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Friday, 7 June 2013

How do I cut my herbs so they'll grow back?

Running a close second to "Why do they always die for me?", comes the question "How can I cut them so they keep growing?"

For the most part, herbs are bushy by nature.  Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Mint, Tarragon follow this pattern.  Trim off what you need, and with good care, they will carry on.

Parsley and Cilantro grow from a corm.  Which means that, like celery, the new leaves always come from the middle of the existing leaves.  When harvesting these varieties, you can cut them within an inch or so of the soil line and they will keep on growing. 

Rosemary and Lavender are actually shrubs, and will develop a woody bark.  Keeping this in mind when trimming them will help you decide where to cut.  From a purely aestetic point of view if you trim them a little from each branch, they will maintain a nice shape over their lifetime.  Rather than removing an entire branch.

And that leaves the star of the show, Basil.  It's natural tendency is to grow straight up and then produce a flower.  By cutting it just above a leaf node, you will encourage bushy growth.  By all means, if you only need a leaf or 2, simply pluck them off.  As a rule of thumb, though, cutting it at a leaf node will increase your production and extend it's life.

As with all growing things, the hotter and sunnier the weather, the faster they will grow back.

The photos below show how to cut back mint.  The same principal of cutting the stem just above a leaf node applies to most varieties.  Basil, rosemary, sage, mint, lemon balm. tarragon.  Thyme, and oregano follow the same guidelines, but the leaf nodes are much closer together, so you can simply give them a "hair cut".

Chives, parsley, and cilantro all grow in such way as to be able to cut them back, leaving a stump of aprox. 2" and they will grow back in a beautiful, lush way.

To trim basil, follow the same principal as with the mint.  Cut the stem above any leaf node.  This will promote bushy growth, and slow bolting (producing a flower then seed).  If you only ever  pinch the leaves, you will end up with a tall bald stem with a tuft on top.
It is very important that you always leave each stem with at least one set of leaves.  If you trim below the last leaf node, it will not have any way to produce energy to grow.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Tarragon ideas.

If you have Tarragon in your yard, you are among the many that have discovered it's secret.  It comes back every year and doesn't take long to become as big as you are!

 It is misunderstood, and under used here in North America.  With a mild licorice flavor, it is great to make flavored oil for use in your favorite salad dressings, or to sauté cabbage with.  Simply wash, dry and slightly bruise a palmful of fresh tarragon.  Pour warm oil of your choice over the tarragon.  Store in a glass bottle in a cool, dark place.  Alternatively, you can add the fresh leaves directly to a leafy green salad, it will give you a bright flavor in with the regular greens you choose.

In French cooking, you simply add tarragon to hollandaise sauce to make Bernaise Sauce, great with beef, and vegetables.  Or try this recipe for Tarragon Chicken . 

Happy Gardening!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Herb Care 101

May has finally arrived!  I am sure that the lack of snowfall is a sign of good things to come.

We have arrived at the Calgary Farmers Market.  Which makes this the perfect time for a mini workshop.

For the most part, herbs are native to the Mediterranean region.  What that means to us, from a practical point of view, is that we need to re-create that in our own or yard.  When we imagine Greece, or Italy the first thing that comes to mind is sun.  Hot, dry sun.  Here in Alberta we are fortunate to have aprox. 300 sunny days per year.  What we need to help along is the warm feet.  Our soil never really gets much above 60F a few inches down.  So for varieties such as Basil and Rosemary, a pot above ground will be more fruitful than planting them directly in the ground.   For more hardy varieties, planting them in a well drained spot with a south or west exposure is ideal, while container gardening is still a wonderful option.  A great rule of thumb for daily care of herbs is to water when they're dry and let them dry out between waterings. 

Let common sense prevail!  Water weighs, if your pot feels heavy it's wet, if it's light, it's dry.  If it's sunny and hot you will need to water more often.  If you have recently cut back your herbs, they will need less water than when they are needing a trim and reaching for the sky. 

Annual                      Perennial             Tender Perennial      Biennial (comes back once,
                                                                                                                then goes to seed)
Basil                          Chives                 Rosemary                 Parsley
Dill                            Lemon Balm       Lavender
Cilantro                     Mint
Summer Savory        Oregano


Friday, 26 April 2013

Happy Spring 2013!

Happy Spring 2013!!!  Welcome to my inaugural post!!

For many years I have intended to create information sheets, a website, extensive facebook page etc., etc. to keep all of our friends/ customers/ fellow gardeners up to date with tips and interesting happenings at Terra Farms.

Clearly, I was delusional to think that was possible with small children and aging parents competing with our work load for my time!  (Not to mention sewing <g>)  Please bear with me while I get my literary feet wet, and I'll try not to prattle.

On with the show!

We decided to delay our traditional return to the Calgary Farmer's Market by one month to May 2, hoping to avoid the annual drive through a blizzard with Basil shivering in the box of the truck.  I can hardly wait to see everyone, it's heart warming to watch people smell the soil even if it's a little early to plant outside.

Finally, the snow has mostly melted!  I am ecstatic, even though I expect some more to fall.  It's important at this time of year to remember the poor trees that may have gone through the moisture from the great melt of 2013 and are suffering a great thirst at the hands of our beloved chinook winds.

See you next week.