Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Gardening tips from a pro...

...who happens to be somebody else. I'm on the receiving side.

I like getting tips and advice from real gardeners who know what they are doing. Last September, I came across a great article by Anne Morrison entitled "September good for gardening" and decided to email her some gardening questions. Below is her reply, which she let me post here on my blog.

Hi,

Some of your herbs are evergreen through the winter so if you want to use them you can just pick them. This is true of parsley, thyme and sage. If your garden is in a warm and sheltered area the rosemary (which is semi-tender) may stay evergreen too.

Sage needs to be pruned back in early spring when you see new shoots starting on the stem. Cut back to a strong shoot. If you don't prune sage it gets huge and very leggy and ugly.

Thyme needs a shearing all over in early spring, but only shear into the green. Dead brown stems may not reshoot.

The dill is an annual, will die in winter and need to be planted anew each spring.

Tarragon is a perennial, but dies down to the ground in winter and re-shoots in spring.

If the onion you mentioned is chives, that also is a perennial that dies in winter and comes back in spring.

It's possible to dry chives, dill and tarragon by bunching up a few stems of each (not more than 10 or they won't dry in the middle) and hanging them in a warm, dry place (beware of putting them anywhere where there are spiders!). Later you can crumble up the leaves and put the leaves in a jar. But having said that, if you don't use them much anyway, you may not want to go to the work of drying them.

Vases with fragrant herb branches in are lovely to have inside in winter because the leaves are so scented. You don't have to have big bunches - little bunches last a long time, and if you're a supper guest, people love it if you bring a little bunch of fragrant herbs (they may use them in the kitchen instead of admiring them in the living room).

You would like Bergamot. This is a very fragrant perennial herb with big mopheads of red, mauve or pink flowers. Easy to get in nurseries.

Peppermint is very fragrant and has spikes of mauve flowers in late summer (but grow it in a pot because it's very invasive). Both die down in winter and re-shoot in spring.

Chamomile is also useful and pretty with filigree evergreen leaves and yellow or white daisy flowers.

Curry plant is also evergreen - ever-grey actually - (but if rosemary dies out for you, so will Curry plant). This has flat heads of yellow flowers and grey, narrow leaves.

Another pretty and very useful herb is oregano. Gold leaf form is lovely (but also vanishes in winter. Sometimes this golden oregano is also called Golden Marjoram.

Herbs are a lovely way of using small space because you get the fragrance, some use for cooking and with many of them pretty flowers as well. My feeling is that in the space you have herbs will give you much more enjoyment than the tomatoes, peppers and broccoli.

I'm very interested in where your location is. You need to know I'm based in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and so my information is based on zone 7 and 8 because that's where my columns run - in 9 newspapers, some on the coast and others further in as far as the eastern Fraser Valley. I am answering questions now from as far away as the prairies and Ontario and some of the herbs and the information needs to be a little different in places far away from B.C. (Curry Plant, for instance wouldn't be good in the really cold zones. Would appreciate you letting me know what area you garden in. Thanks for e-mailing.

Cheers!
Anne



I will take Anne's advice and plant new herbs this year. (Photo from i.ehow.com)

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