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Growing Rosemary indoor and outside

Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen herb that will grow as large as a shrub if you live in a warm climate and do well grown in a container and moved inside for the winter months in a cold climate. The foliage is narrow, like a needle evergreen, and leathery in appearance. This foliage is used for seasoning all types of meat and poultry. When added to vegetables, it will create wonderful flavors for your dishes. Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean, near the seashore and is grown in gardens and containers all over the world for its magical foliage.

Before I tell you how to grow this wonderful herb, I think you would enjoy knowing about its history, traditions, folklore, legends, myth, and early uses. Let's begin with its name, as it came from ancient Latin and the name means "Sea-Dew" or" Dew of the Sea," because the plant always grew near the seashore and the flowers on the plant gave it a dew-like appearance from a distance.

Rosemary is a symbol of fidelity and remembrance and is often used in weddings and funerals. The wedding couple often each wore a sprig of rosemary as a sign to each other of fidelity to begin their new life together. Rosemary is still used in a wreath worn on the head of the bride or used in the bouquets she carries down the aisle on her wedding day. Old records also say that small sprigs of rosemary were thrown into the grave during a funeral as a symbol of friendship and love to departed family members and friends.

The wonderful fragrance of the plant was said to protect the home against evil spirits when planted in a garden near the home. Small branches of rosemary were often placed under pillows to prevent bad dreams and to protect the home during the evening hours as the family slept. During the sixteenth century, and still today, the rosemary plant was used as an air freshener. Herbalists often prescribe this herb for treatments of depression, headaches, and muscle problems. Just crush the foliage and smell your hands and in no time at all, your headache will decrease.

Just think how many bath lotions are available today that contain rosemary in them to help you relax in that warm bath. If you're feeling tense after a hard day at work or in the garden cut a couple sprigs from your rosemary plant and run a bath. As the water fills the tub pull the leaves from the branch and crush them with your hands and slowly add them to the water. Hop in, soak, and enjoy the wonderful fragrance as you begin to relax in your homemade bath balm. Be sure to smell your hands and rub them on your sore muscles too.

It has been said that the flowers of the rosemary plant were always white, giving it that morning dew appearance. According to legends, that all changed when Mary was fleeing from Herod's soldiers to Egypt with the Christ child. Mary spread her wet cloak on some rosemary plants to dry and hide from the soldiers. When the soldiers passed, she removed the cloak from her hiding place and all the flowers had turned blue in her honor and remain blue today. And one final story is that rosemary will grow for only 33 years-that is the time that Christ lived on this earth--and then the plant will die.

Rosemary is an evergreen plant, rare for most herbs today. It will grow as tall as 3 to 5 feet and just as wide in your garden, if you select the hardiest variety for your area, or grow it in a pot to bring inside during the cold days of winter. The top of the leaf is deep green while the underside will have a bit of gray cast to it. The leaf will grow about an inch long but less than a 1/4 inches wide and the edges of the leaf will curl slightly under. This leaf is leathery looking and a bit hairy on the underside where the fragrance is most strong.

The rosemary flowers, lavender and pale blue in color, are numerous if the plant is cared for properly. The flowers develop in clusters along the branches of the plant where the leaf is attached to the stem. These flowers are 1/2 inch in diameter and resemble miniature orchids with deep veins of color running through the flower petals, giving them wonderful character. The flowers develop in the early spring and last until early summer on the growth made by the plant the previous year. When the flowers fade the new growth will begin and new foliage will develop on the plant.

Rosemary can grow 6 to 10 inches in one growing season if you care for it properly. So begin by selecting a site in your garden with a lot of sun or a southern exposure. If you live in a cold climate, that location should be protected from the winter winds with a fence or stone wall behind it or even some large evergreens. Remember I told you that rosemary grew at the seashore in the Mediterranean region-well, if you want your plant to grow best, condition your soil so it is growing in a light soil that is well drained and on the sandy side. Your plants will develop deep roots once established, and they do not like to be moved around your garden once planted, so select the right place the first time.

Rosemary will thrive in a drier growing condition than most other herbs you may be growing, so keep plants away from sprinkler systems that run regularly each week. When you plant into your garden be sure to add limestone to keep the acidity level from becoming too low and restricting the plants growth and flower development. Organic matter like compost is very beneficial to help get the plant off to a good start. And covering the garden with an inch or two will help to control weeds and help retain moisture in the soil during the hot days of summer. This mulch will also help protect the plant roots during the winter months in a cold climate.

Fertilize spring and late summer with an organic product like Vegetable Tone. Don't be scared to pick sprigs of rosemary all year long. The new growth will be more fragrant and richer with the natural oils in the foliage. If you go to a farmers market and are able to purchase large bunches of rosemary inexpensively, buy it because it freezes wonderfully for use during the cold days of winter. The oils will become stronger when frozen, so use less when cooking with frozen sprigs.

Rosemary is one of the most powerful herbs for flavor so use sparingly until you become accustomed to its ability to flavor foods. Use it when cooking all types of meat, chicken, or fish as well as most vegetables. I love it on potatoes, and in all types of tomato dishes and sauces. Take a few leaves with a bit of olive oil and rub down your salad bowl before making your salad to give it extra bang. When I cook on the charcoal grill I will also drop a sprig or two on the hot coals to make what I'm cooking smell and taste better.

At this time of the year, go to your local garden center or greenhouse and purchase a small pot for your kitchen window sill. When you get the winter blues, pick up the pot and hold it close to your nose; the fragrance will help you relax and think of spring--after all, it is only 61 days away! Enjoy.
Zac Brown Band - Colder Weather (Official Music Video)
Zac Brown Band - Colder Weather (Official Music Video)

A wonderful herb when cooking fish and more

In the days of the mighty Roman Empire, the fennel plant was enjoyed as a culinary plant and used in all types of food preparation. It was also used for its medicinal properties, as it was believed to help with many common ailments. It was used by the gladiators to keep them fierce and strong, and a bouquet of fennel was worn by many to help keep them in good health during battle. It was mixed with a gladiator's daily food to help him beat down his opponents.

The ladies of Rome used the fennel plant to keep slim and young looking. During the many celebrations of the Roman Empire, fennel was one of the main ingredients used in all types of bread, cakes, and salads to calm the hunger pangs before the festivities began.

The magical properties of the fennel plant were used to help people get through the fasting days of special holidays. When the Pilgrims landed on our shores, it was eaten along with dill to help keep them attentive during the long church services. In the 10th Century, it was hung over the front door to keep out witches and was a common ingredient for magic and spells. Also ,some early writings show that the seeds were used in broths and drinks for those who had grown fat and lazy to help them grow slimmer and have more energy to get back to work.

Today fennel is best used for additional seasoning for fatty meats like pork and beef or in stuffing for chicken and lamb. If you're making a fresh garden salad, it is a must in your salad dressing. Use the seeds in sauces and gravies, also when cooking fresh fish or when mixed in bread dough. The fresh picked leaves and stems are best when chopped finely and used in salads for extra flavor.

As the plants begin to fade with the season, pull them up from the garden and wash the plant with fresh water to remove all the soil from around the roots and dry what remains of the plant. Next time you cook fresh fish--especially oily fish like mackerel or bluefish--or even chicken on the charcoal grill, add a few sprigs of the dried herb to the hot coals as you cook for a wonderful smell around your patio and additional flavor to your coking. When your fennel plant is in full bloom, pick off some of the wonderful fragrant flowers and break them into small florets and add to your fresh salads. Just in case you never grew fennel before, the entire plant has an aniseed/licorice-like smell and taste, not overpowering.

Fennel is an annual for most of us, but if you allow the flowers to mature in the garden they will spread seeds everywhere and sprout up every year in the springtime, making the plant resemble a perennial herb. Always grow a bit extra, as you will often find unusual caterpillars feasting on the foliage of the plant. When these unique creatures mature beautiful swallowtail butterflies will emerge for your enjoyment. I always grow extra for the wonderful soft and feathery foliage the plant produces that looks great with fresh-cut flowers from the garden.

You can start your seedlings right now in small pots to make it easy to transplant to the garden in May or you can start in cell packs like your egg trays. Use a light seed-starting soil and keep the soil moist and warm to speed germination. I like to use seed trays with clear plastic domes over the tray or just place a few toothpicks in the soil and lay plastic wrap over the tray. The toothpicks keep the plastic wrap off the soil and help to create a wonderful humidity in the soil and around the sprouting seeds for faster germination. Remove the coverings when 50% of the seeds have germinated--in about 7 to 14 days.

When you get ready to plant into the garden, make sure the soil is soft and well-drained, as fennel will not do well in heavy clay-like soils. Adding sandbox sand to clay soils will help; this sand can be purchased at any garden center in the spring. Compost, animal manure, and peat moss are also wonderful additives to encourage good plant development. If you live near the seashore, get down to the beach on the next nice day and collect bags of seaweed to add to your soil if it's heavy, or even on the sandy side. Your fennel plants will always give you a better crop if you prepare the soil first.

Your fennel plants, like many of the other herbs, love a sunny location that never has standing water during the winter months-if it does, the seeds from last year's flowers will rot during the winter months. Sometimes they will come back for you the following spring if the soil stays moist but not wet. Set out seedlings when the threat of frost is over and always plant seed about the same time--usually mid to late May--as warm soils will give you better germination.

Space your fennel seedlings 6 inches apart and in rows 12 to 18 in apart for the best foliage production. If the weather gets real hot and dry water frequently or the plant will thin out, grow real tall and produce fewer seeds, plus the entire plant will have a more powerful fragrance--sometimes overpowering--when eaten or used for cooking. Watered regularly and well fed, the plant will have the shape of a ball of cotton candy-like foliage that is soft green and just beautiful in your garden. There is also a purple foliage variety called Fennel 'Purpureum' that will give your herb garden much color and contrast.

You can also grow fennel in a shallow trench and when the base of the plants and roots begin to swell to about the size of a golf ball, mound soil around it about 4 inches high. This is called "blanching," and the soil will block out all the sunlight, turning the stem and roots white--with enhanced flavor. After 2 to 3 weeks the golf ball-sized growth will increase to 3 to 4 inches and is ready for harvest and cooking in the early fall season.

If you love the foliage, pick off the flowers as they develop so the plant cannot make seeds and your plants will become bushier, with more branches and foliage on the plant. Pick the foliage as needed or freeze the leaves in zip-lock bags for winter use. This wonderful plant that is native to Asia and the Mediterranean can also be grown in containers with other herbs, but when it gets ready to flower you may have to stake the plant as they will grow taller in containers.

Fertilize every 2 weeks during the growing season with Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer or Blooming and Rooting plant food. If you're a busy gardener, use Dynamite slow release pellets to keep plants well fed. Also if you're growing in a container, be sure to add Soil Moist granules to help hold water in your containers and keep the soil moist during those hot dry days of summer when the plants are growing best.

You can also plant fennel in the fall in containers for a wonderful winter crop on your window sill along with chives, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and dill. Enjoy!
Funny Let It Go parody
Funny Let It Go parody "It Is Cold" from Disney's Frozen - Hilarious Polar Vortex version

Peppermint a hardy perennial herb
Did you know that there are over 25 varieties of mint? But peppermint and spearmint are the most popular of all! Mints have been in gardens since gardening began, and their special taste, history and traditions make these plants a must for the herb gardener. Spearmint, for example, is native to the Mediterranean, and was introduced to the world by the Romans. Mint was found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1000 BC and the Japanese people have been growing many varieties of mint for at least 2000 years. Mint was brought to America by the settlers as an additive to clean their homes and to help make them smell good as well as for cooking. As monks traveled the new lands to spread the word of the Lord, mint was also planted around their new missions to use as a scent for their bath water and cooking. In the fourteenth century, mint was used as whitening for your teeth. Today you have mint-flavored toothpaste and mouthwash for a fresh breath.

In Greek mythology, it is said that two strangers were walking through the countryside and were being ignored by all. An elderly couple took pity on the tired looking travelers and invited them into their home for a good meal. They cleaned their dining table with mint leaves to freshen the table and cooked them a meal. The couple was rewarded by the strangers, as their home was turned into a beautiful temple. The strangers were the gods Hermes and Zeus...and from that day on, mint became the "hospitality plant."

Mint was used by the Greeks in their temples and in sacred ceremonies, also for food preparation for great celebrations. Today in the great "sport of kings," the greatest horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby, is celebrated with the mint julep as a way to commemorate the event--hospitality at its best. Now think how many types of candy, gum, ice cream, desserts and foods are eaten with some form of mint flavor?

Mint is grown from seed or by dividing established plants to make new ones. Seed-grown plants do not have the same type of quality flavor as the same variety grown from division, so divide your plants for more flavor. You can divide your plants from early spring right through the growing season, and even in the fall when all the foliage has died back and the plant has gone dormant. Mint will grow best in a garden with a little bit of shade, unless you are able to water the garden often during the hot days of summer. In cooler climates like the Northeast they will do well in sun all day long. I recommend that you use Soil Moist Granules when planting if your soil is on the sandy side or your town has water bans every summer.

Your soil should be as rich as possible, so condition the garden before planting with animal manure, compost, or seaweed kelp. Mint is a perennial and will return every spring so condition the soil properly the first time--it's easier than digging up the plant and starting over the following spring. Mint can also be easily grown in containers that are 12 inches or larger in diameter on patios or decks for people with limited garden space or no garden at all.

Fertilize your plants with an organic fertilizer like Espoma Vegetable Garden-tone or Natural Alternative Garden fertilizer protilizer with  in the springtime. These plants are very strong and one feeding in the spring is all that is needed with good soils. The most important need to this plant is water; water will determine the size of the plant, the quality of the flavor in the foliage, and the plant's ability to spread and grow in your garden.

The foliage will vary from variety to variety but leaves are oval in shape with a blunt tip on the end. The leaves will grow 1 to 2 inches long and about one inch wide. Some mint plants will be all green; but some will have a second color like white, red, yellow, or even purple streaks in the leaves--and even the stems. Some varieties are smooth and shiny while others are dull and almost hairy. Each plant is unique and each plant has its own wonderful scent from the oils in the plant. Just crush or roll a leaf with your fingers and smell before purchasing the plant, that way you know what you're getting for your garden.

All mint plants have wonderful white, lavender to lilac-pink flower clusters on the tip of the branches during mid to late summer. When mint is in flower in your garden you can expect to see butterflies and bees of all types in the garden, a real treat.

Water mint early in the morning to prevent possible disease problems and keep plants away for automatic watering systems in your lawn. Mint rust can be a problem on the leaves and it is best to remove any spotted foliage if it should develop on the plant. If this is a real problem in your garden, do this: in the fall when the plant has died back to the ground and the foliage has dried up, burn the foliage to the ground; this will kill all the spores in the ground and sterilize the soil at the same time.

Mint IS aggressive and, if not supervised, it will take over your garden in just a few years and choke out everything growing around it. Each spring, or in the fall, use your garden spade or shovel and cut around the plant and remove what you do not want. Give it away to friends or--better still--plant it in an area where other plants have had problems growing in the past and watch it quickly take over and fill in those sore spots around your yard. It's also great for erosion control on sloping hillsides to prevent washouts caused by heavy rainfall.

Here is what I do in my garden to control the problem. I take a 5 gallon bucket and cut off the bottom. Now dig a hole in your garden and place the bucket in it so 3 inches of the bucket is sticking out of the garden. Fill the bucket with the soil to match the rest of the garden but leave the 3-inch lip empty and plant the mint plant in the center. The 3-inch lip that is sticking out of the ground will prevent runner stems from spreading all over the garden and the sides of the bucket underground will prevent roots from spreading underground and coming up everywhere. This is the best way to control the size of this plant and prevent it from taking over.

This spring visit your local garden center and look for other flavors of mint like Pineapple, Ginger, Apple, Lemon, Chocolate, Corsican, Moroccan, and even Orange--to name a few. When it's time for the big Derby and you cannot be there to see the race, make your own fresh Mint Julep for the garden. Enjoy!
The Drifters perform 'Under the Boardwalk' live on QVC
The Drifters perform 'Under the Boardwalk' live on QVC

"All through the long winter, i dream of my garden, on the first day of spring. I dig my fingers into the soft earth so i can feel its energy and my spirits soar."

Helen Hayes

Asparagus Soup

If you're looking for a mild and delicate vegetable broth, here is one your family will love. Great as a starter for any main dish or use in place of a fresh salad, it's wonderful and serves 6. 

2 Pounds of fresh green Asparagus
A pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar
4 cups of vegetable broth I use College Inn light
1 tart green apple, such as Granny Smith
The juice of half a large lemon
1/3 of a cup of whipping cream
Pepper to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg from your spice rack

cup of whipping cream
2 scallions

1 Peal the lower third of the asparagus, and snap off the tough ends. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Barely cover with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and sugar and cook for about 10 minutes until tender, strain asparagus but save the cooking water.

2 Puree the Asparagus with a tiny bit of cooking water and set aside.

3 Add enough vegetable broth to the cooking water so you have 6 1/2 cups of liquid in total.

4 Peal the apple. Using a melon-baller scoop out pieces of apple and put them in a bowl of water and lemon juice so that they don't turn brown. If you do not have a melon scoop, cut your apple into 1 inch cubes.

5 Add the pureed asparagus and cream to the broth and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can use more or less cream or broth depending on your desired consistency.

6 Whip up the soup a bit more with a hand blender before serving. Add the apple ball to the soup and warm up over a low fire.

7 To garnish, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. And add a dollop to each portion. Cut one scallion into strips and the other into small rings. Use them for garnish for the bowls

8 Serve with pieces of a fresh cut crusty bread and a glass of white wine. Enjoy!

Day to look forward to:

Groundhog Day February 2 only 18 days away

Valentine Day February 14 only 30 days away

President Day February 15 only 31 days away

Daylight Saving day March 13 only 59 days away

St. Patrick's Day March 17 only 63 days away

Spring arrives March 20 only 66 days away

Easter Sunday March 27 only 73 days away



Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.


Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!        Supplies are now limited!


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