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Herbs Early in My Small Kitchen Garden

Last year’s rhubarb project continues to look successful. Every plant in the new rhubarb bed has sprouted tiny wrinkly leaves. You’re supposed to harvest lightly in the year after planting. I may pretend that this is the second year after planting since I created the bed at the beginning of last season. I can say with authority: there will be pie.

March in central Pennsylvania is such a great time in my small kitchen garden because that’s when the earliest perennials push through the soil and have a look around. Oh, yeah? Not this year! Nope, we’re having a seriously late start to spring around here, and the early sprouts have been timid at best.

Despite the unseasonable cold and way more rain than my kitchen garden needs, I poked around two days ago to see what has sprung. The late early growth is tantalizing, but I’m not ready yet to start the annuals. I hope your kitchen gardens are farther along. Tell me: do you grow a particular fruit or vegetable that you anticipate above all others? I’d love to hear about it. Please let me know in a comment.

Remarkably similar in color to baby rhubarb leaves, tarragon emerges in my new herb bed. I started this bed last spring to receive rhubarb plants, but I realized it would take enormous energy to complete the bed. So, by late autumn I’d finished the bed and set herbs in it. Tarragon and thyme I’d started from seed last spring have wintered over nicely in the new bed. Just looking at these young sprouts makes plaque collect in my veins; I love to make béarnaise sauce and use it (instead of hollandaise) to smother eggs Benedict. More tarragon probably means more eggs Benedict. I’ll need a bigger belt.

Thyme is particularly hardy in these parts. This sprig, on a plant I started from seed last spring, has already produced abundant leaves despite the low temperatures. I expect to have several decent clumps of thyme within the next few years.

I don’t grow chives in my small kitchen garden; there’s no need. Wild onion is one of the most common “weeds” in this area. When the neighboring farmer mowed his hay field in past years, the air would smell of onions for several days! I created a new herb bed in late autumn last year, planted a few perennial herbs, and this spring there are several volunteer wild onions emerging in the bed. In some places, my lawn is more wild onion than it is grass.

The biggest mess in my new herb garden is a grouping of sage bushes that I removed from an old half barrel I’d planted, perhaps, ten years ago. The barrel stands empty awaiting a new assignment while the sage plants remain dormant. As the days warm (they will warm, right?), I expect plenty of new growth on these usually hardy plants. When I can easily see which sticks are alive, I’ll snap off the deadwood and save it to use in my smoker. Ribs, chicken, brisket, sausage… they all taste delightful when you smoke them with sage wood. Yes, that’s a downspout behind the plants; I may need to add an extender that carries rainwater across the bed so heavy storms won’t carve a hole in the herb garden.

 

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7 Responses to “Herbs Early in My Small Kitchen Garden”

  • Since we built the barn, I have been without a proper herb garden. This year we will finally make a new herb garden…not just little patches in the main garden. I am so excited! I have sage and basil growing under lights….and so cannot wait to dig in the dirt!

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Joyce: It is exciting! I, too, have distributed herbs willy-nilly among my other plantings, in containers, and even in my wife’s ornamental beds. I hope you’ll be blogging about your new project; I look forward to reading your reports!

  • Talk more about using the sage branches please. I didn’t know you could do such a thing. Oh, but I don’t have a smoker.

  • I gleaned a great idea from your sage trimmings suggestion. I am going to try putting them in the charcoal grill to add flavor to burgers and grilled vegetables. Thanks!

  • I am a fan of rhubarb. But I can’t see it in my garden yet.It’s too cool.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Sage Butterfly: I soak the deadwood from the sage plants before I use them in my smoker–which is a charcoal burner. I usually use hickory branches as well, but sometimes I have only the sage branches. I hope you like the results; it ought to add a bit more flavor than you get from charcoal alone.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Alexandra: As cold as it has been here, I’m impressed the my rhubarb has poked its leaves out. Forecasts for Monday are 81F degrees; up from 40F degrees today. Crazy, crazy spring.

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