Audra’s Adventures in Herbs

audra/garden-spot-nurseryAudra is a new employee this year at the garden store. A student at Western Washington University, we were so pleased to have her join us this spring. Recently, we asked Audra what it’s like to be new to plants and working in a garden store? What follows below is her response, enjoy!

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This job came to me by great timing and friendship, after moving from Richland to attend Western. Since working here, dormant memories have awakened, as I’ve tended to our store’s indoor plants.

The first living thing I raised was a butterfly. The pupae hung in the window of my second grade class amongst our glitter paintings. I remember my friends and I releasing our own Painted Lady butterflies, while the swarm softly floated down into the school gardens. The mysticism and enchantment of that Spring inspired us to grow. I remember my grandmothers sweated of flowers during the dog days of a southern summer. They’d beckon to me, calling me their ‘Audra Rose.’ I always knew I’d find the garden again because it stirs within my bones. And now I work among the beauty of plants at The Garden Spot!

Being a cashier here is an unlimited learning position, in terms of acquiring a lot of horticultural knowledge. I’ve overheard, engaged in, and experienced garden stories of customers and coworkers alike. The herb planters I created this past season are my prime learning tool for expanding my garden education. One thing I’ve learned about all plants is to avoid loving them too much. I planted a container of sage, garlic chives, hot and spicy oregano, herb planter/ garden-spot-nurseryrosemary, and golden marjoram. Talk about MMM!

Man, they looked great the first day I brought them home. Everyday after work, I would go admire the leaves, take snippets for my pasta, and sprinkle a little water. Aside from cutting too far into the wood of my rosemary and drowning my sage into root rot, the rest are swell. Rot root is a disease (sometimes fatal) that affects overwatered plants. I replaced the rosemary and sage and I’ve backed off on the watering. This also helps to deter the colony of fruit flies that have colonized my topsoil. My co-worker and mentor Kim taught me to cover the soil with gravel and rocks to prevent the fruit flies from producing eggs in my herbs. Within a week, they were gone!

As far as powdery mildew goes, it is the bane of my existence. White powdery mildew is difficult to get rid of and spreads rapidly. It results not only from overwatering but also from watering onto the leaves from above. My co-workers have recommended an organic fungicidal soap, less watering, and the removal of severely infected leaves. Watering in the morning also helps wet plant leaves dry off by the afternoon. Since my “mini-garden” is so small, I’ve opted out on the fungicidal soap, while remaining diligent in cutting away the infected. It’s taken a few weeks, but all my herbs are slowly regenerating back to full health. I can’t wait for another harvest!

Fresh Herbs for Summer Barbecues

The sun is out! And while it’s not quite summer, we imagine many of you will take advantage of the warm weather for a little impromptu grilling.

For those of you with charcoal on the brain, here are a few suggestions for herbs that you can grow to enhance your sun-kissed feast whether it be seafood, meat or vegetable-based.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a versatile herb. Its distinctive flavor lends itself to dishes made with potatoes, pork, chicken….the list goes on. Try a light summer recipe like this or this. If you enjoy making kabobs, look for Rosemary “Barbecue”. The long, straight stems make great skewers.

Rosemary is fairly easy to grow as long as you’ve got about 6-8 hours of sun and good drainage. There are upright and trailing varieties. Its spiky evergreen leaves will enhance your garden or patio containers year-round.

Sage

Fresh sage is a fantastic herb for homemade burgers, whether you’re using ground beef or turkey. It imparts an earthy flavor with just a hint of lemon.

Try it with chicken or pork, or on vegetables such as fresh grilled corn on the cob. Just mince some sage, lemon zest and garlic and mix with butter. Finally, spread over hot grilled corn. Delicious!

Sage has similar growing requirements to rosemary, and is a terrific choice for companion planting. Its pebbled grey-green leaves are a striking addition to any garden. There are also beautiful variegated and purple forms of sage.

Dill

Dill is not just for pickling anymore. It’s a delicious accompaniment to fish especially our local treasure: salmon. (See a mouth-watering recipe we found on Epicurious here) It’s also extremely tasty on grilled root vegetables. Just chop up the dill with some garlic and olive oil for a phenomenal flavor on carrots, parsnips etc.

Like many herbs, dill prefers well-drained soil and lots of sun. The feathery green leaves are a beautiful backdrop in a vegetable patch or even in a flower container.

To keep your dill from growing too leggy, continually pinch off the top buds throughout the growing season.

Lemongrass

We’ve just received some beautiful containers of lemongrass. What an exciting ingredient! You can insert whole (pounded) stalks of lemongrass into chicken or fish to impart a bright flavor. You can also mince the stalks to make a marinade for shrimp or vegetables going on the grill. Ginger and Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp anyone?

Keep in mind that although lemongrass likes full sun and good drainage, it’s also a heavy feeder. Amend your soil with compost when planting and feed it with a high nitrogen fertilizer. This will assure that you have plenty of tasty lemongrass for your barbecues this summer.

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We hope you enjoy yourself this weekend whatever your plans. Stop by our nursery anytime for more suggestions or advice on fresh cooking herbs.