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Yard and Herb Garden, Late Spring Observations

May 24, 2010

I don’t have anything going on in my vegetable gardens yet.  Our weather has been so cool and wet; we haven’t had any hot spells yet.  The chicken coop, which resides in a corner of our garden hasn’t been entirely finished, so that’s holding back garden prep, too.

However, other areas of my yard are growing lushly and I’ve made some new additions.

This bed is a new bed of four blueberry bushes.  Two are the variety Reka and two are the Liberty.  Previously we had a photinia hedge in this spot, but we decided to cut the hedge down, pull out the stumps and plant blueberries in their place.

Blueberry blossoms

This area doesn’t look like much right now and it really was an after-thought.  These are the photinia stumps.  After we cut the photinia hedge down and removed the stumps and root ball, we were contemplating disposal.  We decided to attempt to replant them on the very front of the yard.  We didn’t plant the blueberries in the very front because we get a very steady stream of foot traffic, including two lunches from the local high school on school days and some people are really gross.  We get so many people spitting into our existing plants that we didn’t want to put the blueberries out that close to the sidewalk.  Photinia is fast growing and made an excellent hedge for us, so this would offer us some desired privacy in our side yard.  They may not take, but since they are so hardy and fast-growing we decided to take the chance and cross our fingers that they would re-grow.  Since this photo, I’ve added a brick border to the left and mulched them to keep down the weeds and grass.

This is my new French tarragon.  I’ve not had good luck with tarragon.  I’ve had to replant it each year though it is a perennial.  I think it isn’t cold hardy and our mild winters have been too much, but I could be wrong.  I really love the fresh, licorice flavor of tarragon and use it most frequently in potato salads, though it’s excellent with chicken, too.

I’ve had this Spanish lavender planted for years.  It’s one of the first herbs I ever planted in my yard.  They are so cheerful and bright.  Unlike French lavenders, they have very thick, pineapple shaped flowers and petals at the top of the flower.  They start blooming in late April or early May and continue through to mid-summer.  They’re very easy to care for and I’ve had a couple of plants seed themselves nearby in cracks in my sidewalk.  They smell very like French lavender and I’ve dried these flowers to use for soaps and sachets.

This is comfrey.  I purchased it several years ago from the herb seller at our local farmers market.  This one plant is huge now.  It dies back each winter and grows to nearly 5 feet tall in the spring.  In truth, I haven’t really used it for much yet, but since we’ve got chickens this year, I will feed some leaves to them.  They are high in protein, but not good for human ingestion as a food.  It’s also great to add to compost because it adds nitrogen and potassium.  One of comfrey’s common names is knitbone because it was traditionally used to heal broken bones.  I hear it’s good for skin complaints but haven’t tried it for that use.  It’s easy to propagate, so if you have an established plant or access to one, you can dig a piece that has root attached and plant it.  For this reason, you should also make sure that you put comfrey in a permanent place, because if you decide to move it, root pieces left in the former spot will continue to grow.  I may start a new stand of comfrey so I will have more leaves for the chickens.

I plopped this lemon balm into the center of the mint bed several years ago and let them vie for space.  This year the lemon balm has really experienced a lot of growth and spreading.  It’s related to mint and has a lightly lemon scent and flavor.  Though it’s most frequently used in herbal teas, I’ve not used it for that, but I have made lemon balm popsicles for my children.

Mint takes up most of the space in my herb bed.  I’ve got spearmint and peppermint in there.  As a fresh herb we use it for cooking, teas and to add some greenery to flower arrangements.  I also cut and dry mint in my dehydrator for teas and to add to my soaps.

Soapwort is just a pretty perennial that I picked up years ago.  I purchased a 4″ pot and over the years it has spread.  Then a few years ago I found out that soapwort is an herb with a history of use as a cleansing agent.  Soapwort contains saponins, which are soapy substances.  The whole plant contains saponins, but the root has the greatest concentration of saponins.  Every year I tell  myself that I’ll try to make a mild cleanser out of some, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Maybe this will be the year.  I’d also like to learn how to propagate it and plant some around the photinia stumps.  Some consider soapwort an invasive weed, but I haven’t seen this in my own yard.  I did have a volunteer that sprouted last year about 10 feet from the original plant, but it died over the winter and hasn’t regrown.

I don’t know what kind of rose this is, but it smells wonderful.  It’s got the quintessential rose scent and it is heavy and lingers for feet around it.  In fact, I didn’t even know the rose had bloomed yet, but I could smell it when I was photographing herbs several feet away.  This rose was dug up by its previous owners when it was dormant and set out for free in their yard and we snatched it up and replanted it and a couple of months later we were rewarded with the amazing smell and blooms.  It’s got a hazelnut growing within it’s roots and I have to cut the hazelnut branches that sprout out each spring, because it’s not in a place where a hazelnut has room to grow and that would likely kill this beautiful rose-bush.

My lavender bed when it was first planted in March 2008

My lavender bed is doing mostly great.  I planted it in 2008 from 4″ pots.  I have seven plants that span a length of approximately 20 feet and they have filled the space so well as you can see from the two comparison photos.  I have two different varieties.  One is very similar to the typical Provence lavender, and the other is Goodwin Creek Gray Lavender.  The Goodwin creek has pretty gray-green foliage and lovely blooms, but the problem with it is that it suffers a lot of winter damage and I’m left with lots of dead branches when spring rolls around.  I don’t have this problem with any of my other lavenders.  I only have two of the Goodwin Creek variety and they are on either end of the lavender bed, so I may just replant with a Provence variety.  And the Provence plants are bursting with developing buds.  They are going to be beautiful when they bloom!

This is my best looking thyme plant.  I don’t know why thyme doesn’t grow well for me.  I’ve tried different varieties and three different spots in my yard and garden and they never get large and healthy.  I know other people have huge thyme plants and it stumps me.  I use this occasionally, fresh, for cooking because I’ve never been able to grow a large enough plant to cut for drying.

This is the smaller stand of oregano (or marjoram).  I’ve always had good luck with this, except when our puppy rolled around in my large planting last year and crushed it, but it’s coming back like gangbusters this year.  I usually dry a ton and use some for fresh during the spring, summer and fall.  It mostly dies back during the winter.

This golden sage has been growing well enough to provide fresh herbs for me this past summer, but this spring it has just exploded with growth and I should have plenty to dry this year.

So, that’s the news in my yard and herb garden.  I’ve got a few other things that I didn’t show:  rosemary that is doing moderately well, chives that are multiplying, a regular sage that is blooming pretty purple flowers and rose bushes that are not yet blooming.  If you are a local friend or family member  or a distant one who will be visiting, you are more than welcome to take cuttings from any of my perennials, except the thyme which would clearly not survive a cutting.

What’s growing in your yard?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 5:53 am

    You have a great collection of herbs! I’m going to try to make dried soap-wort soap this year and I’m really excited about it. I can see that the plant is invasive though, its already taken over an entire side of my yard. Ill try to harvest and use instead of cutting back this year.

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