By the fourth week of May the soil is should be warm enough for seeding even the heat-loving plants like beans, squash and cucumbers into the vegetable garden.
If you have container gardens in a warm and sheltered spot, then tropical plants such as coleus, Persian Shield (Strobilanthus) and even basil and tomatoes should be safe from cold night chills.
This also is a good week to move houseplants outdoors or to check out the houseplant section of the nursery for exotic looking foliage and blooming plants or to find tender succulents such as Echerverias to add punch to your patio.
Continue to weed and mulch your garden beds this week for much less maintenance during the heat of the summer. Fewer weeds and more mulch means smaller water bills.
Mow the lawn high to shade the soil and leave the clippings to return nitrogen. In western Washington lawns should be cut when the grass blades are 3 inches tall and remove no more than one third of the blade. A low mow will cut off the stem rather than the leaf blade causing a brown cast and an opening for weed seeds to germinate. This time of year your lawn may need mowing every four to five days.
A Taste for Herbs
Local author Sue Goetz has a new book available called “A Taste for Herbs: a guide to seasonings, mixes and blends from the herb lover’s garden,” and she wants you to think of herbs in your garden as “flavor producers.” She has tips on how to grow herbs for seasonings and how to blend them like a top chef or foodie to extract as much flavor and goodness as possible.
Goetz originally grew her beautiful herb garden in Gig Harbor but has since relocated to Tacoma, so she understands our local climate. She also understands how herbs can contribute to our well being. Her personal search for an anti-inflammatory diet led her to using more flavor from herbs to season her organically grown produce. It is the mixing of herbal combinations that can take a dish from dull to delectable.
Part One of the book is called “Grow!” and includes the top 20 favorite herbs for every-sized garden … indoors, too. You’ll learn the tips for growing basil (needs heat), chives (super easy), mint (watch this one — it spreads) as well as sage, oregano, Rosemary and more.
Chapter 2 is for more adventurous gardeners — how to grow some unusual or tender herbs.
If you like Thai food, learn to grow lemon grass. Stevia is the herb that substitutes for sugar, and saffron is not so expensive if you grow and harvest the golden pollen yourself.
Chapter 3 explains complements to herbs and other flavorful plants and how to use and grow spices, vegetables, fruits and roots plus some lovely tips on edible flowers. You’ll learn how to harvest and preserve your herbs for cooking.
Part Two of this photo-filled book is called “Create!”
There are a lot more techniques to adding flavor to food other than just spreading basil over a pizza. Goetz explains the details of how to use herbs in the kitchen, including dry seasoning mixes, rubs for roasting and grilling and sweet flavor enhancers for honey and syrups. Dressings and condiments and even herbal infused beverages round out the recipes.
The sparkling wine cooler will make even the laziest gardener want to grow mint and basil. Take one dry, white wine, seal in mint leaves and chopped basil and let it sit for a few weeks. There is no reason your life should not be filled with more flavor, and easy herb infusions like these will tingle your taste buds as well as improve your health.
“A Taste for Herbs” is full of photographs and published by St. Lynn’s press and available online and at local bookstores.