Planning and Prep: Get to know your Plants

Planning and Prep: Get to know your Plants

The spring season is just around the corner. In 6 weeks, our shipping season is scheduled to begin to our warmest zones. That means we have got to have everything ready to go: plants well rooted, boxes ordered, and mentally be prepared to ‘rock and roll.’

But, like you, we are also avid gardeners, and in addition to getting things ready to fill your garden, we are gearing up for our gardens. We learned to strategize using past successes and failures, advice and recommendations from others, as well as my own updated ‘wish list.’ Order early, as it seems that the later you wait, the more you have to compromise. Not anymore! You know what they say about the ‘early bird’

Garden beds and containers are carefully planned on paper, using past notes (“planted too many tomatoes for my 4×6 bed” or “move cucumbers to another bed next season” or sadly “don’t try __ again, it doesn’t grow well here”). Additionally, think outside of the box (no pun intended) and consider what you want to create with these plants. You will be rewarded with more than you will ever use, and there is but so many folks in your life who want yet another bushel of your produces!  The list is endless, but I’ve gathered the recipes and am honestly planning ahead. Doing a lot of research you will learn that the DIY side of herbs, there is so much of what you are growing can be convert into batches of tinctures and salves! 

The many wonders of the Comfrey plant!

Common Comfrey is also referred to as ‘Knitbone’ as it is the plant’s high concentrations of Allantoin that helps reduce inflammation of sprains and broken bones. When mashed and heated into a poultice or applied as a salve, Comfrey can also make a wonderfully mild astringent great for ulcers and sores. The plant’s natural Allantoin levels also make it a great herb for after sun care. Just steep fresh comfrey into a tea for external use, by straining the leaves and letting it cool. You can then soak the sunburned areas in the cooled tea to help reduce pain and discomfort, and promote healthy skin regeneration.

So, the only thing you need right now is to start dreaming and take a few baby steps to make your dreams come true. Buy an inexpensive notebook, start writing down a ‘wish list’ of what you want to grow (and make sure you know WHY you want to grow it), sketch out your beds or containers keeping in mind the MATURE size of what you are growing, and start ordering your plants now. 

Have Yourself Some Cocktail Herbs This Christmas

Have Yourself Some Cocktail Herbs This Christmas

Make festive sips that lighten the season with a must-have herb or two. This ingredient is the underrated star of cocktails ranging from the classic to artisanal. Take fresh mint leaves, for instance, which can brighten any flavor. Or a sprig of rosemary as a garnish, which can make any average mixed drink glow.

The best part is that you can grow these herbs in your garden — so you can experiment on your own blend all year and then impress your friends come Christmastime. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Mint

This cool and refreshing leaf is a universal component of cocktails. Together with spirits and other ingredients, it has come to define traditional drinks like the mojito and julep. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go off the beaten path and pair it with your distilled liquor, ingredients and garnishes of choice.

These holidays, let the soft and sweet (with a hint of lemon) taste of mint grab your guests’ attention with the ultimate easy mint mojito recipe

Ingredients: Sugar, fresh mojito mint leaves, white rum, fresh lime juice, club soda (chilled), crushed ice, lime slices and mint sprig

On the other hand, why don’t you put a twist on your mint cocktail in the spirit of the season? The twist? Cranberry mint fizz

Ingredients: Cranberries, mint leaves, sugar, lime juice, Smirnoff Cranberry Vodka, cranberry juice, ginger ale and cranberries for garnish

Some combinations to consider for your mint-infused cocktail:

  • Blend with lavender for a floral accent.
  • Mix with lemon mints to achieve a citrus taste.
  • Pair perennial mint with berries, melons, gingers and peaches.

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Rosemary

This savory herb pairs well with sweet and citrusy drinks. And it does a good job of adding flavor when infused into a cocktail or elevating the experience when applied as a garnish. When used fresh and raw, it also brings comfort and warmth, exactly what we need to survive the cold that envelops us.  

Turn your joyous celebrations into a beautiful memory. Go all out with this rich and remarkable rosemary peach sangria recipe.

Ingredients: Pinot grigio, peach liqueur, simple syrup, club soda, peaches, fresh rosemary sprigs and extra rosemary sprigs for garnish

Are you hosting a party for friends and family? Keep things lighthearted this season with berry and rosemary juniper gin fizz.

Ingredients: Blackberries, lemons, rosemary sprigs with leaves picked, juniper berries, honey, Bombay Sapphire gin and soda water

Lastly, strike a balance when you pair rosemary with the right elements:

  • Mix it with apples, berries, citrus and pears
  • Combine with gin, vodka or sparkling wine. 

Mix Your Herb and Drink Wisely

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to preparing a cocktail infused with mint or rosemary. Instead, take your time to perfect the art of mixing drinks behind the bar. 

With a herb garden to pick from no matter the occasion, you can also go beyond these two options. But of course, you can always bet on them to be fan-favorites during the merry days of winter.

10 Herbs to Plant in Fall for Gardens & Containers

10 Herbs to Plant in Fall for Gardens & Containers

Autumn is fast approaching, and you know what that means: put your white wardrobe in the attic! And, for some gardeners, it may signal something else: the end of the growing season. Truth be told, however, fall is an excellent season to plant herbs in the garden or containers. What do you need to know about planting in the fall? Which herbs should you choose?

What You Need To Know

If you’re a “fallscaping” rookie, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

What is fall?

This probably sounds like a pretty basic question, right? There might be more to it than you think! Your fall season depends greatly on your hardiness zone. So, what are some basic “requirements”?

  • The Fall Season is between Labor Day and the “Fall Back” Daylight Saving Time.
  • Your temperatures should maintain a daytime high below 80 degrees.
  • Your first frost should be at least 10-6 weeks away.

What’s the latest I can plant?

Our advice: don’t drag your feet! Go ahead and preorder your herbs so that they arrive right on time. What are the dangers of procrastination? 

Young herbs (especially perennials) need to “harden off” before the first frost, which basically means they need to acclimate and toughen up to lowering temperatures! If they aren’t given enough time for this process, let’s just say… you’ll be left with a pretty sorry-looking plant.

How long do herbs need to harden off?

  • Perennials (especially woody varieties) require 8-10 weeks.
  • Annuals and biennials require 6 weeks.

Will planting Perennials in the fall hurt them in the long run?

Nope! It turns out Kelly Clarkson is right: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Facts show that perennials that are hardened off and experience their first winter as a youngster emerge stronger, healthier, generally hardier, and are more productive in the spring when compared to Spring-planted plants.

10 Herbs to Plant for Fall for Gardens & Containers

Sage

Hardy to zone 5, this perennial herb has you covered in all aspects: It’s a winner in the kitchen (say hello to this stuffing and fettuccine recipe) and is renowned for its health benefits. Whether you have a common cold, are suffering from stress or menopausal symptoms, Sage can come to the rescue! 

Another perk: Even if you have a slight “black thumb,” Sage varieties are forgiving and resilient. Plant your Sage in well-draining soil, keeping it in partial to full sun. If your Sage is in an outdoor container, water it 2-3 times weekly when the soil dries out.

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Echinacea

Are you prepping for the cold and flu season? Do you want some beautiful springtime blossoms? That means that Echinacea (aka the coneflower) is perfect for you. Attractive pink petals complement the rusty red centers, attracting all kinds of pollinators in the spring. Oh, and the best part? A cup or two of Echinacea tea weekly can ward off infection.

These perennial herbs can survive in several different soil types, even rocky areas! The most important thing to keep in mind? They hate “wet feet.” Keep these beauties on the drier side in partial to full sun. If you’ve opted to confine your Echinacea to a container, make sure there’s enough room to accommodate the taproot (usually a 2-3 gallon pot).

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Chives

If you live in a chilly region, Chives are for you! This perennial is hardy all the way to zone 3. As one of the most popular herbs, Chives probably don’t require much of an introduction: they taste great on everything, have alluring springtime pom-pom flowers, and are a nutrient-rich food (okay, that one might be a little surprising, right?).

Place your Chives in a location that receives full to partial sun and provide them with fertile, moist, well-draining soil. These plants can be grown in containers both inside and out; just make sure you place them on your sunniest windowsill!

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Lilac Jelly

Use Lilac flowers, or any other type of strong-smelling edible blossom (like the Lavender shown here), to make this jelly! Its lightly floral taste pairs nicely with many things: add it to your cream cheese and bagel routine in the morning, or include it in a lemon drop martini at night. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re looking for an overflowing container plant, this one’s for you. Lemon Balm tends to be invasive in the garden, so it’s perfect for pots! Plant your herb in well-draining, sandy loam, place it in your sunniest location, and allow the first inch or two to dry out between waterings.

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Thyme

Thyme is a low-growing, shrubby herb that makes excellent garden edging. In the kitchen, thyme is an easy flavor-filled addition to just about anything: omelets, soups, chicken… you name it! Medicinally, the leaves, flowers, and oil are used to treat bronchitis and other conditions.

This perennial is hardy to zone 5 and should be planted in well-draining soil, placed in your sunniest spot, and watered when the first 2 inches of soil have dried.

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Lavender

While you can’t expect any blossoms until the Spring, get a head start on next season by planting hardy Lavender varieties in the Fall! In the meantime, you can use Lavender leaves to make delicious treats (like these Lavender Lemon Bars) or make a simple Lavender tea to fight stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

These herbs are perennials and are hardy to zone 5. Plant your Lavendar in well-draining soil, keep it in your sunniest spot, and allow the soil of mature plants to dry out before rewatering. If you keep your Lavender in a container, make sure it’s large enough for its root system (2-3 gallons).

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Greek Oregano

Similar to Thyme, Oregano is another low-grower that makes a beautiful frame for your taller plants. While blossoms are understated, Oregano’s flavor is impactful! Use this herb to flavor a fantastic marinara or create a Pistachio-Oregano pesto. Medicinally, Oregano is used to fight viral infections and can be used as a natural insecticide.

Oregano is hardy to zone 5. Like other Mediterranean herbs, they should be planted in well-draining soil in bright light; mature specimens should dry out before rewatering.

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Marjoram

It’s not just Oregano’s cousin… we believe Marjoram has real value in the garden and pantry! Marjoram pairs beautifully with grilled beef and fish (nobody said to retire the grill after Labor Day!). In the medicine cabinet, the oil and leaves of Marjoram can fight muscle pain: simply add a few tablespoons of dried Marjoram to your bathwater. 

Marjoram is a perennial in warmer climates (to zone 7). Even if you live in a chillier area, Marjoram is a worthwhile annual herb to start in the Fall. Plant it in the container with well-draining soil and bring it to a sunny indoor location when temperatures spiral downward.

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Parsley

The potential is endless with Parsley. As a wispy biennial, it’s fast-growing and makes a perfect container plant to have in a sunny location near the kitchen door. Whether you’re adding pizzazz to potatoes, sprucing up squash, or flavoring focaccia, Parsley is the herb for you!

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Cilantro

You either love it, or you hate it… our vote is in Cilantro’s favor! The beginning of fall does not mean you have to give up delicious guacamole, chimichurri, and easy taco toppings. Your Cilantro plant will grow perfectly in a pot filled with well-draining soil that’s kept in a sunny spot.

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Herbs to Grow in Winter: 10 Herbs for Cold-Season Harvests

Herbs to Grow in Winter: 10 Herbs for Cold-Season Harvests

Winter is fast approaching: it’s time to pull out the scarves, boot socks, and chunky sweaters! While we might start out content, sipping our cup of hot cocoa, eventually, you know what happens… Cabin fever. We miss our garden. We miss fresh herbs. We miss summer! Solution? Continue to grow herbs in the winter! Which ones should you pick? Keep reading!

Growing Herbs in the Winter: What You Need to Know

What to Expect

During the winter months, all of your leafy friends (no matter how hardy) are resting. Don’t go into a winter herb growing venture expecting massive payouts.

To maximize their chances of growth, you will need to shield plants from winter elements. For example, Rosemary, Bay, Sage, and Thyme can survive on their own in pretty cold conditions (up to zone 5). However, if you actually want them to grow (a little), you will need to protect the leaves and roots from frost and nighttime lows.

And when we say “a little,” yes, we mean a little. If you give your plant’s the protection they need, you may see a few tender shoots, which you can harvest. 

If you have a mature perennial, don’t go chopping into its old growth. Why? This is where it keeps its energy reserves! Cutting off too much of your plant will cause its ultimate demise. (Good news? We’re always here for your replacement plant in the Spring!)

How to Protect Your Plants

If you’re overwintering some of your precious herbs outdoors, you will want to invest in frost covers. Even if you live in an ordinarily mild climate, these are good to have on hand for emergencies.

For container gardens, things can be much simpler: Just drag your potted plants into the protection of the garage during severe weather. It’s worth noting, you need to protect both the foliage and roots of potted plants from cold, which you can do by wrapping the pots in blankets.

Bringing Them Indoors

Arguably, an indoor windowsill garden is the easiest way to keep your stock of fresh kitchen herbs going in the winter! Remember, most popular herbs are from the Mediterranean and require at least 6 hours of full sun daily. So, get your sunniest spot ready, keep plants away from radiating heat, and be careful not to overwater! Looking for more tips? Read this.

How Much to Harvest

If you want your plant to live another day, never harvest more than 10% of the leaves and/or stems during winter. Wait to re-harvest until you see new shoots. 

If you’ve purchased plants simply to get you through the winter, pluck off what you need when you need it. Sure, your Basil or Cilantro might be bald by Spring, but that’s what we’re here for! 

How Many to Buy

If you’re purchasing plants expressly for winter harvesting, how many should you buy? Even in the best winter conditions you can muster, your plant’s growth will not be up to Spring or Summer standards. For this reason, you will need to invest in several of the same plants to fuel your kitchen creations. Our advice? Pick your favorite and line your windowsill!

10 Winter Herbs for Cold-Season Harvests

Winter Savory

Unlike its Summer Savory counterpart, Winter Savory is a perennial (up to zone 6). Unfamiliar with this herb? Treat it right, and it will bless you with a little bit of new growth during the chillier seasons. Savory is a component of the classic Herbs de Provence blend but can also hold its own in meaty recipes, like this Balsamic Herb Baked Chicken.

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Chives

Indoors or out, Chives are easy to take care of and are hardy to zone 3. Plus, what’s more satisfying than a little “snip snip” of Chives on top of a Twice Baked Potato?

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Mint

There are plenty of types to choose from… it’s good to know that Winter doesn’t have to put a damper on your Mojito intake and can actually make winter salad eating fun! Since the hardiness levels of Mint can vary depending on the variety, here’s a glance at the ones we offer:

  • Mint ‘Mountain’: Hardy to Zone 3
  • Mint ‘Orange’: Hardy to Zone 3
  • Mint ‘Peppermint’: Hardy to Zone 3
  • Mint ‘Mojito’: Hardy to Zone 4
  • Mint ‘Chocolate’: Hardy to Zone 5
  • Mint ‘Spearmint’: Hardy to Zone 5
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Basil

Sure, you’re not going to put your Basil outside during a snowstorm. It needs a little more tender love than that! But, these annuals make the perfect addition to a sunny windowsill garden.

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Tarragon

Tarragon is a hardy perennial to zone 4. Are you new to the world of Tarragon? For one thing, it’s a renowned companion plant, so it’s good to have around in the Spring and Summer. But its usefulness doesn’t end at the threshold; it’s definitely a winner in the kitchen. Imagine being curled up on a cold winter day, munching on a baguette smothered in Tarragon Butter. (Convinced yet?)

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Sage 

This perennial is hardy outdoors to zone 5. Its flopsy, lambs-ear appearance makes for a beautiful garden and some delicious dishes!

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Sorrel

There’s nothing quite like tart, sweet, exuberant Sorrel, which is hardy to zone 5. Keep it indoors in a bright location (or supplemented with a grow light). Once leaves are 4 inches long, you can harvest. Not quite sure what to make? How about this cozy soup!

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Rosemary

It’s a classic. And dare we say: We all love it! Rosemary is hardy as a perennial to zone 5. Give it the protection it deserves, and your mature outdoor plant may reward you with some new cool weather growth. Are you a Rosemary fanatic? Well, then we suggest you buy a plant for your kitchen windowsill to fuel your wintertime cravings!

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Parsley

Another fan favorite, Parsley, can easily thrive on a windowsill that receives sufficient light. Outdoors, your Parsley’s growth is going to “knock off” somewhere around 70 degrees. Inside, you can continue to harvest your Parsely until it’s bald and replace it in the Spring.

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Cilantro

We are on Team Cilantro! Continue harvesting this zesty, fresh, summer-y herb through the winter by placing it in your bright windowsill (props to you if you have a heated sunroom!). Harvest sparingly, allowing your plant to recuperate, or go for the “big chop” and satisfy your guacamole craving! In all honesty, Cilantro doesn’t last that long anyway, so… have at it!

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Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Herbs can add a whole new depth to your garden that you may not have had before. You can see how growing herbs can help you make your own herb blends and also how they can help you create new combinations that may have otherwise never come into your mind.

With fall right around the corner, far too many gardeners panic and make mistakes. Are you interested in learning how to harvest herbs in the fall without making common mistakes? Read our tips below to learn more about how you should handle the season when harvesting herbs in the fall.herbs-harvesting-fall

What Herbs To Harvest in the Fall

Before you dive in and start plucking herbs, you should pay attention to your selection. The timing for harvesting herbs is dependent on what type of plant they are, and other factors. For example, certain culinary herbs such as oregano may be more sensitive to dropping temperatures.

Many herbs will last up to four weeks, some up to six. As fall approaches, you should focus on harvesting the less-thirsty herbs first.

If you are looking for extra-long-lasting herbs, it is best to harvest in the fall, because they will last until spring. It is also important to note that herbs will not last as long if they are picked wet.

You must harvest herbs in the appropriate season to ensure that they are harvested at their peak. Keep in mind the fact that herbs that are starting to lose their flavor before harvest will take on a bitter taste when you cook them. Retain these herbs on your herbs table and harvest them as they dry out. You can also cut these herbs when they are already overgrown.

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Tips for Harvesting & Preserving Your Herbs

  • When harvesting herbs for immediate use there are a few rules to keep in mind. For single-stemmed herb plants such as basil and savory, only pick the center tip. This encourages bushy growth. Use the tops and flower buds of chervil, thyme, and mint. Use the outside leaves and stalks of your parsley plant and leave the center alone.
  • A major harvest requires a bit of work, but the rewards throughout the year are well worth the effort. You can get 2-3 major cuts from both annual and perennial herbs before the end of the season. The last harvest should be in early fall in order to give the new growth a chance to harden off before the first frost.
  • Choose a bright, sunny morning just after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets hot enough to affect the oil content in the leaves and flowers. Take care in picking and use only healthy plants. Perennial herbs can be cut back by a third, while annuals can be cut to within three inches of the soil surface.
  • Rinse the fresh-cut herbs in cool water and use towels to absorb excess moisture. Tie the stems together (dental floss works well) in bundles of five or six and hang in a dry, well-ventilated spot, away from direct sun and moisture. The temperature should be no more than 85 degrees. Since herbs should not be stored until they are completely dry it is important to test them by placing a stem in an airtight container overnight. If condensation forms, more drying is needed.
  • Once the plants are dry, store them in clean, airtight containers (glass containers are best) and keep away from direct sunlight. Herbs lose their potency over time, so we suggest keeping them for a maximum period of one year. 

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Get Ready for Winter

Many herbs will bloom during the summer months, but when the temperatures start to drop, the majority of them will begin to die. During the fall months, herbs should all be harvested and dried if you want to preserve them. Check the weather forecast and get the herbs dried off as soon as you can. This will help prevent them from freezing and dying in the cold.

Make sure you’ve harvested your herbs before they’re dried out. Just because the leaves are wilted, don’t just leave them on the plants. Harvesting herbs is much quicker if they’re dried completely.

So be sure to harvest the herbs and store them away as soon as possible. Herb gardening experts say green herbs such as basil, chives, and parsley should not be harvested until they’re completely dry. Similar to preparing your soil, choosing which herbs to harvest can impact the rest of your garden and the season as a whole.

Protect Your Herb Plants for Winter

Keep in mind that there’s only so much protection a pot of herbs can receive before the fall weather creeps in, leading to frosty conditions. Make sure to cover your plants up well before the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

It’s also good to keep a close eye on them when possible. See if they are drooping a lot, and protect the plants from your pets or kids by pinching off any extra stems. When cooking with herbs, there is usually a tight window where flavors are optimal.

The leaves on most herbs will be poisonous, but if you cut them off, then all you’re doing is removing the bitter end. Harvest in the right way when fall approaches. A lot of people will overlook how to harvest their herbs, especially when it’s time to bring them inside for the winter. There are some tricks to taking care of your herbs, though.

Harvest Herbs for Their Seeds

When you are planning to harvest your herbs for seeds, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Harvest herbs close to the time they will be harvested. If the herb has fallen off its seedhead by the time you harvest it, you will need to wait for it to fall over before harvesting the seeds.

Start by selecting and gathering your herbs. Remember, you will be collecting the seeds of your herbs for further propagation.

What type of herbs should you start collecting seeds from? When it comes to bushes, we like harvesting herbs such as oregano, mint, lemon balm, cilantro, and rosemary for their seeds.​​

A Few More Tips for Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

There are a few technical approaches you can use to harvest your herbs. Many people harvest their herbs by the stems. If you want to harvest herbs by the stem, you will want to use your garden shears or small snips. Snipping off the branches that are stem tips will produce smaller amounts of herbs. By using shears, the stems should be fully clipped, and you will be left with lots of leaves on the stems.

If you want to harvest herbs for their flowers, you can do the same as above, but you’ll need a few different types of tools to do it. Of course, if you want to go the organic route, you can always use your hands.

When using herb snips or shears, you will want to go around the entire plant first. Try to do it in sections. If you do it this way, you’ll be left with lots of leaves on the plant. With this approach, the leaves will be healthy, and they will continue to provide you with a full, vibrant, harvest for the rest of your autumn gardening.

Enjoy the Fall With Your Herbs

That does it for this piece. We hope that we have helped you learn a bit more about harvesting herbs in the fall. As you can see, you do not need to fear new seasons in the garden, as they present new opportunities for your herbs and plants.

To learn more about our approach to our herbs and our business, check out our FAQ page.

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