Guess what guys?! Herbs are so easy! If you have never gardened before and you would like to make the foray into the world of gardening…go for it with herbs. Not only are they easy but they are fun, practical, delicious, and pretty. There is not a ton you need to know about herb care, thus the “easy” part. But, you know me…I can’t just say nothing! Really, I am only trying to help. Pinky swear.
A FEW TIPS FOR EASY HERB CARE:
- Your soil must be well-draining. Use a regular potting mix like Van Wilgen’s Professional Potting Mix. Don’t use heavy compost or topsoil. If you are planting the herbs in the ground, be sure to lighten up the soil especially if it currently feels like brown pavement. Use some VW Planting Mix amended into the soil to keep it loose.
- Here is a little trick that your neighbors won’t know. Add a little Greensand to the soil when you are planting your herbs. Not only is it a natural soil conditioner that helps with drainage but it gives herbs the extra mineral boost they need.
- Herbs need fertilizer but don’t go crazy. I have two favorite fertilizers I like. Trick #2: Kelp Meal is great for adding flavor to your herbs. If you love to cook and what to really get full flavor from your herbs, hit them with a little Kelp Meal. It makes them more delicious. Van Wilgen’s Root Boost is the other fertilizer I use on Herbs. It is organic and well-balanced with Kelp Meal to boot. Use Root Boost every couple of weeks applied to the herbs foliage.
- Keep herbs damp daily. I know, I know, I said that the soil needs to be well-draining with herbs. This is true but they are also happier if the soil is damp every day. Confusing huh? What I am trying to say is that in the heat of summer, herbs need to be watered daily but the soil they are planted in needs to drain efficiently.
- Don’t be afraid to harvest your herbs. The more you use them, the more herbs you get. I used to make the mistake of taking off the bottom leaves of my Basil plant before the top. Silly me. It is best to harvest herbs from the top. You can even pinch herbs back ½ way down the stem. This keeps them from getting leggy.
- Don’t buy herbs if your main desire is for flowers. Yes, herbs do flower but the flowers are rather insignificant and if you really want to use herbs for cooking, letting them flower is not the best idea. Once herbs flower and go to seed, it indicates they are at the end of their lifecycle for the season. If a flower appears, pinch it right off. By cutting off flowers, herbs live longer lives, are better for harvesting and I think even taste better.
- Give them some sunshine. Most herbs are happier in full sun (5 plus hours) so don’t deprive them. Although, I do find that herbs in my yard do a little better if not all of the sun is afternoon soon. Some herbs can handle less sunlight like chives and mint.
- Only plant mint in pots. I love mint. Don’t get me wrong, making my own summer cocktails with Mojito Mint is so fun but mint in the ground is aggressive. If you are looking for an herb to take over a garden bed, then mint is your herb.
My final tip for easy herb care is just to have fun. Mix up herbs with annual flowers. Plant them in cute, little pots on your windowsill, fill a window box with herbs and flowers for easy harvesting, cook with them, and drink with them. If you are a beginning gardener or well-seasoned, herbs are for everyone.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*VW Potting Mix
*VW Root Boost
Nothing says summer like the fresh taste of homegrown fruit. Berries are becoming a staple crop in everyone’s summer garden, and for good reason! Not only are these little fruits delicious, but they also provide a ton of nutritional benefits. Add some berries to your garden for a harvest the whole family is sure to love.
When growing fruits in your organic garden, be sure to use Espoma’s liquid plant foods to give you healthy blooms and abundant fruit.
Here are some of our favorite berries to grow:
Blueberries pack a big punch for such a small fruit. They are loaded with tons of vitamins, essential nutrients and antioxidants. Blueberries are often a favorite among kids, too. What better way to get kids involved with the garden than by planting something they love?
Blueberries also thrive in containers, making them the perfect fruit for small space gardeners. The beautiful foliage they produce is just an added bonus.
Try using Espoma’s Holly Tone plant food, perfect for acid-loving fruits like blueberries and strawberries.
Another fan favorite, strawberries are well-loved for their versatility. While delicious on their own, they also pair well with so many different flavors. They can be used in anything from sweet pies and homemade jams to a tasty vinaigrette dressing. Whether snacking, cooking, or baking, there’s no way your strawberries will go to waste!
Strawberries grow best in soil with a pH level of 5.5-7. If your pH level is too high, use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to create the perfect growing environment.
The sweet summer flavor of raspberries makes a great addition to any dessert.
Raspberries often grow up instead of out, so make sure you plant with support stakes or next to a fence. A tall raspberry plant looks beautiful in any garden and draws all eyes to the beautiful red and green foliage it creates.
Since they don’t produce fruit in the first year of planting, blackberries require a bit of patience. However, with great care, we promise it will be worth the wait!
When blackberries are ready to harvest, the flavors pair very well with raspberries. Blend together in a smoothie or bake a mixed berry pie and enjoy the taste of summer.
Want to know more about growing your favorite berries? Our friends at Espoma have made this handy infographic!
The wait is over! Our courtyard here at Van Wilgen’s is filled with Lemons, Limes, and Brown Turkey Figs. The amazing smell of citrus fills the room. Growing Your own citrus or figs can be a very rewarding experience. By just providing them with their basic needs you will be able to sit back and reap the rewards.
- Full sun for adequate growth.
- Well-drained slightly acidic soil.
- Water sufficiently so the water is reaching the root ball. Once or twice a week.
- A high temperature of 70 to 85 degrees is ideal, and the low temperature should never go below 50 degrees.
- Remember plants are living organisms, and just like you or I, they need food too. Apply espoma citrus tone once a month from March to November.
- Citrus is a tropical plant and can’t be left out in our zone over the winter. So, don’t hesitate to come in or call us in the fall and we will walk you thru the best way to bring your citrus in for the winter.
- Full sun for adequate growth
- Ph should be between 6.0 and 6.5.
- Water thoroughly once or twice a week as needed.
- Fertilize during the summer months with espoma garden food 5-10-5.
- At the beginning of the season or as soon as you buy the fig you will add approx. a cup to a cup and a half of lime just once for the entire year, this slightly raises the alkalinity of the soil which is what the figs need to thrive.
- Figs are a tropical plant so give us a call in the fall and we will walk you thru overwintering it properly.
There’s nothing like homemade lemonade or lemon tarts made from your very own citrus tree. We love to get pictures and stories from our customers, so at the end of the season send us pictures of your tree and what you have made with your harvest.
Darlene Granese, Greenhouse Manager
Speaking of warmer months, my Dad is already busy planning out the garden and finding ways to make it better. We have been combating everyone’s arch-nemesis, WEEDS, by putting a VERY thick layer of mainely mulch in-between the rows and it has helped keep the weeds down and let the veggies thrive. Last year my wife taught me how to flash freeze green beans and one night while she was out with some friends, she left me in charge of processing a whole bushel that my daughter and I had harvested earlier in the day. Nora and I paid extra attention to keep the purple beans separate from the green beans. That evening after I trimmed the whole pile of beans, again being careful to keep the purple separate from the green. I worked in batches boiling the beans for a few minutes and then dunking them in a large bowl of ice and water. I finally get to the big batch of purple beans and that’s when I discover that purple green beans turn GREEN after cooking them! All that work separating and they all end up green. The boiling water cooks them just enough to kill any of the bad stuff and the ice water stops the cooking process so that the beans won’t be mushy when we use them later in the winter. After the green beans cooled, I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer. An hour or so later I separated them into freezer bags, labeled them with the date, and stack ’em in the chest freezer. Even though the purple beans didn’t stay purple, it was so nice to have a small piece of summer with our dinners throughout the winter. We can’t wait to get started!