in containers–they are in a bed–so something had to be done.  Armed with my spade and a bunch of old plant containers, I went to battle against these meanies, and what I have left is much smaller versions of the plants in my garden, with a bunch of transplants ready for new homes (read this: if you live in Denver, get your butt over here and pick some up!)

Divided Herbs

Oregano and chives, after being divided and repotted, all ready for new gardens! I know the oregano doesn't look like much, but trust me those roots are in great shape!

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Seed Display

I love seeds.  Seeds are the first indication that the gardening season is indeed returning, even if it’s currently 15 degrees and there is still snow on the ground.  Seeds say, “Yes, you will be eating fresh tomatoes off the vine in just a few short months!”  Seeds conjure memories of reading books in the Sky Chairs on the back porch.  Seeds are the promise of a delicious summer.

Hubby will tell you that, yes, I do in fact have a seed addiction.  They call to me, drawing me into their seemingly innocent display stands, and I am absolutely compelled to bring the poor little babies home with me.  It’s worse than passing by the cheese counter at Tony’s or the clearance rack at DSW.  Really.

I usually end up planting WAY more seeds that we can actually use—or that we have room for in our itty bitty house.  The kitchen becomes a mini-greenhouse, with trays of seeds on every surface near a window.  (It really is a problem.)  Luckily, I have lots of friends who don’t grow plants from seed, but are more than happy to take extra seedlings off my hands.  I can only hope they give my babies good homes.

Of course, you can just as easily (ok, MORE easily) grow a garden from plants that you buy at the nursery or the big box store (or mooch from me).  If you want to go that route, log off right now, and save yourself from reading about effort involved!  This is going to be a super-long post (most likely the longest one I will EVER write), and I will definitely not be offended if you aren’t committed to the seed idea.  Go pour yourself a glass of wine and put your butt on the couch.  But if you aren’t scared…

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This post is dedicated to Ghost, the Garden Cat.  He was always my helper in the garden, but he particularly liked to get in the way during this stage of the game.

You’ll want to wait and do this after the ground has thawed.

Vegetables need good, rich soil to grow well.  Most Colorado soil is very dense and full of clay—it will need to be amended with some good stuff to make your plants are happy.  Check out the soil in your planned garden area—dig down a foot or so.  CAN you dig down a foot or so?  If not, you definitely need soil amendment—I’d double the numbers listed below.  Any earth worms in there?  If so, congrats!  Earth worms are our friends!  Your soil is probably in pretty good shape.  You can buy a soil testing kit if you want to know exactly how good your soil is, what’s in it, what the Ph level is, etc., but that’s all a bit too scientific for me.  I’d rather just get in there and start digging.

Soil Amendment Ingredients

Ingredients needed for soil amendment: Soil Pep, Vermiculite (optional), Fertilizer, and Compost (not shown)

Shopping List:

  • Compost:  Any kind of compost is fine, but I suggest mixing a few kinds together.  You can also add a bag or two of manure into this mix.  Whatever kind you use, mix them together in a wheel barrow before spreading it.  I suggest using about one bag per 25 square feet.
  • Soil Pep:  I am a huge believer in Soil Pep—it’s kind of a mix of bark and other decomposable natural stuff, but it’s not compost.  It does a great job in breaking up tough soil and keeping it light and loose.  You can find it at pretty much any garden center or nursery, but I haven’t seen it at a big box store.  One bag is usually good for about 50 square feet.  Added garden nerd bonus:  the Soil Pep you use in your garden this year will break down before next year and further amend the soil!  Woohoo!  And look what I just got in my email box this morning–a SP coupon!
  • Fertilizer:  There are lots of fertilizers out there, but I use one called Colorado’s Own Vegetable Food—it’s good for all kinds of veggies.  It’s in a orange bag, and the numbers on the bottom are 5-10-5 (sorry I don’t have a photo yet).  Go to Echter’s for this.  (If you haven’t been to Mecca—I mean Echter’s—yet, go.  Just go.  I apologize now for the damage it will do to your check book.  (I am sure that will be the subject of a future post.))  One bag of fertilizer should be enough, unless you have a huge plot you are planting.  It should say on the bag how big of an area it will cover.  Extra is not bad here—you will use more later in the season. (more…)

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If you don’t already have an established spot for a vegetable garden, this is the first step.  Think about…

  • Sun!  Most vegetables need full sun in order to grow well.  Find the sunniest spot you can.  We actually pulled down some trees last year to get more sun onto our veggie beds.  Granted, they were evil nasty elm trees that Hubby hated, but it was really about the garden in my mind.spigot
  • Water.  Is there irrigation?  If not, would it be hard to install?  Vegetables need water pretty much every day during the hot days of summer.  If there’s no irrigation, plan on getting out there on hot days with the hose!
  • You can plant your garden right in the ground, or you can build some raised beds.  Raised beds are nice, because it’s a little easier to control where stuff grows, and because you won’t break your back quite as much when it comes to weeding.  Also, you can fill raised beds with all new soil.  If your soil is really poor—impossible to dig into because it’s so full of clay, perhaps—you can start fresh with a raised bed.

    Finn, the Giant Garden-Destroying Pooch

    Our Baby (Our Very Large Baby)

  • Do you have dogs?  How about a 100 lb. crazy one year old dog?  (Yup, that’s what I have.)  Raised beds might be less attractive to a digger—our older dog just walks around them.  But you might want to think about fencing to keep the little angels out.
  • Proximity to the kitchen:  Are you going to want to walk clear around to the far side of your house every morning in your PJs to snip some chives to sprinkle on your eggs?
  • You might not have just one spot.  I have five raised beds in my back yard that are dedicated to edibles, but of course that wasn’t enough.  Since it’s a part of our yard we don’t really use and it gets tons of sun, the south side of our house has become the home to six more tomato plants each year, so we have enough to can for the winter (oh, yeah—we’re gonna talk about canning).
  • Think about containers, too!  Herbs grow fabulously in pots.  So do kale and cabbage—and they’re pretty!  Mix ‘em right in with your flowers, and you can eat them when the season is over.  I don’t want to hear the excuse “I don’t have room to grow vegetables!”  Yes, you do.  (Stay tuned for a post on container gardening soon!)

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