Sunday, June 11, 2017

Top Seven Herbs To Grow In Utah - Herb Gardening For Beginners!

June is a great time to start an herb garden.  If you are a beginner gardener and you feel a little overwhelmed by all of the possibilities, herb gardening is a great place to start.  And, if you like to cook, you need an herb garden.  There are many herbs that will grow well in Utah - here is a list of seven of the easiest and most useful.  They are available as small plants at your local independent garden centers.  You can use these herbs in your kitchen this summer and throughout the year if you dry them!  Herb plants are beautiful;  incorporate them into your perennial beds.  They produce flowers that create food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Basil - Ocimum basillicum:  Basil has been cultivated for over 5000 years.  It's possible that it originated in India but it has become a major component of the cuisines of Southern Europe and Southeast Asia.   There are many flavors and varieties.   I like to grow some Thai basil for Asian dishes and lots of Italian (Genovese sweet basil) for pesto, tomato sauce and eggplant parmesan.   Experiment with several varieties to see what you like.  Basil gets 1 to 2 feet tall and wide.
TWO THINGS to remember about basil.  No, THREE THINGS.
1.  Basil is an tender annual so you need to plant it every year.  It will not survive frost.  You can buy plants or grow it from seed.
2.  Snails and slugs love basil.  Keep them away.
3.  Snip off the flower buds of basil. Don't let it flower.  Basil goes bitter when it flowers.
Sweet Basil

Mint - Mentha:  Mint is a versatile herb!  It is used in marinades, desserts, Indian dishes, Greek dishes, sauces for lamb and as a flavoring for iced tea.  A sprig of mint in an icy gin and tonic on a warm evening is awesome. There are many varieties of mint available at the nurseries.  If you want to grow a few different mints to see which ones you like best, plant them in pots and taste test them all summer.  If you grow mint in the ground - !!Caution!!  Mint plants are perennial and they will spread aggressively under ground.  This is why it's best to grow mint in large pots.
mint grows in Utah

Chives - Allium shoenoprasum:  Chives are members of the edible Allium genus like garlic, onion, shallot, leeks and scallions.  Perennial and easy to grow, chive flowers are lovely and they will bloom all summer with deadheading.  They grow in clumps reaching about 10 or 12 inches tall and the purple flowers make wonderful garnish for food or additions to floral arrangements.  The green chive leaves are delicious on potatoes, soups and salads of all kinds.  Chopped chives garnish deviled eggs perfectly.
chives grow well in Utah!

Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis:  Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb.  It's cold hardiness is borderline in Utah.  However,  there is one variety called "arp" that will survive here.  If it is planted in a sunny spot and given some mulch in the fall, chances are excellent that you will have rosemary year after year.  It can get quite large (2 - 3 feet tall and wide), so plant it where it has room to grow.  Rosemary is great in marinades for grilling pork, chicken or beef.  It also goes into the Thanksgiving turkey stuffing.  It can be easily dried and used all year.
rosemary 'arp' will grow in Utah

Thyme - Thymus vulgaris:  The Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming and many cultures through the centuries used thyme to promote courage.  I like to use thyme in soup or with chicken.  There are lots of varieties of thyme - some creeping and some with different colors and flavors.  For cooking,  I like just the plain English Thyme.  It's low-growing (6 or 8 inches tall and 10 or 12 inches wide).  It is perennial but it sort of wears out after a few years so you might need to replace it.
thyme grows in Utah

Parsley - Petroselinum crispum:  Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region.  It is a biennial which means that it lives for two growing seasons.  The first year, parsley grows only foliage.  The second year, parsley grows some foliage and some tall thick stems that produce flowers and seeds.  Then the plant will die.  So they need to be replaced.  I like to plant one or two every year so there are always some plants at each stage of their life cycle.  Try the curly parsley and the Italian flat-leaf parsley.  Great for garnish, salad, soups, most Italian dishes and juicing.
parsley - easy to grow in Utah

Sage - Salvia officinalis:  This handsome mediterranean herb is a perennial and will survive our cold Utah winters.  It gets large (2 - 3 feet tall and wide!), but you can trim it back all summer long.  Just don't trim it in the fall.  Use fresh in soups and stews or cut and dry the leaves  to use in your Thanksgiving stuffing.  This plant loves sun and heat.  Great for the water wise perennial bed.
Sage grows in Utah!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Colorful Xeriscape Garden!

Here is an example of a water wise or xeriscape garden that is colorful and beautiful.  I see Catmint (Nepeta), Pineleaf Penstemon, Karl Foerster grass, Hardy Ice plant, Agastache rupestris, Bristlecone Pine and more.  One of the basics of xeriscaping is grouping plants with similar water needs together in order to manage water usage efficiently.  This garden is a great example of this and also the idea that we can conserve water and still have greenery and flowery color!!
colorful xeriscape in Utah

Monday, May 15, 2017

When Can I Plant Tomatoes In Utah?

Tomatoes can be planted in mid to late May in Utah, after there is no more danger of frost.  Find out the average last frost date for your area and watch the weather forecast.  If you plant tomatoes and other tender vegetables and you find out it might freeze, you can cover your garden with plastic, frost cloth or sheets over night to protect the plants.  Make sure you remove these coverings first thing in the morning.
It's also true that you can plant tomatoes anytime up until about the first of July in Utah.  The plants will grow fast during the hot part of summer and provide fresh tomatoes in the fall!
tomatoes grow well in Utah!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

When Can I Plant Cucumbers In Utah?

Cucumbers are tender vegetable plants and they cannot be planted until all danger of frost gone.  This is usually around the middle to the end of May in Utah.  Here is a post I wrote about frost dates. And here is a post I wrote about vegetable planting - some general guidelines for timing, etc.  Hopefully this will help you avoid some unnecessary problems (plant death) during spring planting.  It's difficult , I know, for gardeners to restrain themselves from planting too early.  It's such a wonderful time of the year and planning and planting the vegetables is so fun.  And the nurseries are loaded with tons of plants.  The whole thing is irresistible.  We just need to make sure the right time has arrived!
Home grown pickling cucumbers!  Cucumbers grow well in Utah!

Monday, May 8, 2017

What Does "tender vegetables" Mean? In Gardening?

The phrase "tender vegetables" or "tender plants" refers to plants that cannot tolerate temperatures below freezing.  If you plant these plants too early in the spring, they will not survive the cold nights. It is important to understand the average last frost date for your area so that you can avoid planting tender plants too early.
How do we know if a plant is tender?  Seed packets and plant tags will tell you when it is safe to plant specific plants.
Some common examples of tender vegetable plants are:  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, summer squash, winter squash (and pumpkins) and melons.
Also, some annual flowers are tender, like petunias, geraniums, impatiens and marigolds.
Watch the weather forecasts, talk to your neighbors and get to know the microclimate in your area and around your property.
Morning Glory - Tender Plant

Monday, May 1, 2017

When Should I Plant Raspberries In Utah?

April and May are the best times to plant raspberries in Utah.  This is when the plants are available in the local independent garden centers and nurseries.  You will also find blackberries, boysenberries, strawberries, grapes, gooseberries, artichokes and rhubarb plants - all perennial fruit and vegetable plants.  They are best planted int the spring so their roots can become established during the cooler wet weather.
When should I plant Raspberries in Utah?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

5 Ways To Save Money In The Vegetable Garden

vegetable garden in Salt Lake City
Vegetable gardening has some costs.  There are things you need to buy in order to experience the magic of growing your own food.  Hopefully you will harvest enough food from the garden to offset the monetary inputs.  Most certainly, you will reap the immeasurable benefits of joy and satisfaction when you sit down to a plate of food that came from the garden you nurtured.

Here are 5 ways you can save money in your vegetable garden:

1 - plant things from seeds when you can.  Plants are relatively expensive and seeds will produce plants at a fraction of the cost.
2 - be efficient with water.  Drip systems are perfect for the vegetable garden.
3 - be efficient with the harvest.  Money and time (and your blood, sweat and tears) have gone into this garden.  What a terrible waste if you don't utilize the fruits of the harvest.  If there is too much for you and your family, share it with friends and neighbors.  Or do some canning and preserving.  Your local food pantry will welcome any fresh produce you have to offer.
4 - compost.  Make your own compost to feed the soil and plants in your garden.  It's much cheaper than buying it.
5 - go organic.  Use organic methods to feed your soil and plants and to control pests and weeds.  Pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and plant foods are expensive and can damage your soil in the long run.