Herb maintenance

Honestly in between planting seasons- in between life events- sometimes all you’re doing in your garden besides picking a few herbs and watering regularly is just maintenance.

These flowers are pretty on the oregano and hyssop. It’s attracting a very horrible cabbage moth, cursed be it’s name, but it also attracts bees. The problem with flowering herbs though is that all the energy of the plant starts going into the flowers, and out of the edible leaves.

So you got to give things a trim. I use the oregano regularly, so it’s important to me to keep the plant going as long as possible.

The hyssop I haven’t used yet, but considering cold and flu season has started, I want the plant to be in the best shape possible for the upcoming months in case I have to start using it as medicine.

I think I mentioned this in the first post I made about interesting herbs, but I am hella reactive to expectorants and cough syrups- like hallucinates reactive. I can take stuff like decongestants for a head cold, but as soon as a cold gets into my chest I’m up a creek as far as medicines go.

Hyssop is supposedly one of those herbal cough remedies that actually works, to the point that it still flavors cough drops and the like.

Hopefully I don’t need any medicine this cold season, but I like the idea of growing my own. So- maintenance!

You’ll notice I haven’t trimmed back the basil anymore than I already did- I probably should, but the sheer volume of bees is giving me pause. Maybe in a month, but I don’t want to disturb my buzzing friends.

Gotta be nice to your local bees!

Working hard or hardly working

It’s the first one, I swear!

It was time… to tear down the bean vines.

It really highlighted how weirdly crooked that double bed is but who cares. What was kinda nuts was how much the carrots were covered by a sort of natural compost made of fallen and rotting bean leaves. I filled a whole garbage bag full and then put it in the green compost can. As was expected I couldn’t save the netting the beans were growing on, but the stakes themselves were all ok, and are now living in the corner between the sheds. While I was cleaning out the mess I found three slugs! The only slugs I’d seen all season thanks to my judicious use of sluggo. They were dispatched along with what looked like a raft of eggs. (Not pictured because EW EW EW) considering that’s the bed the zucchini was in- I think I found what killed the zucchini. RIP zucchini- fuck slugs!

I did a ton of weeding today too. Around the raised beds and the pots there are always weeds because that’s the only place that gets any water.

But I also pulled the bug eaten lovage plant and trimmed the caterpillar nibbled leaves of the shiso and sage plants.

I love lovage.

But I’m not sad.

Because I ordered two more plants from my local garden center wheeee! They’ll call me when they are available. One will go in a pot- one will go where the marjoram was… we will see which does better. I love lovage- I can’t wait to have tons to cook with. Hopefully with less holes in them this time.

I also cut back my blue basil. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Gentle hominid gardener – that doesn’t look that much different than the last picture you posted of your African blue basil plant!”

Well that’s because I’m a coward. The plant was swarming with bees and I had to wait till the early evening just to be able to trim it without being stung. And it was more of a trim than a cut back because I didn’t want to disappoint my bee friends. (And incur their wrath). I cut the undergrowth and the parts that were hanging over the side or growing into the hyssop- but I largely left the top flowers intact. It’s just so pretty!

I can’t grow regular flowers for allergy reasons, so I do love the ones I can grow.

Even if I should be growing the plant for the leaves. Whoops what pesto? THE PESTO IS FOR THE BEES-!!!

Flowers

I can’t grow those. But I can enjoy the ones that come with herbs and veggies.

Such as this, the hyssop.

Or the eternal favorite with every bee and butterfly in the area- the blue basil!

Or the triffids fava beans who had a friend today!

I keep wanting to pet bumble bees. I have a feeling that’s not he greatest idea so…

But they look so soft!

Experiment with rare/interesting herbs!

Or don’t. It’s up to you. Besides the usual parsley, thyme, sage, oregano and others in my herb patches/pots- I have been experimenting with putting in more interesting specimens when they’re available. Some were herbs I have always been interested in- like lovage (Levisticum officinale), an herb favored by Ancient Rome and still planted in Italy, but not really used today in America. I think lovage will get its own post; it has impressed me way beyond what I expected- All I’ll say for now, if you have the spot/pot for a new herb, plant lovage.

I tried Rue (Ruta graveolens)- not for my use but for repelling the neighborhood feral cats. It didn’t work, probably because it was only one plant. Problem with Rue is… it’s kinda toxic. I got kinda spooked and pulled it. Replaced it with a baby fennel, which to be fair to the Rue- I’m much more likely to use!

My biggest success as far as lesser known herb actually isn’t a lesser known herb. It’s known in the West as a plant for borders and decoration, but all over east Asia it’s known as a food herb. I’m talking about what is called in Japan as Shiso! (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) It has other names in other countries, in this country it’s generally known as Shiso. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s that green herb that you get your sushi on in Japanese restaurants. In England it’s known as “beefsteak plant”, or at least the red variety is (which is very beefy colored) but in the West it’s known better as Perilla. It’s used more as a border or as a decoration than for food. It has a pretty unique taste, sometimes described as a cross between mint and basil. I like it and have two plants- a well established bi-colored variety and a new one which is the traditional green type. There are a TON of varieties though, both culinary and decorative and it has different names depending on the country of origin.

The red varieties tend to be a little more fibrous than the green or bi-colored varieties. They’re all edible as far as I know.

The other interesting herb I have is hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). It’s mentioned in the Bible, though there is some debate if that hyssop is *this* hyssop as Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English translation errors make biblical plant identification a little dodgy. It’s widely used in the Middle East to this day, Za’atar has hyssop in it, along with sumac. Hyssop has one problem for me- it smells to me the way cough drops taste. Which is an actual thing! Hyssop has some anti-cough/expectorant properties, and it’s been used medicinally for centuries. So while I love Za’atar- I’m not sure I’m going to use hyssop in food.

It is really pretty though, with those nice pink flowers- and hey, winter is coming, and I’m sure I’ll be glad to have it when cold season rears it’s ugly head. I can’t take traditional cough suppressants/expectorants- guaifenesin gives me hallucinations among other terrible side effects, so maybe planting the plant that smells like a lozenge will benefit me in the end.

Seek out your herb section in your local garden center, or try interesting herbs from seeds. If you don’t like it- like my Rue, you can always put it in the compost bin. But for every Rue, there’s Lovage. Which deserves its own post. (Because it’s so good)

So good.